Thursday, October 31, 2013

Elite Military Units and the AR Weapon Platform: The Special Forces Brigade, Georgia

Sometimes there is power in understatement.  Many special operations units have intriguing or even fear-inducing names...The elite unit of the Georgian military is simply known as, The Special Forces Brigade.  It may not sound all that "cool", but as someone who has trained with members of this unit, I believe their skills and capabilities to be unquestionably elite.  A couple of decades ago, Georgians were part of the Soviet Union.  Georgia became an sovereign state in 1991, but its initial government (s) experienced a fairly tumultuous beginning.  It wasn't until 2003-2004, after yet another political revolution, that reforms were instituted to stabilize and strengthen the nation's government and military.

Unit History:
Small teams of individuals with special skills and who underwent some form of special operations training were active immediately after the state gained its independence.  As stated earlier, the nation struggled as opposing political forces backed by their own armies fought for control and power.  Many of these "special forces" units/operators had previous training and experience in past conflicts, but since the political environment was so fluid, there was not much in the way of training standardization or structure.  Soon after, Turkish and other NATO advisors formulated and instituted a professional training doctrine to begin a quality special operations capability and school for future development.

The Brigade's operations headquarters is located in the national capital of Tibilisi, but unit bases are located throughout the nation.  The Special Forces Brigade served along side U.S. and NATO troops in Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2003-2008.  In 2008, the unit was called home to deal with pressing domestic threats and needs.  It has been reported that they were involved in a very tangible way with USSOCOM components in Operation Enduring Freedom--quite probable since Georgian Armed Forces units have served in OEF alongside the U.S. Marines, and have received praise from NATO command staff for their combat medical skills in this theater.

Training and Equipment:
Modeled after other highly successful NATO special forces training systems, the Georgian Special Forces Brigade provides excellent and thorough instruction for potential unit members.  Schools of instruction include an Airborne School and Ranger School.  Upon successful completion of these two phases of instruction, candidates may apply for The Special Forces Ranger School.  If an applicant succeeds in this course of instruction, he may be admitted to The Special Forces School.  In each course of instruction, students are trained in airborne and airmobile operations, counterterrorism and counterinsurgency, MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain), combat medical skills, advanced land navigation, and mountaineering.  It is reported that, from start to finish in these phases of instruction, there is a less than ten percent success rate.  Sounds pretty elite to me.

A multitude of weapons have been employed by the Georgian Armed Forces due to the nature of events the Georgian military has experienced.  Russian military weapons were extensively used in the early days of the nation's forces; as NATO political, financial, and military support increased, so did NATO weapons.  AR-15/M4 (M4A1) weapon platforms have been the primary battle rifle used by the regular army and The Special Forces Brigade.  Recently, the Heckler and Koch HK416 has been issued and in use; the Georgian military has even designed and begun production on a similar model known as the G5, as an alternative to the M4A1.  The main difference in the HK416/G5 and the M4A1 is that the former uses a piston operating system rather than the standard AR direct gas impingement system.

The Georgian Special Forces Brigade is truly and elite special operations unit that has been of genuine assistance to U.S. forces in the GWOT; their selection to use the AR platform to defend their nation and fight against terrorism is further evidence of the amazing value and dependability of this weapon.  Thanks for reading our blog.  If you have any questions about the  AR-15 rifles we produce at Del-Ton, Inc. or the parts we offer at, please contact us.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Elite Military Units and the AR Weapon Platform: Sayeret Matkal, Israel

Our previous blog post in this series highlighted Shayetet 13, a special operations element of the Israeli Navy.  If Shayetet 13 bears a resemblance to the U.S. Navy's Seal Teams (and since they share the same design history and train together, they do), then Sayeret Matkal can be viewed as strikingly similar to the U.S. Army's Special Forces elements.

Unit History And Operations:
Sayeret Matkal may be understood as General Staff Reconnaissance Unit in Hebrew.  The unit originated officially around 1957, and took part in active operations during the Yom Kippur War of 1973 and Operation Wrath of God (detailed in the previous blog entry). Due to the threat of terrorism in Israel, the unit's activity has been and remains quite high. Their main tasks consist of deep reconnaissance (intelligence gathering), direct action raids, counter-terrorism, and hostage rescue.  This last function is what may have gained them the most notoriety. 

IDF Lt. Colonel Yonatan Netanyahu
On July 4, 1976, a Sayeret Matkal team performed a hostage rescue raid on a hijacked Air France plane containing 248 passengers at the Entebbe airport in Uganda.  The plane had been hijacked by a PLO "predecessor" terrorist organization (PFLP-Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine).  The Ugandan government, headed by dictator Idi Amin, supported the terrorist organization and welcomed them to his nation's airport.  Israeli and Jewish hostages were separated from other passengers by the terrorists and threatened with death.  With the benefit of Mossad intelligence, a raid/rescue was designed and Sayeret Matkal operators were flown from Israel to conduct the mission, Operation Thunderbolt.  For the most part, the mission was a success:  the majority of hostages were rescued, only three hostages were killed-but all the terrorists and 45 Ugandan soldiers were also killed in action.  While only five Sayeret  Matkal operators were wounded, the Unit Commander Yonatan Netanyahu was killed during the mission.  Lieutenant Colonel Netanyahu is the brother of current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also served in the unit.

Sayeret Matkal has been involved in more recent (2006) missions of known importance as well.  Unit members performed reconnaissance tasks and collected evidence to support Operation Orchid, where IDF airstrikes were carried out to destroy a secret nuclear facility within Syria.  Though Syria denies having a nuclear facility, post mission analysis, CIA intelligence, and evidence collected by the International Atomic Energy Agency seem to prove otherwise.

Unit Weapons, the AR-15/M-16:
The weapons used by the operators in Sayeret Matkal are similar to those used by many IDF elements.  Battle rifles chambered in 5.56X45 Nato include the historic Galil and more recent and innovative Tavor bullpup style rifles.  The main battle rifle throughout the IDF, however, is the AR-15/M-16 platform.  It is seen in use by multiple elements in a variety of configurations.  M16A1 style rifles are used by many "regular army" IDF units, including federal law enforcement and border guard entities.  These weapons are often allocated to and used by civilians for defense.  M4 variants and configurations with much shorter barrels/overall lengths tend to be those most used by elite units within the IDF.  The Colt Commando/XM-177 style rifle with an A1 upper and 11.5" barrel is noticeable in photographs of various IDF special operations units. 

A number of companies produce and market AR-15 rifles and parts in Israel.  FAB Defense/Mako Group, Gilboa Rifles, and Meprolight sights and optics are all manufacturers of quality and literally "battle tested" AR-15 components.

While special operations units have at their service the latest in weapons and accessories to perform their mission, it is at least interesting and perhaps educational to notice (in rare photos of the units) that many of the AR platform weapons are "arranged" in a farily basic manner. There may be some mission specific accessories mounted and employed, but it is rare to see them weighed down with a zillion unnecessary attachments.  This may be an even more powerful point considering the operational tempo in which the IDF in general, and Israeli special operations units in particular experience.  Just something to consider...the weapon (regardless of features) doesn't make you tactical-you make the weapon tactical. 

The use of the AR weapon platform by the IDF and Sayeret Matkal is simply another testament to the amazing capability of this rifle to excel in the purpose of its design.  Thanks for reading our blog; if you have any question regarding the AR-15 rifles we manufacture or the parts we offer at, please feel free to contact us.