Post WW2 Aicraft »

de Havilland DHC-4 Caribou

While the de Havilland Caribou prototype initially flew in 1958, the ruggedness and the usefulness of their design enabled the Royal Australian Air Force to continuously operate the type in front-line service for 45 years, from 1964 when they were introduced to the RAAF until their full retirement in 2009.

A Royal Australia Air Force Caribou takes off from Omaka Aerodrome in Blenheim (New Zealand) after performing a STOL demonstration to Kiwi airshow attendees for the first time.  Photo: © 2007 Les Bushell (Image Supplied)

The Caribou was specifically developed by de Havilland Canada in response to a requirement from the US Army for a tactical airlift aircraft which would be able to supply front line troops, and if necessary evacuate casualties. DHC had previously designed two other successful STOL aircraft, the DHC-2 Beaver and the DHC-3 Otter, but both of these were smaller single-engine aircraft, so the DHC-4 was a much larger design project.

Known as the CV-2 and CV-7 by the US military, the type initially served in the Vietnam War where it immediate prove to be a success. Able to carry up to 32 troops or two jeeps (or similar light vehicles), the rear loading ramp enabled the aircraft to be used for air-to-ground re-supply missions, and its capabilities meant that it could be used on very short airstrips which the other cargo aircraft of the time (such as the C-130 Hercules and C-123 Provider) were unable to use.

The Caribou comes in for a very short STOL landing to demonstrate its capabilities.   Photo: © 2007 Les Bushell (Image Supplied)

159 examples of the type were operated by the US Army, and by 1961 the Caribou was flying transport and cargo missions in Vietnam some five months before there was a significant deployment of US military helicopters in the region. In 1966 the US Army Caribou squadrons were transferred to the command and control of the US Air Force, and most US Army operations that had previously been conducted by the Caribou were transferred to helicopter-based units instead.

The DHC-4 had a range of over 2000km with a cruising speed of 293km/h, making it a very useful aircraft, particularly in the vast remote areas of Canada, Australian and Africa.

This aircraft is one of the fleet of Caribou's operated by the Royal Australian Air Force .The display took place at Classic Fighters 2009, at Omaka Aerodrome, Blenheim, New Zealand, shortly before the entire RAAF Caribou fleet was retired.

Between 1964 and 2009 the RAAF operated a total of 29 examples of the Caribou, of which A4-140 was the last to be retired on 27th November 2009. This aircraft was donated to the Australian War Memorial Museum in Canberra (Australia). While Canada, the USA and Australia were the primary users of the 307 Caribou aircraft that were built, there were manu other countries around the world who operated them at one time or another. The UAE, Ghana, India, Kenya and Spain all operated more that five examples of the type, while many other countries operated a smaller number. A small number of DHC-4s were even operated by the North Vietnam who captured them from the US during the war, and these remained in service with the Vietnam People's Air Force into the late 1970s.

Here's another look at the RAAF Caribous displaying at the Classic Fighters airshow, this time in 2007. This was the first time that many Kiwis at the show got to see what 'Bou was actually capable of from the STOL perspective.

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