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.


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