The IAF delegation to the RIAT (Royal International Air Tattoo) the second largest Air Tattoo in the world, landed in RAF AB Fairford last week. Alongside dozens of aircraft stood the Israeli “Shimshon” (C-130J Super Hercules) which attracted many visitors

Shachar Zorani, UK

Three days, 70 countries, 246 aircraft and 160,000 visitors: the IAF recently participated in the second largest Air Tattoo in the world, The Royal International Air Tattoo, which was held in the UK. Alongside advanced aircraft such as the F-35 and F-15, various helicopters and transport aircraft from all over the world, stood an IAF “Shimshon” (C-130J Super Hercules) with a team of SAR Unit 669 operators in it, which exhibited its abilities to the crowd. “Our goal is to tell the IAF’s story from a different point of view,” explained Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, Head of the IAF International Affairs Branch. “We wanted to exhibit the ‘Shimshon’ and SAR Unit 669’s humanitarian activities.”

The “Shimshon” In the RIAT

Photography: Shachar Zorani

The “Shimshon” landed in Nevatim AFB in early April 2014 and despite its short period of service, has already participated in a wide range of operational missions overseas such as humanitarian aid in Nepal following the devastating earthquake it experienced in 2015 and transportation of the victims of the terror attack in Istanbul last year back to Israel. “The ‘Shimshon’ fleet bring many abilities which allow the IDF and state of Israel to operate in any point on the globe and provide aid wherever it is necessary,” said Lt. Col. Yoav, Commander of the “Elephants” Squadron, which operates the aircraft. “The participation of the ‘Shimshon’ in the air tattoo allows us to exhibit the IAF’s ‘soft power’ to the world.”

The “Shimshon” In the RIAT

Photography: Shachar Zorani

The British Partner
The IAF landing on British soil is not a trivial matter. In fact, the “Shimshon” participated in the RIAT after 15 years of IAF absence from the Tattoo. So why did the IAF decide to participate after 15 years? “We understand that in order to face the challenges that our changing reality poses, we must cooperate”, answered Col. Ran Kahana, the IDF attaché to the UK. “There might be many differences between our countries, but the foundation, which is based on common values, morals, interests and mutual learning, is identical.”

“There are a number of elements that brought about the change, such as the fact that the UK has a central position in coalition flights conducted in Israeli airspace, internal changes in the UK and mutual areas of interest such as the F-35,” explained Lt. Col. Richard. “After many years, we are experiencing a step forward in the cooperation between our countries, the peak of which will be the RAF Commander’s visit to Israel later this year.”

The “Shimshon” In the RIAT

Photography: Shachar Zorani

Taking Off and Landing Safely
In order for a deployment such as this to succeed, comprehensive training of all the elements is required – from the aircrew members, through the technical crews and to international relations. “We chose which aircraft to exhibit and prepared it – maintenance wise – for the deployment: we prepared logistic spare parts, polished and prepared it,” shared Maj. Aharon Gindi, Commander of the “Elephants” Squadron’s Technical Department. “The Technical Division allows our aircraft to take of safely, so we assembled a strong team that could deal with complex malfunctions in real time while properly representing the IAF.”

The “Shimshon” In the RIAT

Photography: Shachar Zorani