The Brazilian Army approved last week the purchase of US National Guard Short C-23B Sherpa transport aircraft that are stored. Thanks to this, Army Aviation (AvEx) can begin the selection and training of future pilots. Negotiations for the purchase of aircraft had started in 2017.
The program will require an approximate investment of $ 18 million to bring aircraft back into flight condition. The Brazilian Army will acquire eight C-23B units, of which six will have operational capacity and the other two will serve as a replacement part. Delivery of the first plane is scheduled for the first half of 2021.
The Sherpa will be operated by the 4th Army Aviation Battalion (4th BavEx), based in Manaus, in the Amazon region. The arrival of the aircraft will also require the construction of a new cargo-handling hangar on turboprop twin engines.
The purpose of the Army is to use its own airplanes for logistic transportation in the Amazon region so as not to depend on the Brazilian Air Force (FAB), which currently does this task. Without large resources, the Army chose to buy used airplanes, manufactured more than three decades ago, but with about 15 years of service life ahead.
The other options considered by Brazil were new aircraft such as the Airbus C-212 (formerly CASA C-212), DHC-6 Twin Otter, Cessna Grand Caravan and the Polish PZL M-28. The Sherpa used by the Americans were civilian aircraft converted in the late 1990s to the C-23B version and were used by the US National Guard until 2014, when they were disassembled and stored.
The US intended to sell 15 units, but the Brazilian Army preferred to have fewer aircraft in order to prepare an entire air infrastructure before planning to expand its operations. It is not yet known if the aircraft will need some kind of modernization or adaptation to their functions in Brazil.
The Army’s interest in re-operating its own aircraft did not occur earlier because the FAB had the exclusive operation of any type of aircraft in the ground environment until 1986. That year the Brazilian government decided to allow the Army to operate helicopters. The Brazilian Navy, in turn, had helicopters since 1965 and in 1998 had its fixed-wing aircraft, the AF-1 (A-4) Skyhawk, purchased for use on the aircraft carrier São Paulo, now disabled.
The Sherpa is a military version of the Short 360 airliner created by Northern Ireland’s manufacturer Short Brothers in 1981. Just over 160 aircraft were produced until 1991 when production was suspended. It can carry up to 20 passengers or about 4 tons of cargo.
Although it has a passenger carrying capacity similar to that of Embraer Bandeirante, the Irish aircraft has a configuration more suited to military transport, with high wings and a large rear cargo port. In 1989, Short Brothers was acquired by Canadian Bombardier and this year the unit was sold to the US group Spirit Aerosystems.