Shayetet 13



Part of the Israeli Navy, Shayetet 13 (S'13) is the IDF elite Naval Commando unit. S'13 is one of most veteran Israeli SF units. It was formed in 1949 based on a maritime SF unit which part of the Hagana - the Jewish resistance movement during the British regime in what was then Palestine. In the unit's early years, there was a debate in the IDF regarding the need for such unit so S'13 was small and with low budget. In 1960, S'13 existence was first made public and its operators received their renowned winged insignia rather then a general Israeli Navy insignia worn until then.

The breakout of the Israeli-Arab Six Day war in 1967 found the unit under trained. Several of the units' missions during the war failed, the most noticeable one was in May 6 1967, when six operators were captured and taken as POW during a covert mission. S'13 POW were released more then six months later in January 1968.

In 1969 the unit received another blow as three operators were killed and 10 more were badly injured during the Green Island raid. In the 1970's the unit had undergone rebuilding with more focus placed on sea-to-land incursions and on effective training. More issues rose with other IDF SF units, which at the time suggested that that S'13 should only provide the transportation to the target and assistance in crossing water obstacles, while leaving the surface warfare to the other IDF SF units.

Another problem was that in the 1970's the unit's training guideline was that S'13 operators should master all types of warfare. So all operators learned both advance diving and boats usage, causing a lack of specialization. In addition, all of S'13 training at the time was done internally within the unit, which later led to communications issues with other IDF units.

In 1979 the unit was appointed a new CO - Amy Ayalon. After assuming command, Ayalon led a major reorganization in the unit's structure and training regime, which led to an increase in the training commonality between S'13 and other IDF SF units. Once the reorganization was completed, S'13 was larger, better trained and more combat ready then ever before.

From the early 1980's the unit became increasingly involved in the LIC in Lebanon, demonstrating an excellent track record of dozens of successful operations each year, without casualties. Typical missions at the time were interdiction of terrorists' vessels, blowing up enemy headquarters and key facilities, conducting ambushes and planting explosives in terrorists routes.

In the late 1980's the IDF realized that it wasn't exploiting the full potential of S'13 operators. So S'13 officers were encouraged to assume commanding positions in other SF units. This was especially done in new units, which needed to quickly gain operational readiness. Such units were Sayeret Duvdevan and Sayeret Shimshon, which were formed in the late 1980's and Sayeret Egoz, which was formed in the mid 1990's. All three units were appointed CO and other senior officers from S'13.

In recent years, S'13 was heavily involved in the LIC in the Territories. Its operators conducted maritime missions such as interception of terrorists ships carrying weapons and explosives as well as numerous highly complex CT missions. Due to S'13 increased land warfare deployment, the unit now place more emphasis on land based CT and CQB.

Inner Organization

S'13 is divided into three specialized companies:

  • Raids - handles sea-to-land incursions, assassinations, maritime hostage rescue and CT.

  • Underwater - handles all underwater missions such as hydrographic reconnaissance (underwater survey of possible landing locations), securing beaches prior to landing, underwater demolition against enemy ships and harbors and maritime intelligence gathering.

  • Above Water - specializes in the operation of S'13 fast attack boats and in cooperation with the Israeli Navy ships and submarines. The Above Water company primary mission is to bring the other two companies safely and accurately to their targets.

All three companies work closely with each other in joint missions and support each other operations.



S'13 training regime last a total of 20 months and is considered by many to be the most grueling training regime in the IDF, primarily due to the maritime aspect of training. The unit also conducts extensive cross training with other foreign naval commando units, primarily the U.S. Navy SEALs.

The unit's training phase consists of:

  • Six months basic and advanced infantry training with one of the IDF infantry brigades.

  • Three weeks parachuting course at the IDF Parachuting School. 

  • Preparing Phase - lasts three months and consists of advanced infantry and weapons training, basic elements of maritime warfare, operation of small ships, long swims, forced marches and land demolition.

  • Combat diving course - lasts four weeks during which the soldiers learn the basic elements of combat diving such as how to coop with cold, diving in dark and clouded water and how to survive high risk underwater situations (e.g. pressure, depth).

  • Dedicated Phase - lasts almost a year during which the soldiers learn advance diving techniques with closed circuit diving systems, underwater demolitions and weapons and sea-to-land incursions (via diving, ships, submarines and parachuting into sea). Also included in this phase is a three weeks course in IDF Counter Terror School. The soldiers then learned how to perform maritime CT operations on ships, oil rigs and near coast buildings. During this phase the soldiers are also divided between the unit's three specialized companies based on their capabilities and personal interest, and train on their future specialty. 



Over the years S'13 had dozens of causalities, many of whom in training accidents, other were killed in action. In recent years, the unit had lost 12 of its operators in a botched raid in Lebanon in 1997. S'13 has also lost 6 of its operators in the recent clashes in the Territories, more then any other Israeli SF unit. This can be partly attributed to bad luck and partly to the complex missions carried out by the unit.

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