The Israeli Air Force Hudsons



This photograph is reproduced from a magazine entitled Born in Battle (Issue 2) published in 1978 by Eshel-Dramit Ltd. of Israel. It is claimed that the photo was taken at Ekron Airbase. Although the magazine does not record an identity for the aeroplane, the original clearly shows that the aircraft has been fitted with a door on the port side of the nose compartment. This door is similar to those installed in other post-war Hudson civil conversions by Curtis Madsen Aircrafts at Bankstown, NSW. The open bomb bay doors, together with the nose transparency, suggest that the Hudson in the photograph may have been used as a bomber, in which case it is most likely ex VH-BIH which is believed to have been the only Hudson used by the IAF in a combat role. It is not known if VH-BIH was fitted with a baggage door in the nose, but we do know that VH-BIH was converted to an airliner with thirteen passenger seats so it is likely that it did have the baggage door in the nose. However, it is understood that the passenger seats were removed before the delivery flight to Israel. Although the engine covers make it difficult to determine which type of engine is installed, it is clear that there is no "bump" for the carburettor air intake at the top of the cowling so the engine cannot be a Wright R-1820 and must therefore be a Pratt & Whitney R-1830. As only one of the four Israeli Hudsons was fitted with Pratt & Whitney engines, the aircraft depicted above must be the former VH-BIH.



This 1948 photograph of an Israeli Air Force B-17 at an unknown location in Israel appears on page 99 of the book The Air Force in Battle - 70 Years of Aerial Superiority by Danny Shalom. The aircraft in the background at left (see cropped enlargement) is clearly a Hudson which appears to match the engine type, configuration and markings of the Hudson in the previous image which has been identified as the former VH-BIH.

The book The Air Force in Battle - 70 Years of Aerial Superiority by Danny Shalom
can be viewed online and purchased from this website:



This photograph appears on page 89 of the book The Israeli Air Force Aircraft from the Tiger Moth to the Sufa by Danny Shalom. It shows a damaged aircraft identified in the caption as "Hudson 3". However, it has been established that this is a mistaken identification of the aircraft as a Hudson Mk III and not a reference to its IAF serial number. This Hudson is camouflaged and carries an Israeli roundel under the starboard wing. Although it appears to have a transparent nose cone, the side windows in the nose compartment appear to have been covered with fabric and/or paint. As this Hudson clearly has Pratt & Whitney engines, it can only be the former VH-BIH which was the only one of the four Israeli Hudsons that had this type of engine.

If VH-BIH was the first Hudson to be delivered to Israel, which it was, it stands to reason that it would be the first Hudson to be pressed into combat. Reports indicate that it was indeed the only Hudson to be used in a combat role by the IAF. One of the ferry pilots, when interviewed by the
Civil Aviation Liaison Officer, at Australia House, in London in August 1949 was able to list three of the four Hudsons by registration (VH-BFQ, BIA and BLB) and while he did not know the registration of the fourth aircraft, which could only have been VH-BIH, he did know that it had crashed in Palestine and had been written off. Other sources in Israel state that the former VH-BIH crashed on 5 March 1949.

The book The Israeli Air Force Aircraft from the Tiger Moth to the Sufa by Danny Shalom
can be purchased from this website:



Identification of the Israeli Hudsons is made difficult by the lack of photographs of these aircraft in Australia. This photo of VH-BIH at Mascot is the only known image of an Israeli Hudson prior to departure from Australia. The Application for Registration for VH-BIH, dated 19 March 1948, stated that the aircraft was configured with 13 passenger seats but it is understood that the passenger seats were removed before the delivery flight to Israel. The DCA file on the aircraft later recorded that; "The registration letters painted on the side of the aircraft were about two inches high, presumably to avoid identification except at close quarters." The registration letters in the above photograph appear to be about half the height of the rudder balance weight cutout which has been measured (on an actual Hudson fin!) at 30cm (approx 12 inches) high so that would make the registration letters approximately 6 inches high. It could be speculated that the registration may have been moved subsequently from the fin to the "side" of the fuselage and in a reduced size but there is no evidence to support this.




The IAF Technical School featured in a 1951 film which can be viewed at this link:

The following four images are screen grabs from this film.


This Hudson Mk III appears at 1:37 in company with a T-6 and a BT-13. The Hudson has no nose windows so it was presumably used only as a transport. The aircraft is either VH-BFQ or VH-BIA or VH-BLB.


This Hudson Mk III appears at 1:58 and is probably the same aircraft as in the previous image. What appear to be markings on the nose in both images may be flaking paint or imperfections in the film. Unfortunately no serial number is visible.


This image of an undercarriage retraction training aid appears at 1:03. It is seemingly a Hudson main landing gear and given that the film was produced in 1951 this unit could have come from the former VH-BIH which had been written off after a crash on 5 March 1949.


This image appears at 1:20 and seems to be a Hudson instrument panel which also may have come from the former VH-BIH which had been written off after a crash on 5 March 1949.




Note: The Israeli serials shown in the following table are based
on delivery sequence and are subject to confirmation.

Regn Mk MSN Prev Owner Depart Aust Arrive Israel Israeli Serial
VH-BIH IV 6076 C.R. Penny SEP48 NOV48 2601
VH-BFQ III 6417 G. Marcel FEB49* FEB49 2602
VH-BIA III 6477 N. Marcello FEB49* FEB49 2603
VH-BLB III 3843 B. Thomas FEB49 MAY49 2604

* VH-BFQ and VH-BIA were delivered together, departing Australia on 13FEB49.


Swords into Ploughshares and back into Swords


In the immediate post-war years, a number of operators sprang up to serve the lucrative migration boom, principally from Italy and Greece. Airlines such as European Air Transport and Intercontinental Air Tours plus a number of individual entrepreneurs were quick to recognise the suitability of the Hudson which was comparatively plentiful and cheap when compared with more desirable types such as the DC-3. Although European Air Transport purchased seven Hudsons post-war, only two (VH-BFQ & VH-BIA) found their way on to the migrant run. The conversion of a third Hudson (VH-BIB) was abandoned and the aircraft scrapped, along with the other four unconverted Hudsons. The Hudson's participation in the migrant trade was comparatively short-lived and most of the operators involved soon found themselves in financial difficulties with the Hudsons being their most significant assets. At this time, the struggle for an independent Jewish state had led to hostilities in Palestine. Australia joined with many other nations in introducing embargoes against the new state. As a consequence, Israel had to scour the world for whatever aircraft it could acquire and it wasn't long before the Australian Hudsons came to their attention. In all, four Australian Hudsons found their way to the Israeli Air Force. These illegal exports invariably commenced with a notification to the Department of Civil Aviation that the aircraft owner was planning to take his aircraft overseas on a private or charter flight. Subsequently the aircraft were diverted to Israel and handed over to the Air Force. As these four Hudsons had been civilianised, it was not until late December 1948 that the first Hudson saw action in the bombing role. It is understood that only the first Hudson (ex VH-BIH) actually entered service as a bomber while the other three Hudsons served as transports with Air Transport Command at Ekron. Subsequently they were assigned to 106 Squadron. In May 1949, 106 Squadron disbanded and the Hudsons were transferred to 103 Squadron. Three Hudsons were still on strength to 103 Squadron at 1st January 1950 and these aircraft may have remained in service until as late as 1954.

Australian DCA files indicate that these illegal sales (also involving other aircraft types) were still under investigation as late as 1956. The four Hudsons which found their way to Israel were struck off the Australian Register as "improper sale overseas". Presumably all were destroyed in combat or subsequently scrapped.

If any reader can throw any light on the subsequent histories of these aircraft, or provide additional photographs, the publisher will be very pleased to hear from you.

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The illegal export of Australian aircraft to Israel is inextricably linked to the preceding use of some of these aircraft on charter flights bringing migrants to Australia in the immediate post-war years. These operations are covered in exquisite detail in Geoff Goodall's seminal work:

The Migrant Caper


See also:

Australian Civil Hudson Conversions

It has been established that VH-BFQ and VH-BIA were delivered together.
Added a link to a film about the IAF Technical School thanks to Yehonatan Last.
Added two images thanks to Yehonatan Last and the sources shown.

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