The C-21 is a twin turbofan-engine aircraft used for cargo and passenger airlift. The aircraft is the military version of the Lear Jet 35A business jet. In addition to providing cargo and passenger airlift, the aircraft is capable of transporting one litter or five ambulatory patients during aeromedical evacuations.


The turbofan engines are pod-mounted on the sides of the rear fuselage. The swept-back wings have hydraulically actuated single-slotted flaps. The aircraft has a retractable tricycle landing gear, single steerable nose gear and multiple-disc hydraulic brakes.

The C-21 can carry eight passengers and 42 cubic feet (1.26 cubic meters) of cargo. The fuel capacity of the C-21 is 931 gallons (3,537.8 liters) with refueling accomplished at ground level through each wingtip tank. The safety and operational capabilities of the C-21 are increased by the autopilot, color weather radar and tactical air navigation system, as well as high frequency, very high frequency and ultra high frequency radios.

The aircraft has a crew of two and may be flown from either cockpit seat. It is equipped with an automatic navigation system to enhance crew efficiency. Four cathode ray tubes display essential information to the pilots.


Delivery of the C-21 fleet began in April 1984 and was completed in October 1985. DynCorp Technical Services provides full contractor logistics support at five worldwide locations. C-21s stationed outside the continental United States are assigned to the theater commanders. Air Mobility Command Scott Air Force Base, Ill., is the lead command for the aircraft.

In April 1997, the majority of continental U.S. based C-21s were consolidated within the 375th Airlift Wing at Scott AFB. The National Guard Bureau retained aircraft at Peterson AFB, Colo., while the Air Force Flight Standards Agency retained aircraft at Joint Base Andrews, Md. The Air Education and Training Command retained aircraft at Keesler AFB, Miss.

In January 2007, Program Budget Decision number 720 reduced C-21 operations to 40 aircraft. AMC dissolved C-21 operations at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. U.S. Air Forces in Europe was reduced from 13 to 10, Pacific Air Forces from four to three, and AETC from five to three.

The National Guard Bureau picked up 19 aircraft for bridge missions at Fargo, N.D.; Battle Creek, Mich.; and Bradley Air National Guard Base, Conn., until they receive C-27s. Base closure and realignment actions moved the AFFSA from Joint Base Andrews to Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City, Okla. In June 2007, PACAF divested itself of its three C-21s and the NGB gained three additional C-21s.

In 2010, Resource Management Decision 700 cut the number of aircraft from 56 to 28. The active duty force retired nine aircraft in FY11 and the NGB will retire their 19 by the end of fiscal year 2013. Also in line with RMD 700, Air Education and Training Command closed the fight training unit located at Keesler AFB, Miss.

General Characteristics

  • Primary Function: Passenger and cargo airlift
  • Contractor: Learjet, Inc.
  • Power Plant: Two Garrett TFE-731-2-2B turbofan engines
  • Thrust: 3,500 pounds each engine
  • Maximum Takeoff Weight: 18,300 pounds (8,235 kilograms)
  • Length: 48 feet, 7 inches (14.71 meters)
  • Height: 12 feet, 3 inches (3.71 meters)
  • Wingspan: 39 feet, 6 inches (11.97 meters)
  • Fuel Capability: 931 gallons (3,537.8 liters) [1,120 gallons (4,256 liters) with ferry tanks]
  • Speed: 530 mph (Mach 0.81, 461 knots at 41,000 feet (12,496.8 meters)
  • Range: 2,306 miles (3,689.6 kilometers)
  • Ceiling: 45,000 feet (13,716 meters)
  • Maximum Load: : Eight passengers and 3,153 pounds (1,433 kilograms) of cargo, one litter patient or five ambulatory patients.
  • Crew: Two (pilot and co-pilot); aeromedical evacuation adds medical crew of three (one flight nurse and two medical technicians). Minimal medical crew may be one flight nurse and one medical technician as required
  • Unit Cost: $3.1 million (fiscal 1996 constant dollars)
  • Initial operating capability: April 1984
  • Inventory: Active forces, 34; ANG, 21; Reserve, 0