Israel’s Special Forces – the Shayetet 13 – is a branch of the Israeli Navy and one of the top special forces in the world. This elite commando group was first organized in 1948 and has participated in almost every major Israeli war since. The Shayetet 13, together with the Sayeret Matkal and Shaldag Unit, comprises the Special Forces units of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
Initially, the Israel Defense Forces debated the need for a Special Forces unit, which initially restricted both the size and the budget of the Shayetet 13. Though started in 1948, their existence was not made public until 1960.
Organization and Training
The Shayetet 13 is composed of three specialized units –
Raids – This group is responsible for special recon and direct action on land, but on sea they are responsible for counter-terrorism and hostage rescues.
Underwater – This second group deals with underwater attacks and sabotage, Beach Recon and Beachhead Recon and Security
Above Water – The above water group in the Shayetet 13 is responsible for surface attacks and also the sea transportation of units both to and from a target area.
To become a member of this elite commando group, recruits must first endure a 20-month training program and is comprised of the following:
The Selection Process – The selection process takes place twice a year. During this process, cadets will endure both physically and mentally challenging tests. This process is overseen by physicians and psychologists in order to prevent mental burnout and to prevent physical injuries. The selection phase further evaluates the cadet’s capacity of operation in both stressful and fearful situations.
Basic and Advanaced Infantry Training – Once the selection process is successfully completed, recruits advance to the next phase of the process – six months of basic and advanced infantry training.
Preparation Phase – The next phase is three months long and is known as the Preparation phase. During this portion of the training, recruits are given advanced infantry and weapons training and demolitions. They are also given parachute training and additional schooling in the basic elements of maritime warfare. Before the course is completed, they will have also learned how to operate small vessels and endure long swims and forced marches.
Advnaced Combat Diving – The group receives four weeks of advanced training of combat diving, where in addition to the basics of combat diving, they will learn to cope with various ‘extreme’ situations including cold, dark and/or clouded water as well as surviving underwater in high-risk situations.
Dedicated Phase – Finally, those who are still in the program will undergo the final phase – The Dedicated Phase. This training lasts for approximately one year and further trains recruits in advanced diving techniques, underwater demo, parachuting into the sea and various other sea-to-land excursions. Three weeks are dedicated to counter terrorism at the IDFs school. During this final phase, recruits are assigned to one of three specialty groups based on their strengths and interests, where they receive specific training in the specialized area of their group.
Israel’s Special Forces – Shayetet 13 is highly respected throughout the world and considered by many to be comparable to the US Navy SEALs.