The "Provider" is a short-range assault transport used
to airlift troops and cargo onto short runways and unprepared
airstrips. Designed by the Chase Aircraft Co., the C-123 evolved
from earlier designs for large assault gliders. The first
prototype XC-123 made its initial flight on October 14, 1949,
powered by two piston engines. A second prototype was built as
the XG-20 glider. It was later test-flown, powered by four jet
engines. The production version, with two piston engines, was
designated the C-123B. Chase began manufacture in 1953, but the
production contract was transferred to Fairchild. The first of
more than 300 Fairchild-built C-123Bs entered service in July
1955. Between 1966 and 1969, 184 C-123Bs were converted to
C-123Ks by adding two J85 jet engines for improved performance.
The C-123B weighed 35,000 lb. empty, and accommodated 62
fully-equipped troops or a large variety of vehicles and
weapons. It could be quickly converted to a 50-litter medical
evacuation transport. The aircraft's ability to operate from short,
minimally-prepared landing strips soon attracted the attention
of the Strategic Air Command. This large organization needed an
aircraft to support their northern snow-bound bases and sites.
SAC operated more than 60 different Providers between 1958 and
1966. Many of these were returned to Fairchild at the end of
their SAC tour.