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
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.
S'13 is divided into
three specialized companies:
- 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.
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
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
unit's training phase consists of:
months basic and advanced infantry training with one of the IDF
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.
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
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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