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A Significant Transformation Release date 06.01.2019
Following the unification of Sde-Dov AFB's light transport squadrons into the 100th ("First") Squadron, the IAF Site set out to cover the dramatic transformation
Illy Pe'ery

The IAF Light Transport Division is due to undergo a significant facelift over the coming decade following the relocation of Sde-Dov AFB's squadrons to Hatzor AFB. A significant moment occurred last week when Sde-Dov's light transport squadrons – the 100th ("First") Squadron and the 135th ("Kings of the Air") Squadron – were unified into the 100th Squadron. Over the past weeks, the 135th Squadron's service members prepared for the squadron's reestablishment. As the squadron takes on more and more capabilities ahead of its relocation to Hatzor, the IAF Site provides you with the story behind the IAF's newest – yet oldest – squadron.

Photography: Nir Ben-Yosef

Constant Progress
Sde-Dov AFB is home to "Hofit" (Beechcraft Bonanza), "Tzofit" (Beechcraft King-Air) and "Kukiya" (Beechcraft King-Air C-12) reconnaissance & transport aircraft. The aircraft participate in missions ranging from surveillance to gathering intelligence. In 2014, it was decided that Sde-Dov would close down and that its service members would be relocated to Hatzor. One year later, it was decided that just one of the squadrons would relocate, and in January of 2018 it was decided that the relocating squadron would be the 100th Squadron. The unified squadron – due to be one of the largest in the force – will continue to utilize "Tzofit" and "Hofit" aircraft while working towards its goal of reaching 5,000 flight hours per year. Some of the "Kukiya" aircraft's missions will be relegated to the "Eitan" (Heron TP) RPAV (Remotely Piloted Aerial Vehicle).

"Unifying two squadrons is a complex process, seeing as we have to continue functioning as an operational squadron until the last day", elaborated Lt. Col. A', the leaving commander of the 135th Squadron, who is due to serve as the 100th Squadron's new commander. "Unifying squadrons is almost like establishing a new squadron. We left no stone unturned: we dealt with organizational structures, personnel and positions. We established a squadron characterized by both its size and the variety of its missions".

Photography: Alexandra Aksyutich

"The 100th Squadron performs reconnaissance sorties using 'Tzofit' aircraft and the 135th Squadron brings six new missions to the unified squadron", said Lt. Col. A'. "Over the past year we dealt with training the two squadron's aircrew members for the unified squadron's new missions. All this makes for a large force with hundreds of service members, which makes command critical. As squadron commander, I have to make sure that all the combatants are qualified for all missions and aim them towards constant progress".

Operational Preparedness
A major part of the 135th Squadron's missions was transferred to the RPAV Division. As part of an IAF process meant to increase the use of RPAVs in the force, RPAV squadrons have begun taking on missions previously performed by manned aircraft. Following the squadron unification, some of the "Kukiya" aircraft's missions were relegated to the "Eitan" RPAV. "We took the 'Kukiya' aircraft's photography capabilities and saw how they could be used to their full extent using the 'Eitan' RPAV. The 'Eitan' capabilities allow us to double, even triple, the manned division's airtime", elaborated Lt. M', an RPAV operator at the 210th ("White Eagle") Squadron located in Tel-Nof AFB.

Photography: Celia Garion

In order to be able to perform their new complicated photography missions, the "Eitan" squadron was required to integrate the "Kukiya" aircraft's photography system. "The system's integration was divided into several parts: during the first part, we made sure that the system is reliable while the industries displayed the capabilities, developed according to the air force's requirements. Afterwards, we integrated the system and performed a test flight in which the IAF examined the capabilities, assessed the system and saw how it could be improved. This is where the evaluation process began, during which we tested the system's operation in the squadron. Later on, the IAF Operational HQ gives us the go ahead to begin participating in operational activity, and after developing procedures and combat doctrines, we receive the final mark of operational preparedness".

Photography: Alexandra Aksyutich

The establishment of the unified squadron, transferring the "Kukiya" aircraft's capabilities to the "Eitan" and the organizational transformation held in the force over the last year – all these derive from the closing down of Sde-Dov AFB and the relocation of its units to Hatzor. However, the IAF looks years ahead. "In the long range, this is undoubtedly a significant process. It may take us some time to adjust, but this shift is efficient in finance, security and technology", elaborated Lt. Col. A'. "The relocation provides a significant operational opportunity. Hatzor will be home to every facet of the IAF's operationality: from intelligence collection to attack. The relocation will be the focal point of our endeavors over the coming six months, while also working on stabilizing the unified squadron during its first few months".