Gulfstream's greatest military honor came when the US Air Force selected the Gulfstream III for it's C-20 project also
known as C-SAM (Special Air Mission). A request for proposals was issued in August 1982 under the C-SAM programme for a new SAM aircraft to replace the VC-140B Jetstars in service with the 89th
Military Airlift Wing (MAW) at Andrews AFB. C-SAM is the designation for a special-mission airplane to transport the president, vice president, members of the military high command and other high
government officials. The contract was for seven short-range and long-range aircraft and was hotly contested.
More than 30 different aircraft types (e.g. Boeing and Lockheed) competed. The winner would supply the aircraft and maintain the equipment. Of all the requirements the chosen airplane had also to be able to take-off at a variety of short-field runways, often under 3500 feet. This was below the Gulfstream III's rating. Because the testing and certification of the Gulfstream III still took place at Calverton, Long Island decided was to recertify the GIII in time for the bidding. With the help of the FAA the aircraft was checked in Mojave (CA) and within 90 days the recertification was a fact. In June 1983 Gulfstream presented the GIII in Washington DC. Gulfstream was awarded a contract for a 12-month lease of three Gulfstream III aircraft on June 7, 1983.
On 16 September 1983 the Air Force took delivery of the first GIII (83-0501, c/n 383) designated now as C-20A. The roll-out ceremony was at Savannah (GA) and was attended by a lot of dignitaries and employees of Gulfstream. After the contract was renewed for a further year, the aircraft were bought.
The US Air Force's satisfaction with its Gulfstream Aircraft resulted the other US military services investigating the type for executive transport requirements. In total 26 C-20 Gulfstream aircraft are serving or have served the US military in three different versions (GII, GIII and GIV) and used by all five branches of the armed forces. Let's start in this first part with the C-20A.
On 17 February 2004, 83-0501 was registered N65CE with USACE titles on the fuselage for the US Army Corps
of Engineers and used for low-key staff transportation. By August 2006 it had reverted to its military identity and was registered N30501.
Handed over on May 10, 2004, 83-0500 was passed on to the US Navy as 830500 (30500 or just 500) to provide executive transport requirements for the Commander-in-Chief US Navy Europe. The aircraft was based at NAS Sigonella, Sicily (VR-1) as 'Catbird One'.
C-20A 83-0502 (c/n 389, ex N310GA, 03-1983) was delivered to the US Air Force at Andrews AFB on November 17, 1983. In May 1987 it relocated to Ramstein, Germany.
On September 30, 2002, 83-0502 was transferred to the Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB (CA) for the use of NASA (as N502NA) as well as the US Air Force on various projects at the base. One of the projects is the UAVSAR project.