Short C-23 Sherpa

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C-23 Sherpa
C-23A Sherpa 10th MAS in flight 1987.JPEG
A USAF C-23A Sherpa over then West Germany in 1985
Role Transport aircraft
National origin United Kingdom
Manufacturer Short Brothers
First flight 6 August 1984
Introduction 1984
Retired Army National Guard 2014
Status In service
Primary users United States Army
United States Air Force
Produced 1984–1990
Developed from Short 330, Short 360

The Short C-23 Sherpa is a small military transport aircraft built by Short Brothers. The C-23A and C-23B are variants of the Short 330 and the C-23B+ is a variant of the Short 360.

Design and development[edit]

The Short 330 was developed by Short Brothers of Belfast from their earlier Short Skyvan STOL utility transport. The 330 had a longer wingspan and fuselage than the Skyvan, while retaining the Skyvan's square shaped fuselage cross section, allowing it to carry up to 30 passengers while retaining good short field characteristics.[1] The 330 entered commercial service in 1976.

The first C-23A for U.S. Air Force during its official rollout ceremony

In addition to the passenger aircraft, Shorts also planned two freight versions. The Short 330-UTT (for Utility Tactical Transport) was a military transport version fitted with a strengthened cabin floor and paratroop doors,[2] which was sold in small numbers, primarily to Thailand, which purchased four. The Short Sherpa (not to be confused with the earlier Short SB.4 Sherpa experimental aircraft) was a freighter fitted with a full-width rear cargo door/ramp. This version first flew on 23 December 1982,[2] with the first order for 18 aircraft being placed by the United States Air Force in March 1983. These aircraft were assigned to Military Airlift Command (MAC) for the European Distribution System Aircraft (EDSA) role, flying cargo and personnel between US Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) air bases.[2]

In U.S. military service, the Short 330 was designated C-23A Sherpa. The C-23B Sherpa was similar to the C-23A, but with cabin windows.[3] The C-23B+ Short 360 derivative was created by replacing the rear fuselage of Short 360s obtained on the second-hand market with the twin tail and rear loading ramp of the Short Sherpa.

The C-23 was produced at the Short Brothers' facility in Belfast, Northern Ireland for the U.S. Dept. of Defense.[4]

Operational history[edit]

C-23A Sherpa at Hohenzollern Castle in the Black Forest in 1984
C-23B Sherpa

U.S. Air Force[edit]

The C-23A Sherpa entered service with the United States Air Force in Europe in 1985[4] based at Zweibrücken Air Base. It continued in use in the EDSA role until November 1990 with the post-cold war force reductions.[5] All the Sherpas were returned to the United States; three aircraft were given to the USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB, eight aircraft were given to the U.S. Army and the remaining seven to the United States Forest Service. The Test Pilot School aircraft were retired in 1997.[5]

U.S. Army[edit]

The eight former USAF aircraft were used for test duties at different units; two were re-designated as JC-23A.[5]

The Army purchased four civil Short 330 aircraft to replace the DHC C-7 Caribou being used to support the Kwajalein Missile Range. These were not given a C-23 designation, and were retired in 1992.[5] In 1988, the Army ordered ten new-build Short 330s designated C-23B to replace the DHC C-7 Caribou used by the U.S. Army National Guard Aviation and Repair Activity Depots. In 1990, a further six were ordered.[5]

When the Army wanted 20 more C-23s in 1990 the production line had closed; second-hand Short 360 aircraft were purchased instead. Designated the C-23B+, these were modified from the original single tail to the twin-tail and cargo ramp of the other C-23Bs.[5] In 1994, another eight aircraft were converted to replace the DHC UV-18 Twin Otters used in Alaska.[5]

During Iraq War (2003–2011), the C-23 served the Army's intra-theater needs of cargo and personnel transport. It provided an economic alternative for transporting some 20 people or three pallets of cargo when speed was not critical.[6]

As part of the U.S. Army's Constant Hawk intelligence gathering program, five Short 360s were modified for use in Iraq and flew in theater between 2006 and 2011. A further two modified aircraft collided in mid-air before delivery to Iraq. The Constant Hawk aircraft were not given a military designation.[5]

On 13 June 2007, the Alenia C-27J was selected to replace the C-23 in U.S. Army service.[7][8] A total of 43 C-23s were in service with the U.S. Army as of November 2008.[9] The C-23 Sherpa was retired from the Army National Guard in January 2014.[10] As part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014, 8 C-23s may be transferred to the State of Alaska to operate from short rural runways for search-and-rescue and medium-lift missions.[11]

In December 2014, it was announced that US would supply eight aircraft to Estonia, Djibouti, and Philippines.[12][13]

Civilian and Air National Guard service[edit]

Several surplus aircraft were sold to US operators,[14] who used them to transport equipment and crews to remote work sites. Others were used by Army National Guard units in the various US states.

On 3 March 2001, a C-23B Sherpa belonging to the 171st Aviation Regiment of the Florida Army National Guard was carrying 18 construction workers of the Virginia Air National Guard from Hurlburt Field, Florida to Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia. The pilot left the flight deck to use the aft bathroom. His weight in the tailcone shifted the center of gravity sufficiently (later calculations determined that the aircraft had been loaded outside its operating envelope at the start of the flight) that the airplane became unstable when a patch of severe turbulence was encountered. The violent g-force shifts then encountered rendered the crew unconscious and caused the breakup of the aircraft in flight near Unadilla, Georgia, killing the 21 persons on board.[15]


C-23A Sherpa
Twin-engine transport aircraft for the U.S. Air Force based on the Short 330-UTT; it was fitted with a strengthened cabin floor with a roller conveyor system, plus a forward cargo door on the port side of the fuselage, equipped with a hydraulically operated full-width rear cargo door/ramp; 18 built.
C-23B Sherpa
Twin-engine transport aircraft for the US Army National Guard, similar to the C-23A, but with cabin windows, stronger landing-gear, inward-opening paratroop doors at the rear of the fuselage and an air-operable two-section cargo ramp; 16 built.[5]
C-23B+ Super Sherpa
Short 360 aircraft purchased as used aircraft by the U.S. Army and modified by the West Virginia Air Center (WVAC) for the replacement of the rear fuselage of the Short 360, with its single tall fin, with the twin tail and rear loading ramp of the Short Sherpa.[16] 28 civil aircraft were modified.[5]
Both C-23B and C-23B+ with flightdeck avionic upgrade under the "Avionics System Cockpit Upgrade" program, 43 modified.[5]
C-23C with upgraded avionics under the "Safety Avionics Modification" program from 2010, program was cancelled and only four aircraft were modified.[5]


C-23B Sherpa in Iraq, 2004
 United States

Civil operators[edit]

Former USAF and US Army aircraft have been sold to civil operators including:

 United States

Aircraft on display[edit]

United States
  • Short 330-200 85-25343, a former Kwajalein range aircraft, at Millville Army Aviation Museum, Millville, New Jersey.[5]
  • C-23C – N863DZ, which was US Army 93-01320, at Air Heritage Museum, Beaver County Airport, Pennsylvania.[5]



Data from Jane's All the World's Aircraft, 1988–1989[2]

General characteristics



A C-23A with an aircraft engine being unloaded

Data from U.S. Army Aircraft Since 1947[19]

General characteristics


See also[edit]

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era


  1. ^ Donald, David (Editor) (1997). The Encyclopedia of World Aircraft. Aerospace Publishing. ISBN 1-85605-375-X.
  2. ^ a b c d Taylor, JWR (Editor) (1988). Jane's All the World's Aircraft, 1988–1989. Jane's Information Group. ISBN 0-7106-0867-5.
  3. ^ Donald, David; Lake, John, eds. (1996). Encyclopedia of World Military Aircraft (Single Volume ed.). London: Aerospace Publishing. p. 384. ISBN 1-874023-95-6.
  4. ^ a b "C-23 Sherpa".
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r "Whatever happened to .. C-23 Sherpa". Scramble Magazine. No. 427. Dutch Aviation Society. December 2014. pp. 150–157. ISSN 0927-3417.
  6. ^ "C-23: A Small Cargo Plane that Makes a Big Difference",, 9 February 2004.
  7. ^ "C-27J Spartan named as Joint Cargo Aircraft". Air Force Link. 14 June 2007. Archived from the original on 26 May 2012. Retrieved 17 June 2007.
  8. ^ "C-27J tapped for Joint Cargo Aircraft". Air Force Times. 14 June 2007. Retrieved 17 June 2007.
  9. ^ "Directory: World Air Forces", Flight International, 11–17 November 2008.
  10. ^ C-23 Sherpa makes final flight as Army Guard retires the venerable aircraft –, 10 January 2014
  11. ^ The Final Army Flight of the C-23 Sherpa –, 27 January 2014
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ "USA kingib Eestile kaks transpordilennukit – Eesti uudised –".
  14. ^ "SHORTS Turboprop Aircraft For Sale". Retrieved July 5, 2017.
  15. ^ Veillette Ph.D., Patrick (May 26, 2016). "Weighty Matters: Miscalculation when loading can have unwelcome consequences". Aviation Week Network. Retrieved July 5, 2017.
  16. ^ "C-23 Sherpa". Retrieved July 5, 2017.
  17. ^ "O Retorno dos Aviões ao EB: Projeto de Incorporação dos 6 C-23B Sherpa da AVEx". 3 June 2018. External link in |website= (help)
  18. ^ "C-23 Sherpa." NASA Airborne Science Program. Retrieved: 26 May 2017.
  19. ^ Harding, Stephen (1997). U.S. Army Aircraft Since 1947. Atglen, Pennsylvania USA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd. pp. 224–226. LCCN 96-69996.

External links[edit]