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C-23 Sherpa Cargo Plane
The C-23 Sherpa is the Army's only cargo airplane, an all-freight version of the Shorts 330, built at Short Brothers Belfast, Northern Ireland aerospace complex for the US military and the Royal Air Force. The C-23 entered service in 1985 -- variants are CH-23A Sherpa and C-23B, C-23B+ (or C) Super Sherpa.
The C-23A/B Sherpa is primarily employed by the Army National Guard (and a small number by the USAF) for missions requiring an aircraft that is capable of intra-theater transport of cargo and personnel, with faster, higher-altitude performance and longer-distance coverage than helicopters. The C-23 Sherpa achieves low operating cost due to a very simple design that emphasizes ease of loading and maintenance. The aircraft consists of a 5.5 feet square cabin section for the crew of three forward of an open hold 36 feet long with 6.5 feet of headroom. Access is by a full width, hydraulically operated rear ramp door with removable roller conveyors and a large forward freight door. A small baggage compartment is located in the nose.
C-23 Sherpa Cargo Aircraft
The C-23 Sherpa can be configured to haul cargo or personnel. It can easily handle twenty people or four LD3 pallets. It is slow, but thrifty with per-ton-mile efficiency far better than e.g. the CH-47 Chinook or UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters. The C-23 Sherpa has earned its place on the Army team with capability that takes a load off USAF C-130 Hercules transport priorities, delivering troops and cargo to unimproved airfields close to the battle, more rapidly and with heavier loads than Army helicopters. Drawbacks to the C-23 Sherpa include the need for longer runways than the C-130, low speed and limited range. In Operation Iraqi Freedom, the C-23 Sherpa has performed well, flying low and at max speed (200 mph, 100 feet altitude) to avoid ground fire.
The C-23B/B+/C Super Sherpas are upgrade variants based on the Shorts 360 with two Pratt-Whitney PT6A-65AR turboprop engines. Planned replacement of the C-23 Sherpa will be with the Joint Cargo Aircraft -- larger than a Sherpa but smaller than a C-130 -- expected to be fielded by 2008.
C-23B Sherpa Specifications and Performance
The C-23 Sherpa aircraft is not pressurized, requiring oxygen masks for crew and passenger safety during sustained flight above 10,000 feet altitude.