Hercules (Known in Hebrew as the “Karnaf”, meaning “Rhinoceros”)
The Establishment of the Squadron
The “Yellow Bird” Squadron was established during the Yom Kippur War on 14th October 1973 following the acquisition of 12 Hercules transport aircraft that had just completed their service in the USAF and two Hercules that had been operated by the “International” Squadron prior to the war. The aircraft joined the war effort immediately, airlifting Armoured Personnel Carriers to Sinai between the night of 15th October and the morning of 16th October. The teams carried out 26 sorties in a very short space of time, including troop and equipment transport and evacuating the wounded. The squadron's first commander was Lieutenant Colonel David Porat.
On 25th November 1975 a pair of the squadron's Hercules aircraft were participating in a joint exercise. Hercules 203 was leading whilst carrying an Armoured Personnel Carrier, 11 fighters and 9 air crew. During the flight the aircraft struck the summit of Jabal Hilal in Sinai, and the crew and the passengers were lost.
In July 1976 the squadron's aircraft participated in Operation Entebbe. Following an earthquake on 7th December 1988 in Armenia the Israeli government decided to provide humanitarian aid. The two Hercules squadrons contributed to the effort by flying in medical and rescue teams. On 16th April 1991 a joint crew from the “Yellow Bird” Squadron and the “Elephants” Squadron flew a Hercules to Diyarbakır in Turkey where they delivered medical equipment to Kurdish refugees.
On 24th and 25th May 1991 the squadron took part in a large scale operation to airlift Ethiopian jews to Israel. During the operation, carried out using aircraft from both the Air Force and El Al Israel's national commercial airline, 14,500 olim (Jewish immigrants) were brought to Israel. The squadron carried out 9 sorties and carried 1,482 olim. The squadron carried out around 100 of the 200 flights hours amassed by the IAF's two Hercules squadrons. One of the aircraft suffered an engine failure whilst taking off from Ethiopia, and returned safely to Israel on only three engines.
Following the war between the Hutu and the Tutsi in Rwanda, the Air Force flew medical and food aid to refugees on the Rwanda-Zaire between 24th July and 2nd September 1994. During the operation, Hercules aircraft from both the “Yellow Bird” and the “Elephants” flew 160 tonnes of cargo over 16 sorties.