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Short C-23 Sherpa

Twin-Engine Utility Multirole Transport Aircraft

United Kingdom | 1985

"The Short C-23 Sherpa continues to serve US Army forces as a multirole STOL performer."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 07/12/2018 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this 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.

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one aircraft design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Short C-23A Sherpa Twin-Engine Utility Multirole Transport Aircraft.
2 x Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-45-R turboprop engines developing 1,200 horsepower each.
281 mph
453 kph | 245 kts
Max Speed
16,765 ft
5,110 m | 3 miles
Service Ceiling
771 miles
1,240 km | 670 nm
Operational Range
2,100 ft/min
640 m/min
City-to-City Ranges
Operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Short C-23A Sherpa Twin-Engine Utility Multirole Transport Aircraft.
58.0 ft
17.69 m
O/A Length
74.7 ft
(22.78 m)
O/A Width
16.2 ft
(4.95 m)
O/A Height
14,198 lb
(6,440 kg)
Empty Weight
22,906 lb
(10,390 kg)
Design Balance
The three qualities reflected below are altitude, speed, and range. The more full the box, the more balanced the design.
Notable series variants as part of the Short C-23 Sherpa family line.
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.
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Short C-23 Sherpa. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 62 Units

Contractor(s): Short Brothers - UK
National flag of Brazil National flag of the Philippines National flag of the United States

[ Brazil; Djibouti; Philippines; United States ]
Relative Max Speed
Hi: 300mph
Lo: 150mph
Aircraft Max Listed Speed (281mph).

Graph Average of 225 MPH.
Era Crossover
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Showcasing Aircraft Era Crossover (if any)
Max Alt Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Production Comparison
Entry compared against Ilyushin IL-2 (military) and Cessna 172 (civilian) total production.
MACH Regime (Sonic)
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030
Aviation Timeline
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Mission Roles
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to airborne requirements.
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
The Short C-23 Sherpa Twin-Engine Utility Multirole Transport Aircraft appears in the following collections:
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