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Northrop YC-125 Raider

Three-Engined STOL Military Transport Aircraft

The United States Air Force became the sole operator of the short-lived Northrop YC-125 Raider STOL transport - just twenty-three were built and operated until 1955 by the service.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 7/11/2019
Northrop Corporation had established itself as a player in the field of aviation in 1939, just before the official start of World War 2 (1939-1945) and, prior to it becoming the Northrop Grumman concern of today, it took part in a myriad of aircraft developments. Just after the cessation of hostilities in 1945, the company moved to secure orders in a tougher peacetime environment, leading to the development of a tri-motor type, "Short Take-Off and Landing" (STOL) platform designated the N-23 "Pioneer". This one-off, high-winged design held all the good traits of a useful military aircraft and was therefore adopted by the United States Air Force (USAF) as the N-32 "Raider". Twenty-three were produced from the span of 1949 to 1950.

In true tri-motor fashion, the aircraft carried one of its radial engines in the nose while the remaining two were integrated into each wing mainplane member. The members were shoulder-mounted to generate better lifting and control at low-speeds / low-altitudes. The fuselage was made deep for maximum internal volume. The flight deck was positioned over and aft of the nose in the usual fashion. The tail unit encompassed a single rudder with mid-mounted horizontal planes. Ground-running was possible by a tail-dragger arrangement with the main legs fitted to each wing mainplane.

A crew of four was typically used to operate the machine and thirty-six passengers could be take aloft. In place of personnel, the aircraft was cleared to haul around five tons of military cargo over-distance. Overall length reached 67 feet with a wingspan measuring 86.5 feet and a height of 23 feet. Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) was rated at 42,000lb.

Power was served through 3 x Wright R-1820-99 "Cyclone" 9-cylinder air-cooled, radial piston engines generating 1,200 horsepower each. The systems drove three-bladed, constant-speed propellers in a traditional tractor arrangement. Performance specifications included a maximum speed of 207 miles-per-hour, a cruising speed near 170 mph, a range out to 1,855 miles, and a service ceiling up to 12,200 feet. The already-exceptional short-field performance of this aircraft could be augmented by way of single-use Jet-Assisted Take-Off (JATO) rockets.

The original Pioneer flew for the first time on December 21st, 1946 (the sole example being lost in a crash February, 1948 testing out a new rudder) while the YC-125 "Raider" made it airborne on August 1st, 1949. The USAF commissioned for thirteen Raiders to be built to a troop transport standard under the C-125A designation while the remaining ten vehicles would be built to an Arctic rescue platform (complete with support for a ski undercarriage) as the C-125B. However, these never evolved beyond their developmental designations of YV-125A and YC-125B, respectively.

The USAF took the Raider into service in 1950 but all were retired as soon as 1955 due to their hauling limitations. Before their end in USAF service, they were used as trainers before eventually being sold off to customers in Central and South America where their capabilities in the STOL environment could be put to good use.

The CL-3 (to become the CL-12 in service) was a proposed model to be built in Canada by Canadair. The major difference was to be use of Pratt & Whitney R-1820 series engines but this model never took flight.


Retired, Out-of-Service
[ 23 Units ] :
Northrop Corporation - USA
National flag of United States United States (retired)
- Transport
67.09 ft (20.45 m)
86.45 ft (26.35 m)
23.13 ft (7.05 m)
(Showcased structural dimension values pertain to the Northrop YC-125 Raider production model)
Empty Weight:
22,046 lb (10,000 kg)
41,899 lb (19,005 kg)
(Diff: +19,853lb)
(Showcased weight values pertain to the Northrop YC-125 Raider production model)
3 x Wright R-1820-99 "Cyclone" 9-cylinder, air-cooled, radial piston engines (one at the nose, one to each wing mainplane) developing 1,200 horsepower each driving three-bladed propeller units.
(Showcased powerplant information pertains to the Northrop YC-125 Raider production model)
Maximum Speed:
208 mph (335 kph; 181 kts)
Service Ceiling:
12,139 feet (3,700 m; 2.3 miles)
Maximum Range:
1,864 miles (3,000 km; 1,620 nm)
(Showcased performance values pertain to the Northrop YC-125 Raider production model; Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database)
(Showcased armament details pertain to the Northrop YC-125 Raider production model)
N-23 "Pioneer" - Single civilian market form prototype aircraft; lost in crash.
N-32 "Raider" - Militarized version of the N-23 for USAF service.
YC-125A "Raider" - Developmental designation covering troop transport type; seating thirty passengers; 13 examples completed.
YC-125B "Raider" - Developmentalal designation covering Arctic rescue variant; supporting ski undercarriage; 10 examples completed.
CL-3 (CL-12) - Proposed Canadair model to be powered by 3 x Pratt & Whitney R-1820 radials; not pursued.

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