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Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing… Civilian Aircraft Designs in Military Use, Part One

Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing… Civilian Aircraft Designs in Military Use, Part One

By: Category: AirlinersAviation HistoryClassic AircraftGeneral AviationMilitary


The Nord 262 was a French-designed and built airliner adapted for military transport duties for the French Air Force.

Many times in history have aircraft, designed for the civilian market, been adopted for military use. Especially during the early part of World War II, civilian aircraft were pressed into use as transports and liaison aircraft before new production aircraft could be utilized. Civilian designs were modified on production lines for military use, like the Piper Cub – a civilian training aircraft modified into the L-4 Grasshopper – as well. The Douglas DC-3/DST is another example of a successful adaptation that became the C-47 and C-53.

The DHC-2 Beaver became an important military transport as the L-20 Beaver.

Inversely, the Canadian designed and built DHC-2 Beaver began its life as a civilian bush plane, but became an important military liaison aircraft for the U.S Army, thanks to its STOL capabilities.

Here are a number of examples of civilian designs in military use, both as stock models, or highly modified:

The L-610 was a civilian design that wasn’t mass produced, but the Czech Air Force used the few built as transports.

The DHC-3 Otter is still in use today as the NU-1B at the U.S. Navy’s Test Pilot School.

This French Army Pilatus PC-6 is a version of the successful PC-6 civilian bush aircraft.




The Lockheed Constellation began its life as the C-69 military transport, and was enlarged into the C-121.

The Swearingen SW-4 Merlin and Metro airliner is the C-26 in military use.

This Saab 340 airliner design has become the Argus S-100D AWACS.

The Swearingen Merlin III has been adapted a a staff transport for the Belgian Air Force.

The Short Brothers SD3-30 commuter has become the C-23 Sherpa with a cargo ramp; some larger SH360s have had tail transplants for the door too.

The Stinson 10 was a Civil Air Patrol anti-submarine observation aircraft during World War II.

Cirrus Design’s SR-20 has become a trainer for the U.S. Air Force Academy cadets as the T-53A Kaydet II.

The Gulfstream 1 corporate transport model was modified with a grafted-on nose from an A-6 Intruder jet bomber for crew training.

The U.S. Navy modified Convair 440 civilian propliners with turboprop engines to produce this VC-131H.

The Cessna 336/337 Skymaster design became the O-2 observation and forward air control aircraft.

The North American/Ryan Navion civil design became the L-17… it shares features from the Worls War II P-51 Mustang too.

The DHC Dash 8 has been modified as a navigator trainer in the CT-142 ‘Gonzo’ design.

World War II’s B-34 and PV-1 and -2 designs, and the C-69 are similar to the L-18 Lodestar civil airliner.

The Civilian Beech 18 is part of the family that includes the C-45 and JRB World War II trainer/transports.

The World War II C-47 and C-53 designs were based on the DC-3/DST civil airliners.

The Lockheed P-3 anti-submarine and patrol aircraft shares lineage with the L-188 Electra airliner.

This Antonov-26 airlifter is an upgraded AN-24, with both civilian airliner and military use.

The rugged Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander has been used as a staff transport by multiple military branches around the world.

Beech’s B-200 Super Kingair is also known as the C-12 in military use.

The Beech 1900 airliner is also used as a C-12J military transport.

Fokker’s FK-27 Friendship is used as a maritime patrol and transport aircraft, this was an U.S. Army parachute platform for the Golden Knights.

The Cessna C-172 Skyhawk is also known as the T-41 Mescalero.

The Cessna C-182 Skylane is a patrol and search and rescue aircraft used by the U. S. Civil Air Patrol.

The DHC-6 Twin Otter is used as a rescue aircraft in Canada, known as the CC-138.

This DHC Dash 8 is a RCAF CC-142 transport in RCAF service.

The Reims-Cessna C-406 is a light civilian transport used by the French military.

The Embraer EMB-121 Xingu is a light civilian transport modified as a trainer for the French Navy.

This Fokker FK-50 is used by the Royal Netherlands Air Force as a transport, the Fokker 50 is a regional airliner too.

The Howard DGA-15 was a fast executive transport built in the late 1930s through mid 1940s, and used as an air ambulance by the U. S. Navy.

The Handley Page Jetstream was an early turboprop airliner that was a military training aircraft too.