The UV-18A 'Twin Otter' is the military version of the DeHavilland DHC-6 with optional float and ski fittings. The aircraft have crew and passenger oxygen systems and a navigation/communication package which gives it an all-weather capability. It has a cruise speed of 150 knots, a service ceiling of 25,000 feet and a range of 700 miles. Designed to replace DHC-3, DHC-6 made its first flight on May 20, 1965. This general-purposed civil and military transport, used by regional airlines in Alaska and other areas with short or rough runways, entered production early in 1966. By September 1982, over 800 DHC-6 were built, and by the end of production in 1988 a total of 844 aircraft were built for various military and commercial customers.
Airlift support for the US Air Force Academy cadet parachuting program is provided by three UV-18B aircraft which carry a pilot, copilot and up to 17 jumpers. These Twin Otters are the only three owned by the Air Force. In the MSAG Antenna Test and Evaluation conducted 25-31 August 1998 in Marina CA, the NPS/CIRPAS UV-18A Twin Otter provided the surrogate UAV function during a test and evaluation of the MSAG ITT Antenna under development by the Joint Projects Office. Imagery from the Twin Otter was received by the multi- source capable antenna based at the CIRPAS facility in Marina. In the Alaska Army National Guard the UV-18As have been replaced by the C-23B+.
The Twin Otter is a safe, stable platform for offshore low level marine animal surveys. In the past, the NOAA Twin Otters have been utilized to assess populations of many species of pinnipeds, cetaceans, fish, and sea turtles. The aircraft is routinely flown at 90-110 knots during survey flights and is highly maneuverable enabling smooth execution of steep turns. HF radios allow for communications when the aircraft is a long distance from the shoreline. While most animal surveys are flown during the day and under visual flight rule conditions (VFR), the aircraft is equipped for flight into instrument meteorological conditions (dual VOR, dual ADF, dual GPS, DME, color weather radar) and icing conditions (pitot heat, prop deice, wing and horizontal stabilizer deicing boots, engine intake deflectors).