The "Magic Touch" squadron celebrates 40 years since its establishment. Its name was given not because of any magical abilities, but rather thanks to its wide variety of capabilities that it developed throughout the years, and its ability to overpower the battlefield. "The squadron operates the Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopter, which can perform many different tasks – It is the only squadron of its kind in the IAF. The squadron's responsibility is substantial and we have been carrying it on our shoulders for 40 years"
This year, the 190th ("Magic Touch") Squadron is celebrating 40 years since its establishment. The "Magic Touch" Squadron was founded in 1980 at Palmachim AFB as the second combat helicopter squadron in the IAF and operated the McDonnell Douglas MD 500 Defender helicopters. Throughout the years, the squadron moved to Ramat David AFB due to the MD 500 Defender's difficulty functioning in hot weather conditions. The squadron played a very significant role in Israel's wars and in protecting its skies and continues to do so to this day.
In 1994, senior members of the IAF decided to change the Fighter Helicopter Division and to open an advanced AH-64 Apache squadron. As a result, and to maintain a balanced division, they decided to close the 190th squadron. "It was the smallest squadron and a decision was made to remove the MD Defender 500 from operational use in the IAF", explained Col. (Res) O, commander of the 190th squadron at the time. The AH-64 Apache was far superior to the MD 500 Defender - in its ability to fly for hours at a time and carry advanced munitions.
Founding a Squadron
In 1995, the 190th Squadron was re-opened at the southern Ramon AFB, under the command of Col. (Res.) N. "After being appointed as Squadron Commander, I flew to Alabama, the United States, to learn about the Apache, return to Israel and re-open the squadron", he recalled. The new and improved 190th Squadron began its journey as a small squadron with a small number of aircraft and crewmembers, most of whom transferred from the 113th ("Hornet") squadron at Ramon AFB.
"The founding of the squadron was made possible thanks to the great teamwork of those who took part", stated Col. (Res.) N. "The founding team members engaged in flight-related preparations such as drawing maps and creating briefings, along with assisting the physical construction of the squadron". Members of the squadron participated in the construction of the building, equipment, and planting its garden.
The reopening of the squadron brought forth various challenges: "The initial challenge was founding a new squadron from the ground up. New infrastructures were built and we were required to rewrite all the professional literature of the squadron. Despite the difficulty, the feeling was wonderful and exciting - it's an interesting challenge. The feeling was that we created something out of nothing", Col. (Res.) N. Despite the reopening of the squadron in a different base and the integration of a new flight platform, the previous aircrew members, who piloted the MD 500 Defender helicopter, returned to the squadron and learned to fly the AH-64 Apache Longbow.
The 190th Squadron was the IAF's second Apache squadron. It relied heavily on the 113th Squadron, which integrated the helicopter and went on to operate the AH-64 Apache Longbow. "We were fortunate to have had the opportunity to rely on the 113th Squadron. Many personnel from the 113th squadron assisted us in founding the new squadron. That way, our people became more proficient in piloting the Longbow version of the Apache", details Col. (Res.) N.
Then Vs. Now
Since its re-establishment in Ramon AFB 25 years ago, the squadron experienced significant changes.
The first of which is changing its operational focus. The squadron's designation and missions changed as well - in the past, the squadron executed operations deep in enemy territory. Today, it focuses on assisting IDF ground forces and protecting Israel's borders. Additionally, the helicopter's systems were updated. "We still pilot the same helicopter, however, I can safely say that the 190th Squadron of 2020 and the 190th Squadron of 1998 are two entirely different squadrons", mentions Maj. R, Deputy Commander of the Squadron.
"Despite the difference, the linkage between the squadron's past and present is the fallen soldiers, who accompany us throughout our service", states Maj. R. "We keep a close relationship with the bereaved families of the squadron and hold events intended to unite the squadron's past and present members. I can't tell you much about the MD 500 Defender helicopter since I've never flown in it, but I can tell you about the people who did, those who lost their lives, when and how".
The squadron participated in many wars and operations throughout its years of service. "I believe there is nothing more significant than assisting in Israel's wars. We helped in combat, flew thousands of hours above enemy territory, and accompanied hundreds of soldiers on the ground", shares Maj. R. As stated, the squadron's missions changed throughout the years. "We defend Israel's borders and assist IDF regiments in the field, but still take part in special operations", explains Maj. R. "The Middle East is constantly changing. We're lucky that the Apache Longbow can provide efficient and quick solutions to any problem".
"Flexibility is one of the most significant advantages of the IAF's combat helicopter squadrons. The squadrons constantly adjust themselves to the operational needs", details Lt. Col. Y, current commander of the squadron. "The Apache Longbow can carry out a wide range of missions. Only one IAF squadron operates the helicopter. Therefore, the squadron's responsibility is substantial and we have been carrying it on our shoulders for 40 years ".