The Israel Air Force is getting ready to set up its first squadron of Super Hercules C-130J transport aircraft, after US defense manufacturers handed over the first of three planes on order to Israel last week.

The squadron, to be based at Nevatim Air Base near Beersheba, will upgrade the IDF’s long-range strategic capabilities. The aircraft, which the IAF has nicknamed “Shimshon,” can carry more soldiers, lift a greater load, and fly further than its predecessor Hercules aircraft, which has been in service in the air force for more than 40 years.

IAF pilots are scheduled to visit the US soon to begin test flights.

On Thursday, Lockheed Martin held a ceremony at its production center in Marietta, Georgia, to transfer the first plane.

The ceremony was attended by the IDF’s attaché to the US, Maj.-Gen. Yaakov Ayish, senior air force commanders, US Air Force officials and representatives of the American Jewish community. A symbolic gold key was handed over to IAF delegates to signify the transfer.

The ceremony took place in the same site where the IAF received its first Hercules plane in 1971.

The new plane will remain in the US for the time being, where technicians will install Israeli systems on-board.

Brig.-Gen. Ori (full name withheld), who heads the team tasked with creating the new Hercules squadron, said the Israeli systems “will be suitable for the aircraft and the unique missions of our air force.”

The older generation Hercules has taken part in numerous missions, many of which remain classified.

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