Heavy transports, heavy threats

It was a daring rescue mission performed with the help of Israeli air force C-130s.

On 27 June 1976, an Air France aircraft with 248 passengers on board was hijacked by Palestinian terrorists and supporters and flown to Entebbe, Uganda. Shortly after landing, all the non-Jewish passengers were released.

The Israeli defence forces acted on intelligence provided by Israeli secret service Mossad. The operation took place at night, as Israeli C-130s carrying 100 elite commandos flew a 2,500 mile twisted route.

The operation, which took a week of planning, lasted 90 minutes – 103 hostages were rescued.

However, if you think this operation was the most daring involving the IAF’s C-130s, think again. The details will be kept under the official secrets act for many more years – or possibly forever – but people in the know speak of missions that have surpassed the one involving the long flight to Uganda.

The IAF’s C-130s often fly to areas filled with threats, where the heavy transport aircraft are forced to manoeuvre in the air under enemy fire.

Earlier this month, aircrews from the “Knights of the Yellow Bird” squadron practiced tactics during heavyweight flights

The squadron took part in a workshop in which it was trained for missions in hostile territory. “This workshop is very important to us,” says Capt Yaniv of the Knights, who was responsible for the workshop.

“We practiced avoiding detection and other threats, but also trained for situations in which the enemy identifies us and we have to get away,” the officer told the IAF website.

When the C-130s were in the air they found themselves under the threat of surface-to-air missiles, shoulder-launched missiles and even a fighter aircraft of the enemy-simulating ”Flying Dragon” squadron locking on to them.

“We have a number of ways of dealing with threats. The aircraft are equipped with systems against heat-seeking missiles,” explains Capt Yaniv. “In addition, we perform dodging manoeuvres or fly at a low altitude and high speed. It’s an intense flight.”

After successfully evading the land-based threats and the enemy-simulating squadron, the aircrews landed the C-130s at their destination in “hostile territory” in southern Israel.

“Landing in enemy territory should be very brief. It has to take as little time as possible in the air and to fly as close as possible to the landing site, in order to reduce the risk of being exposed to threats,” adds Capt Yaniv. “To perform the mission, we try to fly in an area that we studied in advance, in order to try and avoid clashes with enemy forces.”

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