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Unit History


103 Squadron

(103 Tayeset "Ha'Piel Ha'Meofeef" - The Flying Elephant Squadron)
Role: Light/Medium Transport and Multi-Engined Training

Primarily a medium transport unit, 103 sqn has also been responsible for a number of semi-autonomous flights during its history.

103 squadron was first established in May 1948 (late June 1948?), at Ekron, with one South African Dakota (ZS-AVK) and one ex-Air France machine. A few days later, on 26 May, it moved to Ramat David with a strength of two DC-3s, were it was officially formed on 10 June. Its initial equipment included the famed DC-5 'Bagel Lancer', which hardly ever flew. In these early days, the transport component was designated 'A' Flight, while the Beaufighter unit (see below) was designated 'B' Flight.

During the summer of 1948 further DC-3s arrived to bring the total to six aircraft. One Dakota bombed Damascus in June, while others bombed the Egyptian airfield at El Arish. During the Operation Dustbowl airlift from Ekron to Ruchama in October 1948, one aircraft crashed on take-off and another was shot down. The C-47's were thus used in the night bomber, transport and cargo roles throughout the War of Independence.

In the early summer of 1949, the unit was transferred from Ramat David to Ekron (also known as Tel Nof). During 1950/51 several more Dakotas were recieved to boost the complement to more than a dozen. The unit moved from Ekron to Hatzor in 1951, but moved back again a year later. A trio of ex-US Navy PBY-5A Catalina amphibians were purchased in 1951, for coastal reconnaissance and ASR work. The midnight blue coloured aircraft were delivered unarmed and without radar. In late 1954 103 sqn amalgamated with 69 squadron, and so operated C-47, B-17 and Catalina aircraft.

For the Sinai Campaign ten C-47s were loaned by the French Air Force in October 1956, boosting total numbers to 22 C-47/DC-3, but only 16 were available on 29 October 1956. Three N-2501IS Noratlas were delivered in late 1955 (of 6 initially ordered), and were also available, both types being based at Ekron. The Sinai campaign was opened on 29th October with 16 C-47's of 103 sqn para-dropping a battalion of troops at the eastern end of the Mitla pass. Subsequently, the C-47's and Noratlases operated around the clock with supply drops and evacuation of casualties in support of the fast moving ground campaign. On 2nd November both types transported troops into A-Tor for the successful attack on Sharm el Sheikh.

A Helicopter Flight was formed in November 1956, and split off into a separate unit a year later. Additional Noratlases were received, including 6 from West Germany in 1962. As a consequence, in 1962 the C-47s were transferred to two other units. A handful went to 120 sqn, while the majority went to form 122 sqn. Figure 9 is the badge of this latter unit. 103 squadron thus became a purely Noratlas squadron.

During the June 1967 Six Day War, the unit reprised its air supply role, operating in support of the army on all fronts. One Noratlas was lost, on 5th June, during the initial Sinai operations. While, on 7th June, the Noratlases flew in the main force in the action to capture Sharm el Sheikh.

From the start of the Yom Kippur War, the Noratlases again operated non-stop supply missions. Civilian Arava 101 light transports were also utilised for the duration of the war - particularly for casualty evacuation. The Noratlases were sold to Greece in 1976, by which time 103 sqn had received a number of C-130H Hercules (2 aircraft in May 1974 and 6 more from March 1976), but shortly afterwards the unit amalgamated with 131 sqn. Consequently squadron aircraft carry both Figures 13 and 14, one on each side of the fin. The unit's C-130s were involved in 'Operation Solomon', the airlift of 15,000 Falasha Jews from Ethiopia to Israel on 24- 25 May 1991.

Note: One DC-3 was based at Ekron for VIP transport in 1948.

C-130H serial 427/4X-FBB takes off.
(photo, Israeli Air Force)

Air Bases:
Base Duration
Ekron May 1948-1956
Ramat David 26 May 1948-mid 1949
Ekron mid 1949-1951
Hatzor 1951-1952
Ekron 1952-19??
Lod 19??-1976

Aircraft Used:
Type Qty Service Badge Example Serials
C-47/DC-322May 1948 - 1962-S-81,82,83 4X-FAA,FAG,FAH,FAJ,FAK
Douglas DC-51Sept 1948 - Oct 1948-VH-ARD Bagel Lancer
PBY-5A31951 - 1956- 
Nord N2501-IS6+4late 1955 - 197614X-FAB,FAJ, FAQ,FAT
Nord N2501D161962 - 197614X-FAC/043, FAE/045,FAF/046,FAG/055,FAH/056
C-130H2+6May 1974 - 197614X-FBC,D,Q,S, T,U,Y,Z

Figure 1
Figure 1 courtesy of Amos Dor


The semi-autonomous flights associated with 103 sqn include:

103 Squadron 'B' Flight

Role: Fighter-Bomber

Four Beaufighters were delivered late July/early August 1948 (serials D-170 to D-173) to form 'B' flight of 103 sqn. It also operated one Mosquito D- 160 (ex G-AIRT) in the photo-recce role during the period 6 July 1948 to September 1948 (with another as a spares source).

Six Beaufighter aircraft had been originally procured in Britain, of which only four were delivered - one having crashed before delivery. The aircraft were used in the fighter-bomber role, with an additional third crew member acting as bombardier. With very poor serviceability (one aircraft was cannibalised for spares), very few combat missions were actually flown. One example was shot down on 20th October 1948, and the type was withdrawn from service the following month and scrapped.

Air Bases:
Base Duration
Ekron July 1948-Nov 1948

Aircraft Used:
Type Qty Service Badge Example Serials
Beaufighter IIF1Oct 1948 - Nov 1948- 
Beaufighter X(mod)3Oct 1948 - Nov 1948-D-173
DH Mosquito 1Oct 1948 - Nov 1948-D-160


Helicopter Flight

Role: Helicopter Training/Light Transport

A helicopter flight was formed in November 1956, to gather experience and develop the operational use of this new type of aircraft. After little more than a year, the flight was renamed the 'Rotor and Sword Squadron' (see 124 squadron). Note that Tel Nof and Ekron air bases are different names for the same place.

Air Bases:
Base Duration
Tel Nov (Ekron) Nov 1956 - Dec1957

Aircraft Used:
Type Qty Service Badge Example Serials
Hiller 3601Nov 1956 - Dec 1957- 
Sikorsky S-552Nov 1956 - Dec 1957-03
SE3130 Alouette II1July 1957 - Dec 1957- 



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First Created: 9 January 1998 - Last Revised: 30 March 1998
Copyright © 1998 John Hayles.     e-mail: john@aeroflight.co.uk