The IAF's seventh "Shimshon" (Super Hercules C-130J) has arrived – over the weekend, the aircraft landed in Nevatim AFB and joined the ranks of the 103rd ("Elephants") Squadron. Here's everything you wanted to know about the tactical transport aircraft, which is capable of carrying 128 combatants, 97 stretchers and four HMMWVs
The IAF's seventh "Shimshon" (Super Hercules C-130J) has arrived – over the weekend, the aircraft landed in Nevatim AFB and joined the 103rd ("Elephants") Squadron. The arrival was celebrated with a ceremony headed by Brig. Gen. Eyal Grinboim, the airbase's commander, after an IAF delegation flew to the United States in order to pilot the aircraft to Israel.
Since the first "Shimshon" aircraft landed in Israel in April of 2014, the 103rd Squadron has undergone numerous changes. "We went from a squadron focusing on studying the aircraft to being an operational squadron", said Maj. R', Deputy Commander of the 103rd Squadron. "The squadron's establishment crew did an amazing work thanks to which we can now integrate the new aircraft. The crew set a very high standard and now our goal is to maintain it".
An Essential Aircraft
Throughout its four years of service in the IAF, the "Shimshon" has proven itself to be essential in several significant events, both operational and humanitarian. It landed in Nevatim AFB in the beginning of April of 2014 after several months of preparation. The aircraft, which is an improved version of the "Karnaf" (Hercules C-130HI) aircraft, brought along new, innovative technologies - installed in the aircraft are the newest, most advanced systems in the field of tactical transport aircraft. This is a modern, computerized and modified aircraft which improves its flight conditions and allows for more professional operation. Its operational advantages include a larger cargo hold, exact piloting and high-quality flight performance.
"The Israeli systems installed in the 'Shimshon' make it a leading aircraft in its field", said Maj. R'. "Wherever we are in the world, our partners see the advantages of the Israeli 'Shimshon' and are impressed by its advanced capabilities. Combining an American platform with Israeli systems makes the aircraft ever relevant for the current operational theatre".
"The new aircraft will allow us to be more significant during wartime while also providing the squadron's aircrew members with the ability to train for longer periods of time", emphasized Maj. R'. "In addition, the 103rd Squadron is in close cooperation with the IDF ground forces and the new aircraft will allow the cooperation to go even further".
To the Edge of the World
The 103rd Squadron operated as a "Karnaf" squadron until August of 2013. Two months earlier, the "Shimshon" establishment crew held a meeting in preparation for the new era. "The establishment process was based in mutual thinking", elaborated Lt. Col. (Res') A', the "Shimshon" Squadron's first commander. "We came up with a thorough work plan and tried to be innovative. It was a fascinating, complex process, with our final test being the squadron's designated IOC (Initial Operational Capability) date. When I look at the squadron's activity, I see that the foundations that we provided exist to this day. It makes me unimaginably satisfied".
In 2015, a devastating earthquake occurred in Nepal and took the lives of countless people. The IAF's 103rd Squadron was scrambled to the area in assistance, transporting the IAF's humanitarian aid delegation.
"We were scrambled to the other side of the world just three weeks after the squadron became operational", recalled Lt. Col. (Res') A'. "The more difficult the mission is, the more excited one gets. Humanitarian aid delegations also include the fact that we're providing assistance to a country which has just experienced a difficult disaster. Back then, we had just two aircraft. Each one of the squadron's aircrew members worked towards one target, all flying together to the edge of the world. It was incredibly significant".
Each "Shimshon" sortie includes a loadmaster situated in the cargo hold – that is, a crew member acting as the cargo hold commander, subordinate to the pilot-in-command. Loadmasters are responsible for all activity in the heavy transport aircraft's cargo hold, whether it be loading in equipment, parachuting troops, operating the aircraft's systems or handling malfunctions. "There used to be a clear difference between the cockpit and the cargo hold", said Maj. R'. "However, seeing as the 'Shimshon' aircraft is technologically advanced, loadmasters have more responsibilities than before and they take an active part in operating the aircraft's systems".
In the past, loadmasters would be situated in the airbase's Loadmaster Unit. Following the realization that the loadmaster's role in the "Shimshon" division is critical, the 103rd Squadron established a separate loadmaster department.