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Fairchild C-123 Provider: US Military Transport Aircraft

The Fairchild C-123 Provider used to be a military transport aircraft whose design was developed by Chase Aircraft while the development was carried out by the Fairchild Aircraft to serve the US Air Force. The aircraft was mostly used by USAF during the US campaign of the Vietnam War.

Following the Vietnam War, the Fairchild C-123 Provider was included in the service of Air Force Reserve as well as the Air National Guard and US Coast Guard. The Fairchild C-123 Provider is most renowned for its role of the Vietnam War where the aircraft was used for delivery of supplies as well as the evacuation of wounded personnel and spraying of Agent Orange.

Origin and Development:-




The origin of the Fairchild C-123 Provider was to be the assault glider aircraft by the Chase Aircraft for serving the USAF under designation XCG-20. Chase Aircraft developed 2 prototypes of the XCG-20 which were designated as XC-123 and SC-123A. The distinguished of them was the XC-123A which was the first jet-powered transport aircraft of the US Military.

Back in 1953, the majority shares of the Chase Aircraft were purchased by Henry J. Kaiser after they had completed their military contract of developing the C-119 in order for to take control of the C-12 aircraft. These 2 prototypes of Fairchild C-123 Provider were then completed at the Willow Run factory located in Ypsilanti, Michigan. However, the contract soon suffered a pricing scandal and the whole contract was then put up for bid with both prototypes getting scrapped. This contract was then awarded to Fairchild Engine and Airplane which then carried o the development of the Chase C-123B before the production was again handed over to Fairchild Aircraft.

Powerplant and Performance:-

The Fairchild C-123 Provider received its power from twin Pratt & Whitney R-2800-99W series Double Wasp 18 cylinders air-cooled radial position engines. These engines would generate 2300 HP each and be fitted under the aircraft’s wings. The aircraft was further improved to have 2 General Electric J85-GE-17 turbojet engines which were fitted on the outboard of underwings. These turbojet engines would generate a thrust of 2850 lbs each. This allowed for the Fairchild C-123 Provider to fly at a top speed of 228 mph for a range of 1035 miles. The aircraft’s maximum service ceiling was approximately 29000 feet which the aircraft achieved with rate-of-climb being 1150 ft/min.

General Characteristics of Fairchild C-123 Provider:-

The Fairchild C-123 Provider was developed to be utilized as a typical military transport aircraft which would feature raised empennage with high mounted wings to allow aircraft with clear ground clearance for its massive-diameter propellers and the low fuselage design for easier loading and unloading of cargo and personnel.

The aircraft was operated by 4 crew members and allowed for the seating area of nearly 60 combat-ready troops. The aircraft had a maximum cargo-carrying capacity of 24000 lbs or in other roles to carry 50 liters of medical liquids.

Service with USAF:-

The aircraft was first delivered to the USAF back in 1956 for their transport unit and soon it was delivered to USCG (United States Coastal guard) for their SAR (Search & Rescue) missions. The Fairchild C-123 Provider was also used by The Thunderbirds; the USAF’s Demonstration team as their logistic support aircraft of equipment and crew. One of the Fairchild C-123 Provider aircraft was also used as the transport of the President John F. Kennedy’s limousine back in November of 1963.

Fairchild C-123 Provider known for Operation Ranch Hand:-

The Fairchild C-123 Provider is most renowned for its role during the Operation Ranch Hand in the Vietnam War. This operation was to defoliate the regions of southern Vietnam which were covered with plants that would provide the North Vietnamese military troops with cover as well as nutrition. This was a critical situation for the US navy in the Mekong Delta where the patrol boats of the US navy would suffer from well-hidden ambushes of the enemies from the river shorelines.

Operation Ranch hand was the operation in which large scale deforestation was carried out by the use of several herbicides created by numerous corporations that were named as follows.

  • Agent Pink
  • Agent Green
  • Agent Purple
  • Agent Blue
  • Agent White
  • Agent Orange

Out of them, Agent Orange was the most notorious for its side effects on the recipients as it had the dioxin pollutants which caused mysterious illnesses in its recipients. Agent Orange was developed in New Zealand and was sent over to Southeast Asia. US army also received a small settlement of Agent Orange but it was never recognized officially by the US government. The aircraft used for the spraying of the Agent Orange by the US were Fairchild C-123 Provider which was designated with U prefix in their original designation.

Service with US defense branches after the Vietnam War:-

After the Vietnam War concluded, the fleet of Fairchild C-123 Provider in service of USAF was transferred over to the AFRES (Air force Reserve) as the tactical airlift unit as well as by ANG (Air National Guard) and MAC (Military Airlift Command).

Some of the Fairchild C-123 Provider airframes were also handed over FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) for their evaluation and testing programs. Some were also supplied to the USDA 9united States Department of Agriculture).

Appearance in Hollywood movies:-

The Fairchild C-123 Provider was also sued in the shooting of many of the Hollywood films that featured military aircraft. The most renowned appearance of the Fairchild C-123 Provider aircraft was for movies like Air America and Con Air.

Retirement from military service:-

The USAF retired their fleet of Fairchild C-123 Providers by handing them over to the Air Force Reserve as well as other defense branches of US. These defense braches retire their fleet of Fairchild C-123 Provider back in 1980. As for the ones that were used by FAA and the USDA, they were used well until early 1990s.

In the current status of the Fairchild C-123 Provider, it is still in service with some private flying clubs across the world.

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