Short C-23 Sherpa

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

Short C-23 Sherpa
Class Aircraft
Type Transport
Manufacturer Short Brothers
Production Period 1984 - 1990
Origin United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain)
Country Name Origin Year
United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) 1984
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Djibouti View
Philippines View
United States of America 1984 2014 View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Short Brothers 1984 1990 View

The Short 330 was developed by Short Brothers of Belfast from Short's 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. The 330 entered commercial service in 1976.

In addition to the passenger aircraft, Shorts also planned two freight versions. The first of these, the Short 330-UTT (for Utility Tactical Transport) was a military transport version fitted with a strengthened cabin floor, and paratroop doors, which was sold in small numbers, primarily to Thailand, who 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, 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.

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. The C-23B+ Short 360 derivative were 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.


  • C-23A Sherpa : Twin-engined transport aircraft for the US 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-engined transport aircraft for the US Army National Guard, similar to the C-23A, but fitted 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.
  • C-23B+ Super Sherpa : Short 360 aircraft purchased as second-hand aircraft by the US Army and modified by The West Virginia Air Center (WVAC) by 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, 28 civil aircraft modified.
  • C-23C : Both C-23B and C-23B+ with flightdeck avionic upgrade under the "Avionics System Cockpit Upgrade" program, 43 modified.
  • C-23D : C-23C with upgraded avionics under the "Safety Avionics Modification" program from 2010, program was cancelled and only four aircraft were modified.

United States Air Force

The C-23A Sherpa entered USAF service 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. All the Sherpas were returned to the United States; three aircraft were passed on to the USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB, eight aircraft were passed to the US Army and the remaining seven to the United States Forest Service. The Test Pilot school aircraft were retired in 1997.

United States Army

The eight former USAF aircraft were used for test duties at different units, two being re-designated as the JC-23A.

The Army purchased four civil Short 330 aircraft to replace the DHC C-7 Caribou being used to support the Kwajelein Missile Range, these were not given a C-23 designation, they were retired in 1992.

In 1988 the Army ordered ten new-build Short 330s designated the C-23B to replace the DHC C-7 Caribou used by the US Army National Guard Aviation and Repair Activity Depots, in 1990 a further six were ordered.

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

During Iraq War, 2003–2011, the C-23 has served the Army's intra-theater needs of cargo and personnel transport. It provided an economic alternative for transporting some 20 people or 3 pallets of cargo when speed is not critical.

As part of the US Army's Constant Hawk intelligence gathering program, five Short 360s were modified for use in Iraq and flew in theatre between 2006 and 2011. A further two modified aircraft collided in mid-air before delivery to Iraq. None of the Constant Hawk aircraft were given a military designation.

On 13 June 2007, the Alenia C-27J was selected to replace the C-23 in US Army service. A total of 43 C-23s were in service with the US Army as of November 2008. The C-23 Sherpa was retired from the Army National Guard in January 2014. 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.

In December 2014, it was announced that US will supply eight aircraft to Estonia, Djibouti and Philippines.

Role Transport aircraft
National origin United Kingdom
Manufacturer Short Brothers
First flight 6 August 1984
Introduction 1984
Retired Army National Guard 2014
Status Active not in production
Primary users United States Army
United States Air Force
Produced 1984-1990
Developed from Short 330, Short 360


General characteristics

  • Crew: Three (Two pilots plus one cabin crew)
  • Capacity: 30 passengers, or 18 Litter based passengers
  • Length: 58 ft 0 in (17.69 m)
  • Wingspan: 74 ft 9 in (22.78 m)
  • Height: 16 ft 3 in (4.95 m)
  • Wing area: 453 ft² (42.1 m²)
  • Airfoil: NACA 63 series, modified
  • Empty weight: 14,200 lb (6,440 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 22,900 lb (10,387 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-45-R turboprops, 1,198 hp (894 kW) each


  • Maximum speed: 281 mph (245 knots, 453 km/h) at 12,000 ft (3,657 m)
  • Cruise speed: 255 mph (221 knots, 410 km/h)
  • Stall speed: 85 mph (73 knots, 136 km/h) with flaps and landing gear down
  • Range: 770 mi (670 nm, 1,239 km) passenger version, 1,966 kg payload with no reserves
  • Service ceiling: 27,000 ft (5,114 m)
  • Rate of climb: 2,100 ft/min (10.6 m/s)
  • Wing loading: 50.6 lb/ft² (247 kg/m²)
  • Power/mass: 0.052 hp/lb (170 W/kg)


General characteristics

  • Crew: Three (Two pilots plus one flight engineer)
  • Capacity: 18-20 passengers
  • Length: 58 ft 0 in (17.7 m)
  • Wingspan: 74 ft 10 in (22.8 m)
  • Height: 16 ft 5 in (5.0 m)
  • Wing area: 456 ft² (42.4 m²)
  • Airfoil: NACA 63 series, modified
  • Empty weight: 16,040 lb (7,276 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 25,600 lb (11,610 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-65AR turboprop, 1,424 shp (1,062 kW) each


  • Maximum speed: 291 mph (252 knots, 468 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 262 mph (228 knots, 422 km/h)
  • Range: 1,185 mi (1,030 nmi, 1,907 km)
  • Service ceiling: 28,000 ft (5,303 m)

End notes