Author Topic: From Gonzo to Glory  (Read 5116 times)

Offline Silver Fox

  • Talk to me Goose!
From Gonzo to Glory
« on: February 13, 2012, 01:50:17 AM »
Inspired by Apophenia's Gonzo Gunship, and incorporating The Big Gimper's BOME terrorist group here is the untold story of how the Dehavilland Canada DHC-8 went on to become one of the most significant types in Canada's Airforce:

During the 1980's Canada's Conservative government made a concerted effort to acquire Canadian aircraft to meet Canadian needs. One of the acquisitions was the Dehavilland Canada DHC-8, which would be purchased in both standard transport configuration (CC-142) and navigation trainer configurations (CT-142).By the early 90's budget cuts forced the Canadian Forces to seek less expensive ways to meet Operational Requirements, ironically acquiring new aircraft allowed a fleet consolidation which would save the Canadian Forces millions of dollars.

An examination of the DHC-8 was undertaken, geared toward optimizing the type for a variety of military uses. First up was the CP-142, basically an upgraded CT-142 'Gonzo'. The CP-142 built upon the CT-142 configuration by adding an electro-optical sensor under the nose, added an Electronic Support Measures (ESM) system with various antenna positions, IR suppressed engine exhausts, countermeasures systems, weapons capability and military datalinks.

A unique Public-Public-Private partnership was formed between the Canadian Forces, Transport Canada and private contractors. A number of CP-142's were acquired, which bore CF serial numbers, but were operated by private contractors (primarily Provincial Airways) in support of the National Aerial Surveillance Program (NASP). The NASP CP-142's were built with provisions for, but not with, the strictly military equipment not required in the domestic sovereignty surveillance role. Bright red NASP Gonzo's and gloss grey military Gonzo's were frequently seen patrolling Canada's coastline.

The origins of the CA-142 Gonzo Gunship have been shrouded in mystery. 4 CP-142 aircraft were acquired in the early 1990's and designated (publicly) for an expansion of the NASP program. The NASP expansion never took place, yet the CP-142 aircraft were delivered. They promptly disappear from public scrutiny, rumoured to have been delivered to the air component of Canada's elite Joint Task Force 2 (JTF-2). The public would not become aware of the Gonzo Gunships until 2002, when the Canadian Forces asked for an expansion of the fleet for tactical use in Afghanistan. The public didn't fail to notice an 'expansion' of a fleet which didn't exist. During the public outrage, it was made public that the JTF-2 aircraft had defused a plot against the Canadian Government by the BOME terrorist group. The 'expansion' went ahead and the now publicly-acknowledged Gonzo Gunships were sent to Afghanistan. Painted in a drab tactical grey scheme, they are the least colourful of the Gonzo family.

The early 21st Century would see further changes in the Gonzo line. The early training types were re-tasked (more below) and replaced with airframes of full CP-142 standards. Training would continue to be carried out, but from now on by mission-ready CP-142s. The original CC-142 types were re-tasked as trainers, serving the expanding expanding needs of the Gonzo fleet.

Gonzos would take on two other roles for the Canadian people. First up was the CE-142 version, the Electronic Warfare and Electronic Support Measures variant. After a failed attempt to enter a public-private partnership for EW training, the CF decided to rationalize the fleet and retain the capability in-house. Replacing the CE-144 Challenger fleet was examined, and quickly discarded. By this time however, there were several 'war-weary' CT-142 airframes which had both the duration and electrical power for the EW role. The aircraft were modified with the full EW package devised for the CE-144 Challengers. Capable airframes, they were teamed with CT-133B 'T-Birds' which had been modernized by modifications based on the Boeing Skyfox program. Two Combat Support Squadrons would operate the CE-142, both co-located with CP-142 squadrons (one East coast, one West). CE-142s are painted in the gloss black 'utility' scheme also seen on the CC-144 Challengers.

The final Gonzo type to be acquired was the CSR-142 Search and Rescue variant. Overcoming some traditionalist beliefs that a rear ramp was required in the SAR role, Bombardier convinced the Canadian government that the airframe was more than capable of taking over from Canada's Buffalo SAR types. With so many Gonzo variants in service, the Air Force had decided to reinstate the CSR designation that had not been used in decades. Painted in the bright yellow and red SAR marking used by the Canadian Forces, the CSR-142 adds another colourful Gonzo to Canada's inventory.

Many of Canada's original Gonzos have been replaced by more modern variants. Based originally on the DHC-8-100 airframe, more recent types are based on the Bombardier Q200M. Nor is the Gonzo story over, prompted by both domestic and international interest, Bombardier has built a prototype Q200M(R). The Q200M(R) has the rear ramp so desired by military customers. The RCAF has already asked for funding to replace the ageing CC-138 Twin Otters in the Northern utility role with new CC-142s equipped with ramps.

Canada's extensive Gonzo fleet has not gone unnoticed by international customers. Australia operates both patrol and SAR variants and is in negotiations for the new transport variant as well. New Zealand operates a hybrid patrol/SAR type, as does Singapore. England's RAF has acquired patrol, SAR and gunship variants, with the gunships seeing service in Iraq and alongside Canadian types in Afghanistan. The US Army acquired 12 CP-142s, but noticeably they are actually weaponless CA-142s. The Key West Accord prevents the US Army from operating fixed wing armed aircraft, a behind the scenes power struggle in Pentagon corridors is being waged to allow some variation of this policy.

From humble beginnings, Canada has stumbled upon an aircraft family eminently suitable to Canada's needs. International orders have already exceeded domestic, with more anticipated.

Offline apophenia

  • Patterns? What patterns?
Re: From Gonzo to Glory
« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2012, 11:32:25 AM »
OMG ... Silver Fox, that's amazing! I love the overall concept but think that the red NASP and black 'Electric Gonzo' would be the tastiest.

Have you ever seen Boeing's plan for a Maritime Patrol Gonzo? I've got some artwork on it in CF colours buried somewhere in my files. Meanwhile, here's Boeing's promo post card for the Dash 8 MP.
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Offline Silver Fox

  • Talk to me Goose!
Re: From Gonzo to Glory
« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2012, 12:58:47 PM »
Glad you like it. :)

I'm familiar with Boeing's plans, it would have made a good Tracker replacement. In a way, through NASP, it did.

There sure would be a whole lot of Gonzos around if history had gone the way it's described above!

I think the JTF-2 CA-142s would be the interesting ones... 'normal' gunships might be a dull, tactical grey... but in domestic ops you might see a JTF-2 example wearing the more innocuous colours of the patrol, SAR, NASP or EW families. There's nothing quite like looking like an innocent NASP bird until you roll into a port pylon turn. Surveillance my ass... I'm gonna kill something! :)

I will admit to a certain emotional attachment to seeing a black 'Electric Gonzo' with the red rudder stripes of 414 (EW) SQDN. 'Sir Cedric' would look sooooooo good adorning the fin. :) Not to mention how they would look when a pair of them entered the 'fighter break' over the field when the Red Force won the mission.

Offline The Big Gimper

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Re: From Gonzo to Glory
« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2012, 07:05:42 PM »
In my "To Build" pile, I have a Hobby Craft Gonzo which will get an Heller E-2C dome and some EC-135 cheek pods to become a 428 SQN CE-142. Of course this profile will re-ignite the 408 vs 428 bun fight which started with AVRO Belenus;D

And to help them stay in the air, my CC-141T Muskie (Trumpeter H-6D) is there when they need to gas up and get a refill for their Timmies double-double.

I never thought of a 414 Gonzo. That would look so cool beside the EF-101B which is yet another to-do.


PS: As always, a big thanks to John L aka Maverick.

PPS: Hmmm, what about CAF/RCAF Group Build? Just to keep the Canuckistan barbarians placated?

PPPS: How about a GB for planes with the most built-in drag as part of their function. Sorry, BdB, Spats are not considered drag.  :icon_swat:
« Last Edit: February 13, 2012, 08:09:16 PM by The Big Gimper »
Work in progress ::

I am giving up listing them. They all end up on the shelf of procrastination anyways.

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Offline upnorth

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Re: From Gonzo to Glory
« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2012, 10:04:24 PM »
In my "To Build" pile, I have a Hobby Craft Gonzo which will get an Heller E-2C dome and some EC-135 cheek pods to become a 428 SQN CE-142. Of course this profile will re-ignite the 408 vs 428 bun fight which started with AVRO Belenus;D

Naa! 428 can have the Dash 8 with rotodome!  ;D

I think the Gonzo gunship is great, good story too.

Whenever I see a pic of the Gonzo, I can't help but remember the proposed Triton ASW variant that DHC was pitching back in the 80s that was based on a Dash 8-300. I think it only existed in artist concepts and models, but it had a serious cool factor about it.
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Offline apophenia

  • Patterns? What patterns?
Re: From Gonzo to Glory
« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2012, 12:09:35 PM »
428 can have the roto-dome while 408 gets the E-9A clone with conformal antennae  >:D

Upnorth: Thanks. I couldn't remember the name of that Boeing/DHC Dash 8 MP proposal.  I was picking my brain but only finding cobwebs  :P
The doorbell's ringing, could be the elves
But it's probably the werewolf ...