DHC-4 Caribou
RAAF Caribou Vabre.jpg
A Royal Australian Air Force Caribou at Bundaberg airport.
Role STOL transport aircraft
National origin Canada
Manufacturer de Havilland Canada
First flight 30 July 1958
Introduction 1961
Retired RAAF (2009)
Status Retired from military operators, limited service. Some turboprop conversions in active service.
Primary users Royal Canadian Air Force (historical)
United States Army (historical)
United States Air Force (historical)
Royal Australian Air Force (historical)
Produced 1958–1968
Number built 307
Developed into de Havilland Canada DHC-5 Buffalo

The de Havilland Canada DHC-4 Caribou (designated by the United States military as the CV-2 and later C-7 Caribou) is a Canadian specialized cargo aircraft with short takeoff and landing (STOL) capability. The Caribou was first flown in 1958 and although mainly retired from military operations, is still in use in small numbers as a rugged "bush" aircraft.

The design was further developed as the de Havilland Canada DHC-5 Buffalo, adding turboprop engines and other changes that further improved its short-field performance to the point where it competes with light aircraft even with a full load.

Design and development

C-7B Caribou aircraft of the U.S. Army/California Army National Guard
C-7B Caribou aircraft of the U.S. Army/California Army National Guard
RAAF DHC-4 Caribou (A4-299) from No. 38 Squadron.
RAAF DHC-4 Caribou (A4-299) from No. 38 Squadron.

The de Havilland Canada company's third STOL design was a big increase in size compared to its earlier DHC Beaver and DHC Otter, and was the first DHC design powered by two engines. The Caribou was similar in concept in that it was designed as a rugged STOL utility aircraft. The Caribou was primarily a military tactical transport that in commercial service found itself a small niche in cargo hauling. The United States Army ordered 173 in 1959 and took delivery in 1961 under the designation AC-1, which was changed to CV-2 Caribou in 1962.

The majority of Caribou production was destined for military operators, but the type's ruggedness and excellent STOL capabilities requiring runway lengths of only 1200 feet (365 metres)[1] also appealed to some commercial users. U.S. certification was awarded on 23 December 1960. Ansett-MAL, which operated a single example in the New Guinea highlands, and AMOCO Ecuador were early customers, as was Air America (a CIA front in South East Asia during the Vietnam War era for covert operations). Other civil Caribou aircraft entered commercial service after being retired from their military users.

Today only a handful are in civil use.

The Turbo Caribou Program

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PEN Turbo Aviation of Cape May, NJ, has undertaken the re-engineering of the DHC-4A Caribou to a turbine powered variant, designated DHC-4A Turbo Caribou. The conversion utilizes the PT6A-67T engines and Hartzell 5 Bladed HC-B5MA-3M Constant Speed/Reversing propellers. Overall performance has improved and "new" basic weight is reduced while maximum normal take-off weight remained at 28,500 lbs. Maximum payload is 10,000 lbs. Both Transport Canada (11/14/00) and Federal Aviation Administration (2/27/01) have issued Supplemental Type Certificates for the Turbo Caribou. As of Sept 17, 2014, only 3[2] air frames have gone through the conversion process. PEN Turbo has stockpiled dozens of air frames at their facility in NJ for possible future conversion. [1]. PEN Turbo Aviation named their company after Perry E. Niforos, who died in the 1992 crash of an earlier turboprop Caribou converted by a different firm, NewCal Aviation.[2]

Operational history

An RAAF Caribou transport aircraft on landing approach, Vietnam War.
An RAAF Caribou transport aircraft on landing approach, Vietnam War.

In response to a U.S. Army requirement for a tactical airlifter to supply the battlefront with troops and supplies and evacuate casualties on the return journey, de Havilland Canada designed the DHC-4. With assistance from Canada's Department of Defence Production, DHC built a prototype demonstrator that flew for the first time on 30 July 1958.

Impressed with the DHC4's STOL capabilities and potential, the U.S. Army ordered five for evaluation as YAC-1s and went on to become the largest Caribou operator. The AC-1 designation was changed in 1962 to CV-2, and then C-7 when the U.S. Army's CV-2s were transferred to the U.S. Air Force in 1967. U.S. and Australian Caribou saw extensive service during the Vietnam War.

The U.S. Army purchased 159 of the aircraft and they served their purpose well as a tactical transport during the Vietnam War, where larger cargo aircraft such as the Fairchild C-123 Provider and the Lockheed C-130 Hercules could not land on the shorter landing strips. The aircraft could carry 32 troops or two Jeeps or similar light vehicles. The rear loading ramp could also be used for parachute dropping (also, see Air America).

Under the Johnson-McConnell agreement of 1966, the Army relinquished the fixed wing Caribou to the United States Air Force in exchange for an end to restrictions on Army rotary wing operations. On 1 January 1967, the 17th, 57th, 61st, 92nd, 134th, and 135th Aviation Companies of the U.S. Army were inactivated and their aircraft transferred respectively to the newly activated 537th, 535th, 536th, 459th, 457th, and 458th Troop Carrier Squadrons of the USAF (This was Operation "Red Leaf"). On 1 August 1967 the "troop carrier" designations were changed to "tactical airlift".

Some U.S. Caribou were captured by North Vietnamese forces and remained in service with that country through to the late 1970s. Following the war in Vietnam, all USAF Caribou were transferred to Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard airlift units pending their replacement by the C-130 Hercules in the 1980s.

Ex U.S. Army CV-2A, operated by Chieftain Aviation, at Opa-locka Airport near Miami in 1989
Ex U.S. Army CV-2A, operated by Chieftain Aviation, at Opa-locka Airport near Miami in 1989

All C-7s have now been phased out of U.S. military service, with the last example serving again under U.S. Army control through 1985 in support of the U.S. Army's Golden Knights parachute demonstration team. Other notable military operators included Australia, Canada, India, Malaysia and Spain.

In September 1975, a group of 44 civilians, including armed supporters of the Timorese Democratic Union (UDT), commandeered a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Caribou, A4-140, on the ground at Baucau Airport in the then Portuguese Timor, which was in the middle of a civil war. The Caribou had landed at Baucau on a humanitarian mission for the International Committee of the Red Cross. The civilians demanded that the RAAF crew members fly them to Darwin Airport (also RAAF Base Darwin) in Australia, which they did. After the Caribou arrived there, the Australian government detained the civilians for a short period, and then granted refugee visas to all of them. The Guardian later described A4-140 as "the only RAAF plane ever hijacked", and the incident as "one of the more remarkable stories in Australia’s military and immigration history".[3]

The RAAF retired A4-140, by then its last Caribou, on 27 November 2009.[4] The aircraft, which was manufactured in 1964, was donated to the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.[5]

Civilian operations

After retirement from military use, several examples of the Caribou have been purchased by civilian operators for deployment in areas with small airfields located in rugged country with few or poor surface transport links.

Variants

Royal Australian Air Force DHC-4
Royal Australian Air Force DHC-4
DHC-4 Caribou
STOL tactical transport, utility transport aircraft.
CC-108
Royal Canadian Air Force designation for the DHC-4 Caribou.
YAC-1
This designation was given to five DHC-4 Caribou, sold to the United States Army for evaluation.
AC-1
United States Army designation for the first production run of 56 DHC-4 Caribou. Later redesignated CV-2A in 1962.
CV-2A
United States Army AC-1 redesignated in 1962.
CV-2B
This designation was given to a second production run of 103 DHC-4 Caribou, which were sold to the U.S. Army, with reinforced internal ribbing.
C-7A/B
These designations were applied to all 144 Caribou transferred to the U.S. Air Force by the U.S. Army.
DHC-4A Caribou
Similar to the DHC-4, but this version had an increased takeoff weight.
DHC-4T Turbo Caribou
A conversion of the baseline DHC-4 Caribou powered by the PWC PT6A-67T turboprop engines designed, test flown and certified by the Pen Turbo Aviation company.

Operators

Military operators

 Abu Dhabi/  United Arab Emirates
Caribou at the RAAF museum.
Caribou at the RAAF museum.
 Australia
 Canada
 Cameroon
 Cambodia
 Ghana
 India
The only Iranian DHC-4 Caribou
The only Iranian DHC-4 Caribou
 Iran
 Kenya
 Kuwait
 Liberia
RMAF Caribou on display at the Malaysian Army Museum, Port Dickson.
RMAF Caribou on display at the Malaysian Army Museum, Port Dickson.
 Malaysia
 Oman
 Spain
 South Vietnam
 Sweden
 Tanzania
 Thailand
 Uganda
 United States
 Vietnam
 Zambia

Civil operators

 Australia
 Canada
 Costa Rica
 Ecuador
 Gabon
 Indonesia
 Malta
 Papua New Guinea
 Taiwan
 United States

Aircraft on display

Australia

Airworthy
On display
A4-228 at Caboolture (2021).
A4-228 at Caboolture (2021).

Costa Rica

On display

India

On display

Malaysia

On display

Spain

On display

Thailand

On display

United States

CV-2B 62-4149
CV-2B 62-4149
C-7 on display at the 82nd Airborne Division War Memorial Museum, once used by the Golden Knights parachute team
C-7 on display at the 82nd Airborne Division War Memorial Museum, once used by the Golden Knights parachute team
detail of C-7A Caribou at Museum of Aviation, Robins AFB
detail of C-7A Caribou at Museum of Aviation, Robins AFB
Airworthy
On display

Specifications (DHC-4A)

Data from Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1969-70[60]

General characteristics

Performance

211 nmi (243 mi; 391 km) with maximum payoad inc. 45minutes reserve

Avionics
Blind flying instrumentation standard fit

See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

References

Notes

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  2. ^ a b Boring, War Is (22 September 2014). "The Turbo Caribou Is One of the World's Best and Rarest Airlifters". Medium.
  3. ^ Henriques-Gomes, Luke (16 January 2021). "'It was life or death': the plane-hijacking refugees Australia embraced". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  4. ^ a b "Defence 'workhorse' makes final flight." ABC News, 27 November 2009. Retrieved: 27 November 2009.
  5. ^ a b c Fitzgibbon, Joel (9 March 2009). "HONOURING THE CARIBOU'S SERVICE TO AUSTRALIA". Australian Government Department of Defense. Archived from the original on 10 May 2009. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  6. ^ a b Henley and Ellis Air Enthusiast March/April 1998, p. 24.
  7. ^ a b c d "A4 DHC-4 Caribou". RAAF Museum Point Cook. 2009. Retrieved 14 April 2012.
  8. ^ a b c d e Henley and Ellis Air Enthusiast March/April 1998, p. 26.
  9. ^ "Fuerza Pública revive avión militar Caribú – SUCESOS – La Nación" (in Spanish). Archived 11 January 2013 at archive.today Nacion.com. Retrieved: 26 May 2011.
  10. ^ Andrade 1982, p. 141.
  11. ^ "Kuwait Air Force (KAF)." Archived 17 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine Scramble.nl. Retrieved: 26 May 2011.
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  13. ^ "Malaysian Forces Overview." Archived 7 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine Scramble.nl. Retrieved: 26 May 2011.
  14. ^ "Royal Air Force of Oman." Archived 1 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine Scramble.nl. Retrieved: 26 May 2011.
  15. ^ Andrade 1982, p. 204.
  16. ^ Soupart Air Enthusiast March–May 1992, p. 47.
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Bibliography