What’s in a Name? The Stories Behind the Names of IAF Squadrons

The “Desert Giants”: A tribute to an old friend What’s in a Name? The Stories Behind the Names of IAF Squadrons

The “Bat” squadron flies under any weather conditions What’s in a Name? The Stories Behind the Names of IAF Squadrons

The “Hammers” squadron was the only bomber squadron in the IAF What’s in a Name? The Stories Behind the Names of IAF Squadrons

The “Elephants” squadron was named after a cargo-transporting animal in India and Africa, where foreign volunteers served before fighting in 1948 Every new squadron in the IAF is given a name. IAF Site brings you the origins of some names and answers the questions: What is so big in the “Desert Giants” squadron? Which squadron compares itself to a flying mammal? And which squadron talks proudly about striking the enemy?

Shir Golan

The “Elephants” Squadron: The Flying Cargo Animal
The “Elephants” squadron, located at Nevatim airbase was founded as early as 1948 as the first transport squadron of the IAF and operated Dakota C-47 planes at the time. The founders of the squadron, who were foreign volunteers, were the ones who gave it the name. Having served prior to the Israeli Independence War of 1948 in India and in Africa, where elephants served as cargo-transporting animals, the founders felt it was a suitable image for a transport squadron.

Over the years, its main missions have included transporting medical staff to assist operations on various fronts, supplying equipment to forces in times of war and international transport. The squadron has taken part in many operations in Israel and abroad-from using Dakota planes to airdrop paratroopers in the Mitle Pass during the Sinai war in 1956 to Operation “Jonathan” in which Israeli hostages in Uganda were rescued in 1976 using Hercules C-130 planes.

Soon, the squadron will be receiving new “elephants”: new Hercules C-130J planes that will land in Israel in the coming months and will replace the old Hercules C-130 planes.

The “Desert Giants”: In Memory of the Stratocruiser
In 2008 the “International” squadron moved to the south of Israel, to Nevatim airbase, together with other transport squadrons from Lod airbase. Two years later, the squadron’s name changed from “International”, a reference to its missions around the world, to “Desert Giants”, after the name of the Stratocruiser (Anak, Giant in Hebrew) the first plane in the squadron and the Boeing 707 it operates today.

“In recent years, the squadron has undergone a fundamental change in its missions, operational approach and even airbase”, explained then-squadron commander, Lieutenant Colonel Amir. “In the past, we carried out many missions like refueling and transport, but mostly flights abroad and transporting officials. That is where the previous name derives from. Nowadays most of our flights revolve around operational scenarios”.

The “Hammers” Squadron: Striking the Enemy
The “Hammers” squadron was founded in 1948 as the “Flying Fortress” squadron, and operated B-17. By virtue of its purpose, namely to strike targets, the IAF decided to change its name to a name that alluded more to the spirit of the times.

“It was the only bomber squadron in the force and it hit every one of our enemies hard “, said Colonel (res.) Guri Meir, chairman of the “Hammers” Squadron Veterans Club and one of the founders of the squadron, in an interview with IAF Magazine. This was the origin of the name and by extension, the symbol of squadron which has a hammer in the middle of two yellow flames. Additionally, the Hebrew name for the Phantom F-4, (Kurnas, Hebrew for sledgehammer) which served in the squadron for years, is a synonym for a hammer.

The “Bat” Squadron: “Daytime, Nighttime and In The Fog”
The squadron was founded in 1956 as a fighter squadron that operated at night while flying the Meteor jets. Since its inception, the squadron has performed missions under conditions of “no- visibility”: nighttime flights with little visibility and sometimes in complete darkness. Just like the squadron, bats also operate in dark, with sharp senses to compensate for the blindness. Because of this similarity, the bat was chosen to represent the squadron. Around the world, squadrons that operate under the same conditions have also adopted the flying mammal as their symbol. Nowadays, the squadron operates F-16I fighters while their motto “Daytime, nighttime and in the fog” is a reference to its unique capabilities.

“The motto of the squadron talks about the essence of the squadron, namely being able to perform missions at any time under any weather conditions and despite any challenges”, said Lieutenant Colonel D’, one of the former commanders of the squadron, in an interview marking the anniversary of the squadron. “In 1956, that’s how the first commander of the squadron predicted that the radar would be the most significant technological leap of the 20th century, after the invention of the jet engine. This tool cut the hitherto complete dependency of shooting systems in planes on the pilot’s visibility. This vision came into fruition with the F-16I squadrons: a fighter-plane equipped with advanced radar capable of identifying air-to-air and air-to-surface targets at very long ranges”.