Sunday, September 29, 2013

Elite Military Units and the AR Weapon Platform: Shayetet 13, Israel

S-13 Operators with Galil and M4 rifles

During the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany, terrorists from the Palestinian group "Black September" took 11 Israeli Olympians hostage and later murdered them.  A few days later, the Israeli government met this cowardly attack with an intense bombing raid by around 75 IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) aircraft on terrorist targets in Syria and Lebanon. This initial response was named Operation Wrath of God and also included IDF ground troops infiltrating Lebanon to attack specific targets.  Some high ranking government officials believed more had to be done to avenge the terrorist attack and prevent further attacks from happening, so a veritable hit list of high ranking terrorists was established and special forces units within the IDF were assigned to carry out these assassinations.  One of those units was Shayetet (Flotilla) 13, the elite special operations unit of the Israeli Navy.  In Operation Spring of Youth, in April of 1973, unit personnel infiltrated the beaches of Lebanon where agents from the top-secret Israeli intelligence unit Mossad were waiting to transport them in rental cars to target sites.  In the operation, over 100 terrorists were killed, including 3 top PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) leaders.  The IDF personnel suffered 2 casualties. 

Unit History:

S-13 members with Prime Minister Peres
Shayetet 13 (S-13) has a history dating back to the Israeli quest for independence from British rule and the establishment of Israeli statehood.  British naval ships would form blockades to prevent refugees and immigrants from coming to Israel, so members of the Haganah (pre-statehood Israeli military) would clothe themselves in wool sweaters and pants soaked in animal fat to ward off the cold waters of the Mediterranean Sea, as they swam to ships moored off coast and placed rudimentary mines on the hulls of the vessels. 

The unit was founded in 1948 and "made public" in 1960.  It was at this time that members of the unit began wearing the famous unit insignia of a sword and shield surrounded by bat wings.  While the unit took part in operations throughout various conflicts in the 1960's and 1970's, the operation detailed above and more recent activities have earned the unit an esteemed reputation in the special operations community.  In the last decade, S-13 has taken part in many direct action assaults against terrorist targets in Palestinian populated areas of Israel. S-13 has recently "made news" performing boarding assaults against ships trying to break through the IDF naval blockade of Gaza.  Ships from Antigua and Turkey carrying arms and munitions destined for terrorists in Gaza were intercepted and these weapons never made it into the terrorist's hands.

Unit Construction:

Like many special forces units, S-13's activities, training, unit size, and other details are kept highly confidential.  There are reported to be 3 distinct "troops" within S-13.  The Raids Palga (troop), is tasked with direct action assaults, hostage rescue, and counter terrorism operations.  The Diving Palga focuses on maritime sabotage, reconnaissance, and sub-surface offensive actions.  Finally, the Surface Palga provides transportation of the other troop's personnel to sites via fast attack watercraft, and participates in direct action assaults against vessels and coastal targets.  While the Raids Palga is the largest in size and has the most highly trained personnel, all 3 troops work together to accomplish mission objectives.

Training and Equipment:

S-13 operator with CQBR and Trijicon ACOG
Recruits to the unit undergo an extremely difficult selection and training process.  The entire introductory training lasts at least 20 months.  Selection assessments and classes are held twice a year.  Training takes place throughout the nation and region, and the unit is based near Haifa.  Like most special operations units, there is a freedom in the selection and use of weapons in order to accomplish the mission that conventional forces rarely enjoy.  Battle rifles chambered in 5.56X45 NATO used by S-13 include the Galil, Tavor, and M4 variants of the AR weapon platform.  The M4A1 with SOPMOD package is often seen in photographs of unit personnel, as is the Close Quarters Battle Rifle model, similar to the Mk 18 Mod 0 (we will forego details of this model here, as it has been described in previous blog entries in this series).  In either of these AR platform configurations, the weapon is typically outfitted with the Knights Armament rail system and optics from EOTech, Trijicon (ACOG), or the IDF special forces designed Meprolight M21.  There are a number of AR-15 parts made in Israel and marketed in the United States from manufacturers like Command Arms Accessories, Mako Defense, and Meprolight.

Shayetet 13 is a top tier special operations unit and their confidence in and use of the AR weapon platform for critical missions is just another testament to the amazing ability of this weapon platform to be a useful and dependable tool for many applications.  Thanks for reading our blog.  If you have any questions about the AR-15 rifles we manufacture or the parts we offer at, please feel free to contact us.


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