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Short C-23 Sherpa

Twin-Engine Utility Multirole Transport Aircraft

Short C-23 Sherpa

Twin-Engine Utility Multirole Transport Aircraft


The Short C-23 Sherpa continues to serve US Army forces as a multirole STOL performer.
National Flag Graphic
ORIGIN: United Kingdom
YEAR: 1985
STATUS: Active, In-Service
MANUFACTURER(S): Short Brothers - UK
OPERATORS: Brazil; Djibouti; Philippines; United States

Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Short C-23A Sherpa model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.
LENGTH: 58.04 feet (17.69 meters)
WIDTH: 74.74 feet (22.78 meters)
HEIGHT: 16.24 feet (4.95 meters)
WEIGHT (EMPTY): 14,198 pounds (6,440 kilograms)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 22,906 pounds (10,390 kilograms)
ENGINE: 2 x Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-45-R turboprop engines developing 1,200 horsepower each.
SPEED (MAX): 281 miles-per-hour (453 kilometers-per-hour; 245 knots)
RANGE: 771 miles (1,240 kilometers; 670 nautical miles)
CEILING: 16,765 feet (5,110 meters; 3.18 miles)
RATE-OF-CLIMB: 2,100 feet-per-minute (640 meters-per-minute)


Series Model Variants
• C-23A "Sherpa" - USAF Designation; 18 examples procured; based on the Short 330; powered by PWC PT6A-45-R turboprop engines of 1,200 horsepower.
• C-23B "Sherpa" - US Army National Guard version; 16 examples procured; same as C-23A with windowed fuselage sides; based on the Short 330; powered by PWC PT6A-65AR turboprop engines of 1,424 horsepower.
• C-23B+ / C-23C "Super Sherpa" - US Army National Guard version; based on the Short 360; modified with C-23A/B twin-rudder tails and upgraded avionics.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Short C-23 Sherpa Twin-Engine Utility Multirole Transport Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 7/12/2018. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
The Short Brothers (sometimes shortened to "Shorts") concern was formed in 1908 with operations settled out of London (having since moved to Belfast, Ireland). The company made a name for itself in World War 1 as a manufacturer of floatplane aircraft and airships. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, they became renowned for their series of flying boats that saw extensive service throughout World War 2 and in the subsequent Cold War. The Short concern continues operations today despite its sale to Bombardier in 1989 as a manufacturer of aircraft, aviation parts and systems.

With this long-running, storied history in place, Short developed the Short 330 in the early 1970s, the type eventually adopted into civilian service beginning in 1976. The 330 was a further evolution of the SC.7 Skyvan though given a lengthened fuselage and larger dimensions overall. Originally known under the SD3-30 designation, the 330 was marketed as a low maintenance product and retained the former's high-mounted wings, deep slab-sided fuselage and noticeably raised empennage. The aircraft were developed as rather compact, transport-minded, twin-engined airframes with good Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) characteristics, allowing it to operate from shorter airfields than other aircraft of this class. The first 330 went airborne on August 22nd, 1974.

The United States Air Force took note of the type and placed an order for eighteen units in March of 1983 as part of Military Airlift Command (MAC), intended to serve primarily across American bases in Europe. The models were designated as C-23A "Sherpa" and did not feature fuselage windows while also being outfitted with a conveyor system and hydraulically-powered rear loading doors as well as a portside loading door. This variant of the Sherpa is powered by 2 x Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-45-R series turboprop engines, each delivering 1,200 horsepower for a maximum listed speed of 280 miles per hour and a listed cruise speed of 255 miles per hour. Operational range is approximately 770 miles with a service ceiling of 27,000 feet. The first C-23A began operational service with the USAF in 1985. USAF Sherpas operated until 1990.

The Sherpas were crewed by three personnel made up its two pilots and a cabin manager. The fuselage could be arranged to seat 30 passengers in the traditional sense or 18 medical litters with associated personnel for when in the MEDEVAC role. Beyond this, the cabin was also set up to accept cargo of varying sizes. The Sherpa certainly displayed a most unique profile and retained much of the appearance of the preceding Short 330 series including its pointed downward sloping nose, strutted shoulder-mounted wings, boxy fuselage design and underslung engine nacelles. The undercarriage was wholly retractable though rather short, allowing the hold to be accessible from the rear without much height difference.

The C-23B designation was used to recognize Sherpas handed down from the USAF to the Army National Guard. The ANG also accepted 10 new-build units for a grand total of 16 examples. While essentially similar to the C-23A before it, the Army National Guard version incorporated a span of rectangular windows along the fuselage sides and power was served through 2 x Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-65AR turboprop engines of 1,425 horsepower each. These have seen operational service in Iraq since the 2003 coalition invasion.

Some twenty-eight preowned Short 360 models were procured by the United States Army and promptly converted to a new C-23B+ / C-23C "Super Sherpa" standard in line with the C-23A and C-23B before it. The US Army contracted West Virginia Air Center to modify the airframes from their original single vertical tailfin state to the C-23A/B-style twin-rudder configuration. The process also added the powered loading ramp of the of the preceding marks as well as modernized military-grade avionics. The conversion process spanned from 1994 to 1997.


Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

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Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 300mph
Lo: 150mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (281mph).

    Graph average of 225 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the Short C-23A Sherpa's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Supported Roles
Ground Attack
Aerial Tanker
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
Commitments / Honors
Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.

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