Last Saturday we braved the weather to watch an airshow. The show included a pair of skydivers jumping from a Turbo-Caribou. My son loves watching the jumpers run through the stunts. But I don’t get excited since they closed out my DA 1307. The rest of the show was rain-shortened. But I did get a short video of the Turbo-Caribou landing in the cross-wind.
Brings to mind another topic of discussion. Brad and I pontificated some months back about the Army’s attempts and failures to obtain fixed wing CAS from the 1950s through today. There’s another story line there too – the Army’s parallel efforts to field a in-theater cargo plane.
The Turbo-Caribou is a descendant of the most successful of the solutions offered.
The Turbo-Caribou is for the most part a re-engined civilian version of the original DHC-4 Caribou. The original Caribou used two 1,450 hp Pratt & Whitney radial engines, which the “turbo” replaced with turbo-prop engines (duh!).
The Caribou’s first military customer was the US Army. Initial deliveries came after the prototype assessments in 1958. The DHC-4 met the Army’s requirements for a Short Take-off and Landing (STOL) aircraft which could operate on rough airfields, providing cargo support inside a theater of war (and not to interfere with the intra-theater roles supported by the Air Force).
Originally designated AC-1 then CV-2, with the establishment of the DoD designation system the Caribou became the C-7. The Army purchased around 160 of these Canadian-built aircraft.
The Caribou’s combat debut was during the early phases of US involvement in Southeast Asia. There it proved extremely useful. But with success came political problems. Anticipating the need to expand the force, the Army asked for more fixed wing pilots. This, along with the success of the C-7 in Vietnam, attracted attention from the Air Force. After the Johnson-McConnell Agreement of 1966, the Air Force got the C-7s (and the rather promising C-8 Buffalo program was dropped).
The Army retained a handful of C-7s for special uses. One example at the Army’s Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis supported the Golden Knights parachute team. But aside from those limited numbers of C-7 the Army had to make do with a handful of UV-18 Twin Otters until acquiring Short C-23 Sherpas (initially in the 1980s these were second-hand ex-civilian types, again only for limited roles).
Other users of the DHC-4/C-7 included Australia. One of those Aussie DHC-4s with the original engines shows off in the video below.
As I watch the Caribou, I can’t help but think about what could have been if the Army had retained more than a limited STOL cargo capability through the 1970s.