Israel’s Air and Space Force (IASF) on April 9 took delivery of the first of six Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules it has ordered through U.S. foreign military sales channels. While the aircraft had been formally handed over to the IASF last June, it was retained in the U.S. for tests and training.
Its delivery to Israel this week was marked by a ceremony at the aircraft’s new home at Nevatim, and it was escorted in by representatives of other aircraft types that operate from the IASF’s main large aircraft base: C/KC-130E/H Karnaf, Gulfstream G550 Shavit and Boeing KC-707 Reem. The C-130J has been dubbed Shimshon (Samson) in IASF service. Its operating unit is 103 Squadron, which is one of two Nevatim units currently flying the C-130E/H. Some of the older Hercules fleet is to receive an IAI/Elbit upgrade to keep them flying alongside the new arrivals.
Speaking at the arrival ceremony, Lockheed Martin chairman, president and CEO Marilyn Hewson said, “This first C-130J represents a new generation of transport aircraft … this aircraft is worthy of its name. Shimshon used his power to combat the enemies of Israel and perform heroic feats. In the same way this aircraft will support the defense of Israel.” The Israel Defence Force’s chief of staff, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, remarked, “We will be able to operate faster, in all weather conditions, at greater distance and lower altitude, and with maximum discretion."
Delivery of the first C-130J comes a couple of weeks after the first Alenia Aermacchi M-346 was rolled out at the Venegono factory in Israel. The IASF has ordered 30 of what it will call the Lavi, and they are part of a transformation of IASF capabilities that also includes orders for V-22 Ospreys and F-35 Lightning IIs.
As part of her visit to Israel, Hewson also officially opened a new Lockheed Martin office in the southern city of Be’er Sheva. As well as strengthening the company’s footprint in the country and its ability to assist with supporting its products, the new office is also part of the Israeli government’s “move to the south” policy, under which defense facilities and associated high-tech industries are being relocated toward the Negev desert region of the country.