Douglas R4D (DC-3/ C-47)

The US Navy was the third biggest operator of military versions of the Douglas DC-3, after the USAAF and the RAF, and eventually received over 550 aircraft in seven main versions, giving them the designation R4D

The Navy’s R4Ds spent most of their time delivering supplies and personnel to the far-flung elements of the US Navy, playing a vital part in the war in the Pacific. Some of them came much closer to the enemy, flying supplies into airfields virtually on the front line as the Marines fought their way across the Pacific. 

In 1962 the separate Air Force and Navy systems of aircraft designations were replaced by a modified version of the Air Force system. All surviving Navy aircraft were given new designations. Those R4Ds that were based on the standard DC-3 were redesigned as C-47s, to match the Air Force aircraft. 

R4D-1

The Navy placed its first order for the DC-3 on 16 September 1940. This was for thirty aircraft similar to the C-47, with the same stronger cargo floor and larger cargo door, and powered by Pratt & Whitney R-1830-92 engines. They only differed in the use of naval instruments and radios. Eventually the Navy received 104 R4D-1s, 66 from Navy contracts and 40 diverted from Army contracts. The first of these aircraft were not delivered until February 1942, so the first DC-3s to enter Naval service were the two R4D-2s.  

R4D-2

The first two DC-3 transports to enter Navy service were two aircraft impressed from Eastern Airlines. They were similar to the Wright Cyclone powered C-49s, and were used as staff transports from Pensacola and Anacostia. Unlike most military DC-3s they retained their airline interiors, and were later redesignated as R4D-2Fs then R4D-2Zs to reflect this. 

R4D-3

The twenty R4D-3s were C-53 Skytroopers transferred from an Army Air Force contract.

R4D-4

Ten similar aircraft under construction for Pan Am were impressed into Navy service as the R4D-4, and were used as personnel transports.

R4D-5

Eighty-one C-47As, with 24 volt electrical systems, were transferred to the Navy as the R4D-5, making them the second most numerous version of the aircraft in Naval service.

See below for the R4D-5s that were modified for special purposes under new designations. In 1962 the surviving aircraft were redesignated as the C-47H.

R4D-6

One hundred and fifty C-47Bs, with the two speed turbocharger, were diverted from a USAAF order, and operated as the R4D-5. In 1962 the surviving aircraft were redesignated as the C-47J.

R4D-7

Forty-one TC-47B trainers were allocated to the Navy, where they were given the designation R4D-7.

Special Purposes

A number of R4Ds were modified for special purposes, and were given modified designations, as below. In the 1962 re-specification the suffixes were replaced by prefixes, some matching existing Air Force designations.

The R4D-5Ls were ski-equipped aircraft used to support US Antarctic expeditions. On 31 October 1956 one of these aircraft became the first aircraft to land at the South Pole.

Role

R4D-4

R4D-5

R4D-6

Post 1962

Special electronic operations

 

R4D-5E

R4D-6E

 

Antarctic and Arctic operations

 

R4D-5L

R4D-6L

LC

Radar countermeasures

R4D-4Q

R4D-5Q

R4D-6Q

EC

Personnel transport

 

R4D-5R

R4D-6R

TC

Air-sea warfare training

 

R4D-5S

R4D-6S

SC

Navigation training

 

R4D-5T

R4D-6T

 

Staff transport

 

R4D-5Z

R4D-6Z

VC

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (12 November 2008), Douglas R4D (DC-3/ C-47) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_douglas_R4D.html

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