Israel's air force has formally split its "Knights of the Yellow Bird" squadron into two separate units: one operating upgraded Lockheed Martin C-130Hs; and the other equipped with the new-generation J-model Hercules.

New avionics equipment installed in the modernised C-130H by Elbit Systems requires a new phase of training for aircrew and ground personnel, with the air force planning to have a joint simulator capability available to support both models.

Launched in 2012, the C-130H modernisation activity extends the operational life of the legacy aircraft, and provides significant enhancements in precision flying, low-level flight at night and operations in adverse weather. Updates include the addition of head-up displays, which can present flight and navigation data and live video.

Meanwhile, the air force has secured full certification for its C-130J "Samson" tactical transports to undergo in-flight refuelling behind the service's Boeing 707 tankers.

"We are adapting the C-130Js to our special operational needs," says the commander of the service's flight test centre – identified only as Lt Col Shlomy. "Aerial refuelling is only one of the added capabilities we are currently working on. There is still a lot of work." Israel has already equipped its C-130Js with an advanced countermeasures system for self-protection purposes.