The Donated SD3-30 (C-23) Sherpa Aircraft of the Philippine Army

A donated platform helps provide a bit of an increase in military capabilities, especially to provide mobility and logistics support that a military branch needs for a quick deployment for its troops and military hardware across the country, in areas that immediate aid and support that they need

We will discuss the donation coming from the United States to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, specifically for the Philippine Army Aviation Unit.

The type of aircraft that the Philippine Army received from a donation.
(c) Philippine Army Facebook Page.

The Philippine Army recently received the donated SD3-30 Sherpa Aircraft from a local business conglomerate named "Semirara Mining and Power Corporation", a mining and power-oriented enterprise owned by the Consunji family, in which the recipient for the donation of the air assets will be the Philippine Army's 'Army Aviation Regiment' itself currently improving its capability as a unit by getting more assets like this one.

This is despite the news coming from the past about the military's interest in securing the same type of aircraft from the United States, but with the intentions slowly fading away as securing C-23 Sherpa Aircraft from the United States may require additional funding and budgeting requirements that the Philippine Armed Forces does not have for the needed repair and rehabilitation.

Since the recipient will be the Army Aviation 'Hiraya' Regiment of the Philippine Army, we can say that these logistics fixed-wing aircraft will be the largest one that the Army Aviation Unit will have since the inception of the military unit, as it gives an indication of the continuous growth that this military unit will have, with the plans of having more flying military hardware for the Philippine Army to have in the future.

That being said, this will give the Philippine Army the needed airlifting platforms, wherein they can rely less on the Philippine Air Force for such requirements while giving the assurances that such military hardware are on their disposal whenever they needed a deployment for the aircraft to partake, whether it will be an area of concern from a security standpoint or from such area that went affected by natural calamities at hand.

Now that the Philippine Army has a SD3-30 Sherpa Aircraft at its possession, we will discuss the details pertaining to this airlift platform, in a manner similar to the way military assets discussed in this page, such as its manufacturer, development, and the specifications, with an apples-to-apples comparison to a related platform such as the ones currently in service with the Philippine Air Force.

An aerospace company from Belfast, Northern Ireland. Image Source.

In an overview, Short Brothers PLC is an aerospace company, with its headquarters in Belfast, Northern Ireland and is currently a subsidiary of Spirit AeroSystems Inc., an aircraft supplier firm with its headquarters in the state of Kansas, in the United States of America. This is the third time the company changed ownership from being a standalone company at the beginning of the century until to the sales that took place and the organization that it is today.

The company started in 1909 and was, apparently, the first company in the world that mass produce aeroplanes, which was an invention relatively new during those times, especially in the decade that the first powered and sustained aeroplane flight took place six years prior to 1903 by the Wright Brothers in the United States, using the Wright Flyer. The Short Brothers PLC produced the same advanced aerospace technology of that time under license.

As the Short Brothers PLC, as an aerospace company, grew from its foundation in the early 1900s, they supplied aircraft to the British Royal Air Force, especially during the First World War when they produced the Short Type 154 Reconnaissance/Torpedo Floating Aeroplane, wherein it saw action during that war and has sunk an enemy warship using a torpedo as its primary weapon of choice, with the vessel being of Turkish origin.

The company survived all its way into the Second World War, as the interwar period has proven to be difficult to the British aerospace industry during those times, just like those with other aerospace industries across the world. As the Second World War has started and progressed all throughout the 1940s, Short Brothers PLC produced military aircraft for the British Royal Air Force to use, such as the four-engine Short Stirling heavy bomber aeroplane, which has contributed a lot in the war alongside the more famous British heavy bomber such as the Avro Lancaster.

Short Brothers PLC after the war closed its factories that produced wartime aeroplanes to the British Royal Air Force, and became a firm based in Belfast, Northern Ireland that it is today, in which it produced several experimental intended to the British military, such as the Short SC.1 prototype Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) Aircraft, Short SB.5 prototype variable swept-wing aircraft, and the Short SB.4 Sherpa experimental aircraft.

Throughout the postwar period until the turn of the century, the leadership passed the ownership of the Short Brothers PLC from an independent company into a subsidiary of Bombardier in the mid-1980s, wherein it helped its parent company producing aircraft components intended for Bombardier's primary aerospace business, or with other aerospace companies under contract such as Boeing, Pratt and Whitney, General Electric, and Rolls Royce Deutschland.

Bombardier's ownership over Short Brothers PLC ended in 2019, when they sold the firm to Spirit AeroSystems Holding, Inc., amounting to US$500 Million in cash, with a total carrying value of around US$700 Million over the assumption of the liabilities made throughout the operations, of which it also includes another facility in Casablanca, Morrocco, and Bombardier's aero structures maintenance facility in Dallas, Texas in the United States as part of the company's business reorganization process.

First C-23A Sherpa for the United States Air Force. (c) Wikimedia Commons, via this link source.

In order to understand the design of the C-23 Sherpa further as a cargo utility aircraft that will now serve as a logistics platform for the Philippine Army, let us discuss the history of its development, along with the different derivatives and previous versions of the aircraft that the Short Brothers plc built throughout its operational life, which have led to the production and existence of the C-23 Sherpa aircraft as it is today.

The first aircraft design derivative that the Short Brothers plc built that served as the basis of what will be the C-23 Sherpa military cargo aircraft design is the smaller Short SC-7 Skyvan, itself being a 19-seater twin-turboprop aircraft nicknamed as "Flying Shoebox" or "Irish Concorde", with it being used for short-hauled cargo or passenger flights which include recreational skydiving.

The Short SC-7 Skyvan has already served until the present day since 1967, with the aviation users that still have this type of aircraft appreciate its short takeoff and landing feature that is essential in short runways in remote areas, with its success prompted Short Brothers PLC developed a larger aircraft that derived from the SC-7 Skyvan, itself being the basis on the design that define the C-23 Sherpa military cargo aircraft.

With the Short SC-7 Skyvan comes an improved and further developed aircraft with this aircraft served as a basis, which is the Short 330 light cargo aircraft, with the C-23A Sherpa belonging to this family of aircraft that also include the larger Short 360 commuter aircraft and a military equivalent like the C-23B/C Sherpa aircraft wherein its capacity is far greater than the Short 330/C-23A Sherpa derivative.

They designed primarily the Short 330 aircraft as a regional airliner and a utility freighter, wherein it served the customers who had purchased the aircraft since 1975, with the military variant C-23A Sherpa primarily served most of the military branches within the United States Armed Forces, until several units such as their Army National Guard decommissioned them from service in 2014.

Before Short C-23 Sherpas became a consideration for the Philippine Army's Army Aviation, the Philippine Airlines already operated several of the Short 360s in its lineup of aircraft in the late 1980s, serving passengers in shorter routes across the country during that era, before the current time with De Havilland Dash-8 Q400NGs becoming the airlines main turboprop aircraft at the time of this article writing.

The development from SC-7 Skyvan to its current operations to several airlines, along with those for Short 330 and Short 360 aircraft and their C-23 Sherpa military variants, spanned for at least half a decade and are still operational to some users that use its primary capabilities on airlift, with the Philippine Army's Aviation Regiment being one of the new users of such aircraft for this military unit to use.

The technical specifications for the Shorts 330 or C-23A Sherpa. The ones for the Shorts 360 will be larger than the ones presented. Source.

The specifications or technical data vary between the Shorts 330 aircraft or the larger Shorts 360 aircraft, wherein the details for the former have seen in a table provided above. As with Shorts 360 aircraft, it keeps the wingspan of 22.80 meters, while the length of the aircraft increased to 21.58 meters and the height to 7.27 meters as an attribute primarily to the aircraft's rudder.

Speaking of which, the Shorts 360 aircraft keeps a similar wingspan size, while there is a difference of around 3.88 meters long and 2.27 meters high in its dimension, as this will give the Shorts 360 an extra 30 more passengers as opposed to the original Shorts 330 aircraft with its 30 passenger count, which is the same thing regarding the comparison of both the C-23B/C Sherpa and its C-23A Sherpa counterpart.

As with the dimension, there is also a variance in the shaft horsepower (SHP) in the power plant (engine) configuration of both the Shorts 330 and the Shorts 360 aircraft, with the former running a 2x 1,156shp Pratt and Whitney PT6A-45B turboprops with 5 blade propellers, as opposed to the latter's 2x 990kW (1,327shp) Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-65R turboprops driving five blade constant speed Hartzell propellers.

Given the classification provided by Pratt and Whitney for its engines based on power levels, the PT6A-45B turboprops counts as a 'Medium'-powered aircraft engine, whereas the PT6A-65R turboprops counts as a 'Large'-powered aircraft engine, which makes sense for both of the Shorts aircraft aforementioned as the Shorts 360 comes with more passenger capacity count and larger size than its Shorts 330 counterpart.

The passenger count of both Shorts 330 and Shorts 360 aircraft comes shorter than other newer aircraft such as the CASA/IPTN C-235 aircraft, which comes with 2x 1,750shp power plant fit and a wider wingspan of 25.81 meters, while having a rough comparison with the Shorts 330 and Shorts 360 aircraft like with the length of fuselage at 21.35 meters and an overall height of 8.18 meters.

Take note that the CASA/IPTN C-235 aircraft served as the basis for the more modern and larger EADS-CASA/Airbus C-295 aircraft that is currently used by the Philippine Air Force for its Medium-Lift Aircraft requirements, augmenting the C-130 that the air branch also currently has in its inventory and has plans for expansion with the procurement the likes of C-130J-30 and Maritime Patrol Aircraft Acquisition Project that has C-295 MPA Persuader as one candidate, among other offers, for the project.

With the specifications provided, the C-23 Sherpa of the Philippine Army comes sufficient for their aviation regiment, especially that it provides a boost for their logistics chain that will help them become less reliant on the Philippine Air Force's airlifting capabilities, although they may still need support from the air branch of the Philippine Armed Forces on tasks far beyond the C-23 Sherpa's capabilities.

Officials from the Department of National Defense and the Philippine Army inspecting the aircraft.
(c) Philippine Army Facebook Page.

The Philippine Army's Aviation Regiment has boosted its capability further as the result of the donation of the Shorts SD3-30 Sherpa Aircraft coming from a private entity, enabling them to use its airlift capabilities in transporting army supplies and personnel in areas across the country, making them less reliant to the Philippine Air Force's cargo aircraft workhorses.

This may mean that the donation serve as a sign of the organization's plans and programs that sought to improve and expand the Army Aviation Regiment, both with rotary aircraft or helicopters of different types and fixed-wing aircraft such as the SD3-30 Sherpa aircraft, wherein it is plausible that the leadership sought to add more units of such type of aircraft in their inventory.

Currently, the Philippine Army's Aviation Regiment seeks to have more aircraft for its operations, like the AH-6i Light Attack Helicopters that has offered by Boeing for the Army Aviation Regiment's Close Air Support Capabilities, as well as its own Medevac Helicopter or an Air Ambulance that is currently in service, which is a reconfigured Bolkow-Blohm Bo-105 helicopter intended to transport severely injured personnel and others that are wounded in action.

Speaking of improving capabilities, the Army Aviation Regiment of the Philippine Army seeks to have more military hardware, such as the Sikorsky HH-60 Blackhawk MEDEVAC Helicopter, whereby it can augment the Bolkow-Blohm Bo-105 helicopter that the aviation unit currently uses to transport military personnel wounded in action, along with other purposes such as disaster relief, search and rescue, and humanitarian help.

To sum this up, the future of the Philippine Army's Aviation Regiment has the fullest potential, especially in terms of its growth and development as a sub-unit within the military organization, as they aim to have a self-reliance close air support and airlift transport mechanism that aids them to their operations, while letting the resources of the Philippine Air Force focus on more important areas such as in terms of external defense.

(c) 2022 PDA.

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