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The Beechcraft C-12 Huron: Military Passenger and Transport Aircraft
The C-12 Huron is the most common fixed-wing aircraft in the U.S. Army’s fixed-wing fleet. They own several hundred Hurons, which are used for VIP transport, high-priority passenger transport, and critical cargo transport. The Army has also successfully deployed the C-12 as an ISR platform for decades, namely the RC-12 Guardrail.
Even though it is in its fifth decade of continuous service, the C-12 isn’t slowing down and won’t likely be replaced anytime soon. Let’s take a look at the C-12 Huron:
- Primary and secondary missions
- Noteworthy accomplishments
- And milestone
C-12 Huron Aircraft Specs
The C-12 Huron in all models besides the Juliet is a commercial off-the-shelf Beechcraft King Air 200-series twin-turboprop. The King Air is the most popular turboprop ever, and several thousand specimens operate worldwide. The original C-12 Huron was a basic King Air A200 equipped with the PT6A-38 engines, running 750 shp per side. The Army received about sixty Alpha models, while the Air Force received thirty. These were later upgraded to the C-12C standard, which added PT6A-41 engines that added an additional 100 shp per side. Over the years, the various upgrades (there have been many over fifty years) have been performance upgrades or avionics updates. The airframe itself remains mostly unchanged, although some models have had cargo doors added to accommodate pallets of cargo.
The C-12 is a two-pilot aircraft, which is the entire complement of the crew for the aircraft, although, on occasion, some missions do fly with a crew chief. The C-12 can haul up to thirteen passengers, although this will substantially diminish the overall range of the aircraft, along with the luggage capacity. The C-12 has an empty weight of around 7,750 lbs and a maximum gross takeoff of about 12,500 lbs. It is fairly wide, with a wingspan of 54’ 6”, and measures 43’9” in length. While it is no jet, the C-12 cruises at a respectable 290 knots, usually cruising around FL250.
History & Development of The C-12 Huron
The history of the C-12 Huron is linked directly to the development of the Super King Air. Before the C-12, the Army extensively used the U-21 Ute, which was a King Air 90-series, or a ‘low-tail’ King Air. These were technical Model 87s and unpressurized models used for various utility and liaison work. The original C-12As entered service in 1974, so they are entering their fifth decade of service next year. These were the very earliest examples of the Super King Air. In fact, the Super King Airs entered production in 1972, so the Army was extremely quick to get in line for Super King Airs to form the backbone of their fixed-wing fleet.
Super King Airs are pressurized aircraft, which gave it a distinct advantage over the U-21. It could fly higher and cruise higher and longer. The Super King Air is also substantially larger than the 90-series King Airs, so the C-12 could carry double the passenger count. The original U-21s were equipped with two PT6A-135A at 550 shp per side. The base model C-12A offered an increase of 200 shp per side, and the Charlie model Hurons had 300 shp per side more! The airframe of the C-12, the B200 series Super King Air, has remained largely unchanged in the years since, and why should it? It has proven robust, efficient, and highly adaptable.
Variants of C-12 Huron
Over the course of the program, there have been many variants of the C-12 Huron. You would expect this for any airplane that has spent nearly fifty years in continuous service; there have been huge advances in powerplant technology, especially avionics technology since it was introduced.
One of the first and more significant variants of the C-12 is the Navy and Marine Corps UC-12B. This was the first Huron with a cargo door adapted to the airframe. The cargo door is 52”x52”, which is the size necessary to accommodate a standard military air cargo pallet. High-value and time-sensitive cargo can be loaded on the UC-12B quickly, and since it can operate from small airstrips with limited services, it can provide cargo support to many austere places in the world.
Still one of the most common Huron in circulation, the Delta model is based on the King Air A200CT, powered by the PT6A-41 or -42 engines which produce 850 shp per side. The Delta was the first Army variant to be equipped with a cargo door, like the UC-12B. The seats can be easily removed, and a roller kit is installed to quickly transport priority cargo anywhere in the world. With a 2,000 nm range, the Huron can quickly get critical cargo to most places quite fast.
Special Military Variants
Since the C-12 Huron is such an adaptable airframe that has proven to be rugged and performs well in all environments, it was a natural selection to be used for special missions. The RC-12 Guardrail is probably the best known and has been the backbone of the Army’s aerial ISR fleet for about forty years. The Air Force operates an ISR version of the C-12 as well, which is the MC-12 Liberty. This is derived from the larger King Air 350 family of aircraft. Most of the MC-12s are 350ERs, which provides a much long loiter time for the MC-12 to stay on location for long durations.
Design & Features
The C-12 Huron, regardless of model, is a twin-engine turboprop. It has a crew of two pilots and can have attendants or flying crew chiefs if the mission dictates. The basic cabin design is parallel seats on each side of the cabin, with a narrow aisle down the middle. It is a fairly large business-class turboprop with a wingspan of 54’6” and a length of 43’9”. There have been several different engines with varying outputs used on the C-12, although they are all derivatives of the PT6A family. The PT6A-42 is most common in the C-12s, used on the Foxtrot and everything afterward. The -42 produces 850 shp per side. Avionics have been in constant upgrades throughout the history of the program. The most advanced avionics suite is in the C-12U, which has been modernized to meet global air traffic management directives, i.e., to be worldwide qualified. The Uniform model of the Huron is equipped with a Rockwell-Collins FMS-3000 flight management system, along with two GPS-4000As and an ADC-3000 air data computer.
Notable Operations & Users of The C-12 Huron
Many units operate the C-12. Most of them are more or less the same, but some are unique. Perhaps the most recognizable belongs to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command from Fort Bragg. Their command C-12 is not included in the TRANSCOM OSA pool of aircraft, and it carries its own special livery, along with the infamous crest of the USASOC. The Marine Corps operates a small fleet of Hurons which reservists often crew. Unique to the USMC, their pilots all come from other airframes, and their pilots usually retain patches from their previous life. It is not uncommon to see A/V-8B Harrier pilots, F/A-18 Hornet pilots, and even V-22 Osprey pilots in the cockpit of the USMC C-12s.
The Greenwood Advantage
No matter what branch of service, or if you are a federal agency operating King Airs if your mission involves King Air aircraft, we are your #1 procurement professional for parts. Also, we provide MIL-SPEC packing and can even warehouse your parts, so you don’t have to worry about it.