The C-130’s legendary status is not only a legacy of the Entebbe rescue operation – it’s much more than that.
With the help of Israeli air force (IAF) C-130s, in 1976 a commando force rescued Israeli and foreign passengers on an Air France aircraft hijacked and flown to Entebbe in Uganda.
Since that operation the transport aircraft earned further respect in dozens of covert operations that will carry the “Top Secret” seal for many more years.
This explains the anticipation for new C-130Js (Samson) purchased in the USA.
The first IAF teams to fly the C-130J returned from training in the USA a few days ago. They visited the Lockheed Martin assembly line in which the Israeli version of the aircraft is made.
The first C-130J squadron in the IAF is in the middle of its own growth process, and now another step towards completion has been taken – the first teams have received their qualifications to fly the plane, and have returned to Israel.
They were accommodated in the USA for almost four months at the Little Rock air base in Arkansas.
“The training was very good. We didn’t just learn about the C-130J and how to fly it, we also learned about the United States Air Force. We saw how American pilots train with the plane and we gained knowledge that we can also implement,” explains Lt Col Uri, commander of the founding team of the C-130J squadron, who will command it when it begins service.
“The conversion was very professional. We feel that the Americans are partners we can work with,” says Lt Col Uri. He was quoted on the IAF’s website.
In a parallel process, the IAF is reorganising its C-130 squadrons as part of its preparations to deploy the C-130J.
This process began recently and will end with the consolidation of its two existing C-130 squadrons. The “Elephants” squadron will be absorbed into the ”Knights of the yellow bird”. The Elephants will operate the new C-130Js.
Sources say the older C-130s to be operated by the Knights will be those upgraded in recent years. These are mostly the C-130H.
Delivery of the first of three C-130Js currently on order is planned for early 2014.
The IAF has asked for a formal proposal for three additional aircraft.
The cockpits of the IAF’s C-130Js will have three seats, similar to the configuration used by the US special forces.
The aircraft will also be modified for the future installation of Israeli-made systems.
The IAF is operating 18 C-130E/H. In recent years the fleet underwent fatigue tests with the assistance of Lockheed Martin. The Es will be phased out while the Hs will get structural treatment.