Status of C-23B Sherpas transferred to USFS from the Army

C-23B
C-23B. Department of Defense photo.

There is not a great deal of new information to report about the 15 Sherpa C-23B aircraft that were transferred from the U.S. Army to the U.S. Forest Service. The expectation is that they will be used by smokejumpers and for transporting cargo, paracargo, and possibly firefighters. The aircraft are still at Fort Sill, Oklahoma after being transferred in February, but some of them will be moved to Tucson in the next month or two where they will be evaluated and tested by the Smokejumper Aircraft Screening and Evaluation Board (SASEB), an organization much like the Interagency AirTanker Board. The SASEB is the “focal point for all interagency smokejumper/paracargo aircraft and related aircraft accessories, initiatives, proposals and issues. SASEB will provide guidance for standardization, when evaluating new interagency smokejumper/paracargo aircraft and related aircraft accessories.”

Smokejumpers have used Army surplus C-23A Sherpas for years, but one of the main differences between the older C-23A and the newer C-23B is that while both have a rear cargo ramp, like a C-130, the ramp on the C-23A will not open in flight. The SASEB will evaluate and test the use of the rear ramp for paracargo and jumpers while in flght. Typically they will begin by tossing out small cargo items, moving up to human-sized dummies, and ultimately live human smokejumpers.

The Board will also evaluate the need for painting, avionics, and removal of any unneeded military equipment, but since they will not be used as air tankers, retardant tank systems will not have to be installed.

One thought on “Status of C-23B Sherpas transferred to USFS from the Army”

  1. Not being a jumper or para-cargo person I have limited knowledge about parachute delivery of persons or cargo. But it seems like acquiring a aircraft that’s got a rear ramp approved already for such would make a more useful and versatile aircraft.

    As a side note, a tip of my hat to all you jumpers. To jump out of a perfectly good airplane by parachute into a forest fire in rugged terrain, you got the right stuff. I greatly admire all of you. Keep up the good work.

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