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C-7 Caribou

DHC-4 Caribou
A Royal Australian Air Force Caribou at Bundaberg airport.
Role STOL Transport
Manufacturer de Havilland Canada
First flight 30 July 1958
Introduction 1961
Primary users United States Army
United States Air Force
Royal Australian Air Force
Number built 307
Variants 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-designed and produced 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.

Design and development

The de Havilland Canada company's third STOL design was a big step up in size compared to its earlier DHC Beaver and DHC Otter, and was the first DHC design powered by two engines. The Caribou, however, 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.

Operational history

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 Caribous 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. 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 Caribous were transferred to Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard airlift units pending their replacement by the C-130 Hercules in the 1980s.

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, Brazil, Canada, India, Malaysia and Spain.

The Royal Australian Air Force retired its last Caribou, A4-140, on 27 November 2009.[2] The aircraft, which was manufactured in 1964, was donated to the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.[3]

Brazil's Caribous are slowly being replaced by more modern EADS CASA C-295 turboprop cargo aircraft.

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.


DHC-4 Caribou
STOL tactical transport, utility transport aircraft.
Royal Canadian Air Force designation for the DHC-4 Caribou.
This designation was given to five DHC-4 Caribous, sold to the United States Army for evaluation.
United States Army designation for the first production run of 56 DHC-4 Caribou. Later redesignated CV-2A in 1962.
United States Army AC-1 redesignated in 1962.
This designation was given to a second production run of 103 DHC-4 Caribous, which were sold to the U.S. Army, with reinforced internal ribbing.
These designations were applied to all 144 Caribous 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.


Military operators

 Abu Dhabi/  United Arab Emirates
 Costa Rica
  • Indian Air Force - Indian received 20 new build Caribou, supplementing them with four ex-Ghanaian Caribou in 1975.[6]
  • Two refurbished aircraft were delivered to the Liberian Army's Air Reconnaissance Unit in 1989.[10] The aircraft were destroyed during the civil war.
  • Spanish Air Force received 12 new Caribous later supplemented by 24 former United States Air Force C-7As.[13]
 South Vietnam
 United States
  • Vietnam People's Air Force captured several ex-VNAF airplanes.
  • Zambian Air Force operated four Caribou.[17]

Civil operators

  • La Sarre Air Services
    • acquired C-GVGX in 1977 (delivered 1961) and unknown status after 1981 when Propair formed from merger of La Sarre Air Services (used in El Salvador to Nicaragua 1986)[18]
 Costa Rica
  • AMOCO Ecuador
  • Anglo-Ecuador Oilfields
  • Aerolíneas Cóndor of SA
  • Air Inter Gabon
  • Trigana Air
  • New Cal Aviation
 Papua New Guinea
  • Garamut Exploration Services
  • Vanimo Trading
 United States

Aircraft on display


  • DHC-4 VH-VBA as "A4-210" is owned by the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society, Wollongong, New South Wales. Maintained in airworthy condition and flown regularly at air displays.
  • DHC-4 VH-VBB as "A4-234" is owned by the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society, Wollongong, New South Wales. Maintained in airworthy condition and flown regularly at air displays.
On display


On display
  • DHC-4 A4-146 at the Indian Air Force Museum, Palam.


On display
  • DHC-4 A4-248 at the Royal Malaysian Air Force Museum, Sungai Besi, Kuala Lumpur.

United States

On display

Specifications (DHC-4A)

Data from MacDonald Aircraft Handbook.[24]

General characteristics
  • Crew: Three
  • Capacity:
    • 32 troops or
    • 24 fully equipped paratroops or
    • 14 casualty stretchers
  • Payload: 8,000 lb (3,628 kg)
  • Length: 72.58 ft (22.12 m)
  • Wingspan: 95.58 ft (29.13 m)
  • Height: 31.66 ft (9.65 m)
  • Wing area: 912 ft² (84.7 m²)
  • Empty weight: 16,920 lb (7,675 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 28,500 lb (12,927 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Pratt and Whitney R-2000-7M2 Twin Wasp 14-cylinder, 1,450 hp (1,081 kW) each


See also

Aviation portal
Canadian Armed Forces portal

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era




  • Andrade, John. Militair 1982. London: Aviation Press, 1982. ISBN 0-907898-01-7.
  • The C-7A Caribou Association
  • deHavilland Caribou (DHC-4) and Buffalo (DHC-5) web site.
  • "Caribou to Bow Out Early". Air International, Vol. 76. No. 4, April 2009, p. 5.
  • Green, William. Macdonald Aircraft Handbook. London: Macdonald & Co. (Publishers) Ltd., 1964.
  • Henley, Don and Ken Ellis. "Globetrotting Reindeers: De Havilland Canada's Caribou – an airlift legend". Air Enthusiast, No. 74, March/April 1998, pp. 20–33. ISSN 0143-5450.
  • Hotson, Fred W. The de Havilland Canada Story. Toronto: CANAV Books, 1983. ISBN 0-07-549483-3.
  • entry at the Scramble (magazine) website:
  • entry at the Scramble magazine website.
  • entry at the Scramble magazine website.
  • Taylor, John W.R. (ed.). Jane's All The World's Aircraft 1971–72. London: Janes's Yearbooks, 1971. ISBN 978-0-7106-1262-5.

External links

  • C-7 / CV-2 Caribou
  • DHC-4T Turbo Caribou Imagery
  • Replacing the Caribou: the Tango Charlie Option (DHC-4T) – Defence Today
  • Bush planes
  • The C-7A Caribou Association
  • "Handling the DHC-4 Caribou" a 1959 Flight article

Template:De Havilland Canada

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