The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) recently started using a Basler BT-67 turboprop transport as its range support aircraft for the Atlantic Test Ranges (ATR) at NAS Patuxent River.
The aircraft concerned is registered as N161PR (construction number 32843), a 77 year-old Douglas C-47 Skytrain that has been rebuilt as a BT-67. It now has new Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67R turboprop engines along with other modifications to its wing leading edges and wingtips to extend the airframe hours. The cockpit has been upgraded with glass instrumentation.
To support its range instrumentation work, a Raven Advanced Phased-Array Telemetry Resource (RAPTR) was installed on the nose and a separate flat-panel array antenna was mounted in the belly radome. To make space for RAPTR, the nose mounted weather radar was moved to the chin housing.
With two antennas, the aircraft is capable of tracking three targets. It can, for instance, track an F-18 firing a missile, the missile itself and the missile’s target all at the same time. Future upgrades will expand that number. The BT-67 replaces a Beech King Air which was equipped with one antenna, only capable of following one signal.
The airframe itself has a military background: it was delivered to the United States Army Air Force as 44-76511 in 1944. From 1945 to 1952 the aircraft flew as KN417 with the RAF as a Dakota III. And from then until 1968 it was flown by the Canadian Forces as RCAF 10916. From then on it had several registrations: N6677, CF-CTA (North Canada Air), N142JR, CF-FTR (TAC Air Services), again N142JR, and then in 2016 as N144WC to Basler for conversion.
Photos: (Top) N161PR during the visit of U.S. Senator Grothman (Basler), (Middle) CF-FTR ex Buffalo Airways at Red Deer-Regional (Ralph M. Pettersen through courtesy of Air History.net) and (Below) N144WC at Air Venture 2019 Oshkosh (Ian Atkinson on Flickriver).