Squadrons

The Elephants

Lod Airbase

Aircraft:
• Nord
• Dakota
• C-46 Commando
• Douglas DC-5
• B-17 Flying Fortress
• Catalina
• Bristol Beaufighter
• Rapid
• De Havilland Mosquito
• Lockheed Hudson
• Noorduyn Norseman
• Beechcraft Bonanza A-36
• Hiller 360 Helicopter
• Hercules (Known in Hebrew as the "Karnaf", meaning "Rhinoceros")

The "Elephants" Squadron carries out unique and complicated work, in which a large number of air-crew work together aboard the same aircraft. As a result, attentiveness, teamwork and cooperation are the most important characteristics for members of the squadron.

The “Elephants” was first opened in July 1948 on Ramat David Airbase as a bombing and transport squadron. It was made up of three Dakotas that came from "Squadron A" and a Douglas DC-5. The squadron was made up of 12 air crew. Only one of the crew was Israeli, the rest were Jewish and non-Jewish volunteers from abroad. A few days later the squadron received a single Mosquito intended for photography missions. In August 1948 4 Bristol Beaufighters joined the squadron. They were purchased by a front company that claimed to be shooting a film on World War Two. During one of the days of filming they took off to shoot a scene, and instead of coming back to land they headed east...

The squadron's first operation was delivering supplies to the besieged communities of the Negev. With the end of the first break in the fighting, on 9th July 1948, the squadron carried out bombing missions on the Northern front using the Dakota. On the night of 16th July the squadron's Dakotas bombed Damascus. Despite its imprecision and almost primitive means, the bombing symbolized the transition to offensive Air Force initiatives on the Northern front.

With the end of the War of Independence, IAF Headquarters decided to reorganize and restructure the Air Force. They decided to close the "Edge of the Spear" squadron and to bring together all of the transport aircraft in the "Elephants" squadron. On 5th May 1949 the "Edge of the Spear" was closed and its Commando aircraft, along with part of its air crew, were transferred to the "Elephants" squadron. On 10th May 1949 the decision was taken to restructure the IAF's bases.  This included the transfer of the bomber squadrons, the "Hammers" and the "Elephants", from Ramat Aviv Airbase to Ekron Airbase. On 30th May 1949 the squadron moved to its new home, and reopened on 1st July. Its main aims were established as: bombing runs, transport, parachuting, patrol, and flying anti-ship additional aircraft for a short period of time: the B-17 Flying Fortress and the Catalina, both large aircraft for sea patrols.

At the start of 1951 the squadron began to carry out flights abroad, after reaching an agreement with El Al, Israel's national airliner. The flights abroad were intended to train the crews how to reach any place, at any time in all weather conditions. The agreement with El Al was necessary because of the embargo being imposed on Israel at that time. The aircraft that went on these flights were painted in El Al's colors and their crew wore El Al uniform.

In April 1952 the squadron carried out locust-spraying from the air. At the start of 1953 the squadron cooperated with the meteorological center in Lod in a program to induce artificial rain over the Negev, which was suffering from severe drought. A pair of B-17s and a Dakota participated in the mission.

In September 1955 the agreement for the provision of Nord aircraft was signed, with the first reaching Israel on 1st November 1955, and two more in January 1956.

During the Sinai campaign the squadron dropped the 890 Paratroopers Regiment over the Mitla pass. Throughout the fighting the squadron continued to provide supplies to the paratroopers, until they joined up with the forward armored forces in Sinai.

During the Six Day War, on 7th June 1967, 19 of the squadron's aircraft took off to drop paratroopers over Sharm El-Sheikh, in an attempt to conquer the city. En route the crew received word that the airfield had been conquered, and that they should land the paratroopers there, rather than dropping them above the city. During the remaining days of fighting the squadron carried out troop and provision transport flights, fuel drops, sea patrols and communication and relay flights. After an attack on an Iraqi airfield, in which three combat craft were brought down, the squadron's Nord aircraft spent many nights searching for the missing crew. During the search flights, on 7th June, a MiG-21 intercepted one of the aircraft, and fired missiles in its direction. The aircraft was not hit and the crew returned from the mission safely. During the War of Attrition the main role of the squadron was to keep in contact with the forces in Sinai. As well as troop and provision transport from central Israeli to Sinai, the squadron carried out many sorties to evacuate the wounded from fighting along the Suez Canal. The squadron took part in the rescue of the survivors of the Israeli battleship "Eilat" that was hit in October 1967 through the dispersal of flares and the dropping rescue equipment over the sea. During each of the war's operations, the squadron stood ready to distribute flares, provide radio relay, carry out rescue from the sea and evacuate the wounded.

On 15th August 1974 the squadron transferred from Tel Nof Airbase to Lod Airbase, so that all of the IAF's other squadrons’ medium and heavy transport aircraft would operate out of the same base. In 1976 the Nord ended its service in the IAF, and the squadron began to fly the Hercules. At this point the squadron joined its sister squadron "The Yellow Bird", and they have shared aircraft ever since.

The squadron's aircraft participated in many operations, including Operation Entebbe and the airlift of Ethiopian Jews. During the First Lebanon War the squadron's first mission was the bombing of aircraft batteries in an effort to clear the path for the attack aircraft. The squadron also carried out transport sorties to the forward landing strips and mid-air refueling. In addition to carrying out flights to aid IDF forces in Lebanon the Hercules squadrons continued to carry out secret operations.
Motto: "Slowly, slowly we hurry"

Today, an addition to routine security flights, the squadron carries out training operations for the times in the future when it will be required to prove its abilities. The squadron continues to rely on the strong soldiers of the veteran Hercules, because "There's no replacement for the Hercules except for a better Hercules".

 

The Elephants
The Elephants