After serving in Vietnam, the museum’s Provider went on to further distinguished service. After retirement from the U.S. Air Force, it was acquired by the Department of State and was instrumental in the war on drugs in Peru. Moving food and medical supplies, building material, fuel, and whatever else was needed to support the forward bases, the plane took hostile fire on several occasions and was also instrumental in transporting casualties to help and safety. Because of its unique capabilities as a cargo transport plane and its ability to use unimproved landing strips in remote regions, the Peruvians nicknamed this plane “El Burro.”
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 14 October 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.