When an Elephant Turns into a Bird: The Hercules C-130 Squadrons Unite When an Elephant Turns into a Bird: The Hercules C-130 Squadrons Unite

“For many reasons, both squadrons will continue being one big family” Next week, the Transport Formation will begin one of the most significant steps in the absorption of advanced Hercules planes: Two Hercules squadrons that have worked together for over four decades will merge into one single Hercules squadron in the force. Welcome to the “Hercules” family

Shani Pomes

The IAF’s Formation of Hercules C-130 planes is facing a significant change: Two sister squadrons that have operated for almost four decades side by side will merge into once united squadron this week. The “Yellow Bird” squadron will be taking people from the “Elephant” squadron, and in fact will be the only one in the IAF that will operate the old Hercules planes. The “Elephant” squadron will nonetheless be converted into a squadron of Hercules C-130 planes, the advanced transport planes that will arrive in Israel in the year 2014.

My Sister’s Keeper
In the timeline of the two sister-squadrons, there are many similarities and many differences: The “Elephant” squadron was established with the founding of the state, and before the era of the Hercules planes, many transport planes past through the underground hangers, among them the B-17 planes, Douglas DC-3 planes and Nord Noratlas planes. “The ‘Elephant’ squadron is a squadron with a longer heritage and it has history of changing planes, and so it was right to establish it as a Hercules squadron, as another chapter in its history”, explains Lieutenant Colonel Yanun, Commander of the “Elephant” squadron.

By comparison, the “Yellow Bird” Squadron is younger than the “Elephant” Squadron: The formation was established almost forty years ago during Yom Kippur War, and is still operating on the same airplanes. “I hoped that the “Yellow Bird” Squadron will continue operating on Hercules airplanes”, smiles Lieutenant Colonel Tal Commander of the “Yellow Bird” Squadron. “On one hand we didn’t advance with a new airplane and on the other hand, having had that specific advancement would have been a dramatic change for people around the formation”.

Just like any home, the IAF ‘twin’ squadrons learn to work together even though the competitive aspect is present at all times. “Once we have two squadrons conducting similar missions and an element of positive competition is added, but through the years we learned living together and have each other’s backs”, explains Lieutenant Colonel Tal. “Each wants to conquer different goals, lead, and advance the formation. The squadrons challenge and help each other in reach higher goals, and that’s the advantage we have when working in parallel”.

Not Just the Hercules C-130
In different times through history, during operational years, opportunities for both formations to cooperate were created. “When the Hercules formation participated in Operation Solomon, we went along too. When the formation participated in a humanitarian mission for the injured of the civil war in Rwanda both of the squadron worked together. Large missions are conducted by the entire formation. They reach success when using mixed aviation structures and teams of both squadrons”, says Lieutenant Colonel Y’.

Soon enough, every squadron will be operating on different airplanes: The “Yellow Bird” squadron will be flying the Hercules C-130, and the “Elephant” Squadron will be using the new and advanced “Hercules J”. “There are significant differences between both airplanes which we can’t overlook, yet the similarities are larger than the differences”, clarifies Lieutenant Colonel Y’. “For many reasons, both squadrons will continue being one big family”.

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