The IAF’s celebrated Elephant Squadron has reemerged with a new look, four months after being combined with another veteran transport squadron. A ceremony last week welcomed back the unit, also known as Squadron 103, as a new formation.
The air force squadron will be flying the “Super” Hercules J transport plane starting in 2014, according to the IDF website. The plane will be called the “Shimson” in IDF parlance.
The squadron currently uses the Lockheed C-130 Hercules, or Karnaf, as its transport plane. The Shimshon is able to fly farther, carry more types of vehicles, and can achieve greater accuracy in landing equipment.
“It has enhanced capabilities in many areas and can do everything the Karnaf did, but more and better,” said Lt. Col. A.
“The situations that Israel could face in the future will require their most advanced abilities,” said Nevatim base commander Brigadier General Lihu Hacohen.
In February, the US Air Force flew the Super Hercules to the Nevatim air force base for a joint exercise, and to give Israeli fliers and crews the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the planes. The two countries performed navigation, landing, and parachuting exercises.
“The Hercules J encompasses extremely advanced flight systems, is longer than the Hercules C-130 and is more fuel efficient,” says Major Yuval, Deputy Commanders of the Knights of the Yellow Bird squadron, which had been combined with the 103. “The more we learn for other forces about the Hercules J before it arrives here, the better.”
The older Hercules planes will not be retired, but will be refurbished to give them a new lease on life.
A ceremony in April 2014 will officially mark the transfer of the planes from Lockheed Martin to the IAF.
The C-130 Hercules was made operational in the US in 1956 and has served over 50 nations.
The Elephant Squadron, formed in 1948, has taken part in some of the IDF’s most famous operations, including the 1956 Sinai campaign, the 1991 airlift of Ethiopian Jewry, and Operation Entebbe in Uganda. It has used a variety of planes over the years, including DC-3s, C-47s, and B-17s.