Israeli Air Force
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Head-on view of C-130E serial 304.
(photo, Israeli Air Force)

Unit History


131 Squadron

(131 Tayeset "Ha'Karnaf" - The Hercules Squadron]
Role: Tactical Transport/Tanker-Transport

131 sqn was initially formed in Oct 1973 with a dozen C-130Es. The units newly arrived C-130Es were kept busy flying alongside the C-130H pair of 120 sqn, on every kind of transport mission possible. No C-130s were lost during the conflict.

Further new-built C-130Hs were delivered in the years following the war, including two KC-130H variants equipped for the dual transport/in- flight refuelling role, with an additional fuselage fuel tank and hose-reel pods under the outer wings. The KC-130Hs thus use a probe and drogue system to refuel A-4Ns, F-4Es and S-65s - while F-15s and F-16s are refuelled from Boeing 707s using the flying boom system.

In 1976 131 sqn amalgamated with 103 sqn and took over the two C-130Hs from 120 sqn as well, to become the IDF/AFs sole C-130 unit. Squadron aircraft now carry the badges of both 103 and 131 sqns, one on each side of the fin.

On the afternoon of 3rd July 1976, four C-130Hs took off from Sharm- El-Sheikh airfield on a secret mission which would take the aircraft to the very limits of their range.

Seven days previously, Air France flight 139 from Tel Aviv to Paris has been hijacked by PLO and Baader-Meinhof terrorists and forced to land at Entebbe Airport, Uganda. Operation Thunderbolt was the daring attempt to rescue the 103 Israeli passengers still held hostage.

Flying at very low level down the Red Sea, and escorted by F-4Es only as far as the Ethiopian border, the aircraft are reported to have been guided by a specially equipped Boeing 707 command plane. Arriving over Entebbe at nearly midnight, the C-130s landed and swiftly disgorged their cargo of paratroopers - achieving total surprise against both the Ugandan troops and the terrorists. One group of paratroopers rapidly eliminated the terrorists, and then led the freed hostages out to the waiting aircraft, while another group of paratroops destroyed several Ugandan Air Force MiGs - in order to forestall attempts at pursuit.

It is reported that one aircraft carried a number of doctors and medical staff in order to treat any wounded. In the event, there were only about ten casualties, plus three dead hostages and the body of the strike force commander killed by a sniper. The four Hercules took off some 53 minutes after landing and refuelled at Nairobi Airport for the long return trip home.

More recent IDF/AF transport activities are detailed under the entries for 103 and 120 squadrons.

Paratroops leap from C-130E 4X-FBF.
(photo, Israeli Air Force)
C-130E serial 318 demonstrates it's JATO capability. (photo, Israeli Air Force)

Air Bases:
Base Duration
Lod 1971-Present

Aircraft Used:
Type Qty Service Badge Example Serials
C-130H2Oct 71 - Present1,24X- JUA/02,JUB/06,4X-FBA/102,FBB/106
KC-130H2May 74 - Present1,24X- FBC/009,FBD/011
C-130H6Mar 76 - Present1,24X- FBQ/420,FBT/435,FBU/448

Unit Insignia:
Figure 1 Figure 2
Figures 1 & 2 courtesy of Amos Dor



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