Richard Melson

March 2006

Kahuta Pakistan Weapons & Israel


Khan Research Laboratories

A.Q. Khan Laboratories

Engineering Research Laboratories (ERL)

Kahuta is the site of the Khan Research Laboratories [KRL], Pakistan's main nuclear weapons laboratory as well as an emerging center for long-range missile development. The primary Pakistani fissile-material production facility is located at Kahuta, employing gas centrifuge enrichment technology to produce Highly Enriched Uranium [HEU]. This facility is not under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, but according the the governemnt of Pakistan the facility is physically secure and safe.

Dr. A.Q. Khan is a German-educated metallurgist who until 1975 was employed at the URENCO uranium enrichment facility in Almelo, Netherlands. A year after India's 1974 nuclear test, Dr. Khan departed URENCO with blueprints for the uranium centrifuge, and information on URENCO's key suppliers. A.Q. Khan initially worked under Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), headed by Munir Ahmad Khan, for a short period. But the pair fell out, and in July 1976, Bhutto gave A.Q. Khan autonomous control of the uranium enrichment project, reporting directly to the prime minister's office, which arrangement has continued since. A.Q. Khan founded the Engineering Research Laboratories (ERL) on 31 July 1976, with the exclusive task of indigenous development of Uranium Enrichment Plant. Within the next five years the target was achieved. On 01 May 1981 ERL was renamed as Dr. A.Q. Khan Research Laboratories (KRL). It was enrichment of Uranium in KRL that ultimately led to the successful detonation of Pakistan's first nuclear device on 28 May 1998.

Chinese assistance in the development of gas centrifuges at Kahuta was indicated by the presence of Chinese technicians at the facility in the early 1980s. The uranium enrichment facility began operating in 1984, but suffered serious start up problems. Kahuta began producing HEU in 1986, and Pakistan's fabrication of weapons may have begun soon thereafter, with the HEU hexafluoride being made into uranium metal which was machined into weapon pits. By the late 1980s Pakistan began advertising its nuclear potential by publishing technical articles on centrifuge design, including a 1987 article co-authored by A. Q. Khan on balancing sophisticated ultracentrifuge rotors.

Operating at full capacity, Kahuta is estimated to have the potential to produce enough weapon-grade uranium for as many as 3 to 6 weapons each year. But the gas centrifuge plant has been plagued by chronic delays. As of 1984 there were reportedly approximately 1,000 centrifuges operating at the facility. By 1991 about 3000 machines were thought to be operating with a production capacity of 30-50 kg U-235/year, enough for 2-3 implosion weapons a year.

In 1988 the US and Pakistan reached an informal understanding, which according to US officials went into effect in 1993, under which Pakistan agreed to freeze production of bomb-grade HEU indefinitely, and to refrain from enriching uranium to a level above 20% U-235. Prior to the 1998 nuclear tests, the US had reportedly obtained intelligence indicating that Pakistan had stopped production of bomb-grade uranium. However, following the tests A.Q. Khan claimed that Pakistan had never stopped making bomb-grade HEU during the 1980s and 1990s, and reportedly US officials said "we don't have enough information" to conclude that Pakistan was not making weapons-grade HEU. As of mid-1998 estimates of Pakistan's HEU inventory ranged between 100 and 500 kilograms. Assuming that Pakistan would need about 20 kilograms for a single weapon, Pakistan's stockpile might be estimated at between 5 and 25 weapons.

In early 1996 it was reported that the A.Q. Khan Research Laboratory received 5,000 ring magnets, which can be used in gas centrifuges, from the China National Nuclear Corporation, a subsidiary of the China National Nuclear Corporation, a state-owned corporation. The US intelligence community believed the magnets were for special suspension bearings at the top of the centrifuge rotating cylinders. The shipment was made between late 1994 and mid-1995 and was reportedly worth $70,000. The ring magnets would allow Pakistan to effectively double its capacity to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons production. Pakistan has operated the plant only intermittently, and little information is publicly available concerning annual or total production of weapon-grade uranium at Kahuta.

The Kahuta facility has also been a participant in Pakistan's missile development program. Pakistan operates a ballistic missile research center at Kahuta along with its uranium enrichment operation. KRL has successfully developed and tested Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles based on liquid fuel technology and its associated sub systems. Saudi Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz toured the Kahuta facility in May 1999, possibly in connection with purchases of the Ghauri missiles.

KRL has also undertaken many other defense projects of national importance to enable Pakistan to become self-reliant in various sophisticated weapon systems and to save valuable foreign exchange. These projects include:

Sources and Resources

21-23 September, 1998 ISLAMABAD

By David Albright and Mark Hibbs.

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists July/August 1992.

By Mark Hibbs July 17, 1998

India Thwarts Israeli Destruction of Pakistan's "Islamic Bomb"

There is some evidence that Iraq was not the only nuclear peril to Israel that Begin saw in the early 1980s. Nor was the Osirak reactor in Iraq his only intended target. He also feared the Pakistani nuclear effort because Israeli intelligence had found evidence that Libya and other Moslem states were helping Pakistan, supplying both money and uranium to their effort. Pakistan's leader, Bhutto, was therefore under some obligation to share the nuclear fruits of Pakistan's bomb effort with other Moslem states such as Libya.

According to an Indian official, Subramaniam Swamy, a former Janata Party member, Israel in 1982 asked him to sound out other Indian leaders to see if India would grant Israeli warplanes landing and refueling rights were they to undertake an Osirak-type raid against the Kahuta nuclear reactor in Pakistan.

India refused, probably for a combination of reasons.

As one expert on South Asia speculated:

"First, the Kahuta facility is well-protected and is thus a hard target to destroy. Second and more important, India expects that any first strike by India against Kahuta would be swiftly followed by a Pakistani attack against India's nuclear facilities. Such an exchange would leave India worse off, since any potential deterrent capability against China would thereby be eliminated. Finally, India would be wary of launching such an attack against Pakistan as it would cause not only great death and destruction to Pakistan, but could blow radioactive fall-out back over India. Such an attack against Pakistan would also alienate the Muslim Middle Eastern states whose amity India has assiduously cultivated."

In 1991, India and Pakistan signed a treaty pledging that neither would preemptively attack the nuclear facilities of the other.


by B.Raman:

Those reading my articles would not have been surprised by the recent meeting of the Pakistani Foreign Minister, Mr.Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, with his Israeli counterpart, Mr.Silvan Shalom, at Istanbul .

2. In an article written for some sections of the Indian media on September 8,2003, I had, inter alia, stated as follows:

"Apprehensive about an Indo-Israeli air strike on Kahuta (where Pakistan 's uranium enrichment plant is located), surface-to-air missiles were mounted around the uranium enrichment plant. These fears grew after the Israeli bombardment of Iraq 's Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981.

"Zia (Zia-ul-Haq) decided Islamabad needed to reassure Israel that it had nothing to fear from Pakistan 's nuclear plans. Intermediaries -- Americans close to Israel -- established the initial contacts between Islamabad and Tel Aviv. Israel was confident the US would not allow Pakistan 's nuclear capability to threaten Israel . That is why Israeli experts do not mention the threat from Pakistan when they refer to the need for pre-emptive strikes against Iraq , Iran and Libya 's nuclear establishments.

"By the early 1980s, the US had discovered Pakistan 's Kahuta project. By then northwest Pakistan was the staging ground for mujahideen attacks against Soviet troops in Afghanistan and Zia no longer feared US objections to his nuclear agenda. But Pakistani concerns over Israel persisted. Hence, Zia decided to establish a clandestine relationship between the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Mossad (the Israeli external intelligence agency) via officers of the two services posted at their embassies in Washington , DC .

"The ISI knew Mossad would be interested in information about the Libyan, Syrian, Jordanian and Saudi Arabian military. Pakistani army officers were often posted on deputation in the Arab world -- in these very countries -- and had access to valuable information, which the ISI offered Mossad.

"After she returned to power towards the end of 1993, Benazir Bhutto intensified the ISI's liaison with Mossad. She too began to cultivate the American Jewish lobby. Benazir is said to have had a secret meeting in New York with a senior Israeli emissary, who flew to the US during her visit to Washington , DC in 1995 for talks with Clinton .

"From his days as Bhutto's Director-General of Military Operations, Pervez Musharraf has been a keen advocate of Pakistan establishing diplomatic relations with the state of Israel .

"The new defence relationship between India and Israel -- where the Jewish State has become the second-biggest seller of weapons to India , after Russia -- bother Musharraf no end. Like another military dictator before him, the Pakistani President is also wary that the fear of terrorists gaining control over Islamabad 's nuclear arsenal could lead to an Israel-led pre-emptive strike against his country.

"Musharraf is the first Pakistani leader to speak publicly about diplomatic relations with Israel . His pragmatic corps commanders share his view that India 's defence relationship with Israel need to be countered and are unlikely to oppose such a move. But the generals are wary of the backlash from the streets. Recognising Israel and establishing an Israeli embassy in Islamabad would be unacceptable to the increasingly powerful mullahs who see the United States , Israel and India as enemies of Pakistan and Islam."

2. In my subsequent commentaries, I have been drawing attention to the following developments in this regard on the basis of reliable information from Pakistan :

The reported training of officers of the personal security set-up of Musharraf by Israeli experts in Israel . This training was started at the instance of the US , with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) playing the role of the facilitator.

The reported role of Israeli physical security experts in advising Musharraf on strengthening measures for his security.

The reported role of a jammer of Israeli design supplied to Pakistan through the US in saving the life of Musharraf when two attempts were made by elements from the Pakistan Army, Air Force and jihadi terrorist organisations in December, 2003, to kill him at Rawalpindi .

The reported role of Pakistan in facilitating the collection of intelligence by the US agencies regarding the nuclear establishments of Iran and the likelihood of this intelligence being passed on by the US to Israel to enable it to launch an Osirak-style raid on the Iranian establishments.

3. Pakistan and Israel have had and continue to have strong reasons for working towards a close relationship between the two. Pakistan mainly has three interests:

To reassure Israel that it has nothing to fear from Pakistan 's military nuclear capability.

To dissuade Israel from upgrading its military supply relationship with India .

To persuade Israel to maintain a balance by agreeing to meet Pakistan 's military requirements too.

4. The dangers of a religious backlash would not permit Pakistan at present to establish a formal diplomatic relationship with Israel.

However, Pakistan has other strong lollipops to offer to Israel , which the latter would not be able to resist:

Offer of intelligence relating to Iran , Saudi Arabia and Syria .

Offer of intelligence relating to the Al Qaeda.

5. The Israeli interests are:

The possible role which Pakistan could play, like Turkey , as a cat amongst the Islamic pigeons.

The flow of intelligence regarding Iran 's nuclear establishments and the Al Qaeda. The hard intelligence, which Pakistan could give to Israel if it wants to, would be much, much more valuable for protecting Israeli lives and interests than any intelligence that India might be able to give.

6.If one day there has to be a raid on Iran's nuclear establishments either by the US or by Israel or by the two acting jointly, the use of the Pakistani territory for facilitating such a raid would be helpful. An increasing comfort level between Pakistan and Israel could make this possible.

7. One could ask: Pakistan and Israel could have better achieved each other's objectives by continuing to keep the relationship clandestine. Why did they have to make it open, with its attendant risks for the personal security of Musharraf ? I would find it difficult to answer this question on the basis of available evidence.

8. While Musharraf should be able to withstand any open backlash on this issue from the Pakistani fundamentalist organisations, his action in openly courting Israel runs the risk of aggravating threats to his security from the Al Qaeda and other jihadi terrorist organisations as well as from fundamentalist elements in the Armed Forces.

9. Every country acts according to its national interests. So has Israel in moving closer to Pakistan . There is no point in India sulking over it. However, India would have strong grounds for unhappiness and unease, if Israel had not kept it informed in advance of its moves in this regard.

The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai, and Distinguished Fellow, International Terrorism Watch Programme (ITWP), Observer Research Foundation (ORF), and Convenor, Chennai Chapter of the ORF.



T'zanhanim (Parachute) Brigade
Golani Brigade
Sayeret Golany (PALSAR 95), based in the Shrga army base.
Sayeret Givaty (PALSAR 8234), based in Mishmar HaNegev army base.
Sayeret NAHAL (PALSAR 374), based in the Beit Lead army base.
Sayeret T'zanhanim (PALSAR 5173), based in the Beit Lead army base.
Unit Rotem (LRRP unit stationed along Israeli/Egyptian border)
Sayaret Mat'kal [attached to General Staff] (counter-terrorism & amp; intelligence)
Sayeret Duvdevan (occupied territories undercover unit)

Unit 5101 (Israeli Air Force special missions unit)
Unit 669 (Israeli Air Force CSAR unit)
Unit 5707 (Israeli Air Force TACP unit)

Sayeret Maglan/Unit 212 (Long range missiles warfare unit - attached to Armor)
Palsar 500 (aka Sayeret Sherion, attached to Armor)
Palsar 7 (aka Sayeret Sherion, attached to Armor)
Sayeret Egoz/Unit 621 - (Counter guerilla ops, attached to Golani brigade (Infantry)
Sayeret Yael (Combat Engineers SF demo unit)
Sayeret Yechida Lesiluk Pt'zat'zot (YACHSAP - Combat Engineers EOD unit)
Moran (Artillery Corps)
Meitar (Artillery Corps)
Special Command Teams (IDF Operational Commands LRRP units)
Shayetet 13(Naval Commandoes)
LOTAR Eilat/Unit 7707 (CT unit based in Eilat, Israel)
Force 100 (MP SERT unit)
Unit Alpinistim (Alpine/extreme weather unit)
Unit Oket'z/ Unit 7142 (SF K-9 unit)
Unit Yechidat Modiyin Matara/Unit Nit'zan (Unit 636)

(YACHMAM - Target Intelligence Unit )

Field Intelligence Corps:
-Unit T'ZASAM/Unit 869 (Field Intelligeence Corps)

-Unit Gideonim/Unit 33 (National Policee undercover unit)
-Unit YAMAM (Border Guards CT/hostage rrescue unit)
-Unit YAMAS (Border Guards undercover uunit)
-Modiyin T'azpiyot Yerut VeLohama Needeed (MATILAN - Intelligence Observations Interception and Mobile - Warfare Unit/ Border Guards counter infiltration unit)

Israeli Special Forces Overview:

The IDF is a large army - larger than the British, French or German armies.

Units Guide: Shayetet 13 (S'13)

Shayetet 13 (S'13) is the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) elite Naval Commando unit. As a maritime unit, S'13 main advantage, over other land based Special Forces (SF) units, is the unit's inherent capability of its soldiers to arrive silently to the target via the sea, become an elite surface warriors and after the assault retreat independently through the sea without the need for an external extraction.


In 1979 Amy Ayalon, till recently the head of the SHABACH (Israel's internal general security service), was appointed as the new S'13 commander. Ayalon served in other roles in the IN and was absent from S'13 for three years, was not involved in the inner unit political struggles that were tearing S'13 combat capabilities apart. when he got the command he "cleaned house" and made a big organizational change in S'13. this change lead to the S'13 we know it today - compose of three Palgot - raids, divers and boats (instead of only the two Palgot that existed until then - divers and boats).

Ayalon also made important changes in the unit 20 months training regime (known as Maslul): the Maslul was divided into three parts- preparing phase, diving phase and advanced phase. Moving the diving course to the middle of the Maslul made the preparing stage the main selection phase avoiding dropouts in the more important diving phase. also the reassignments to the difference Palgot as well as each Palga unique training begins in the advanced stage so the solder finished the Maslul as trained professional with one major field of expertise and a good solid background in all aspect of maritime and land surface warfare.

Another important change was that, from then on, the first six months of the Maslul would be devoted to basic and advanced infantry combat that will be thought in the same way that is being thought in the entire IDF, so all of the SF units would "speak the same language" in future joint operations. Ayalon even forced all officers to take the all IDF infantry officers course and only then do advanced naval course within the IN. in 1980 the unit was already after the organizational change. now the unit was bigger, stronger and eager to show its talent. in the early 80's with the increased Israeli involvement in Lebanon the unit got plenty of chances to show its stuff. in the 80's S'13 finally earned its reputation as the second best elite unit in the IDF. S'13 conduct dozens of successfully operations each year, with zero Israeli casualties. during the Israeli invasion to Lebanon in 1982 S'13 helped pin-pointing the IN ships' missiles and gun fire to the targets on the beach. This winning streak lasted until 1997 when a team from the 'raids' Palga fell right into terrorist ambush in Lebanon, and during the fight 12 S'13 team members were killed.

In the late 1980's and in the 1990's the IDF realized that it wasn't exploiting the full potential of the talents found in S'13. Most of S'13 graduates simply finished their 4.5 years of service in the unit and left to the civilian life with their valuable experience and expertise lost. so the IDF decided to blend S'13 officers in the other SF units.

This was especially done in newly born special missions units that the IDF wanted to quickly bring to operational and combat ready status, for example the IDF Mistaravim units, born in 1987 (Sayeret Duvdevan and Sayeret Shimshon) and the IDF counter guerrilla unit (Egoz) born in 1995 (the current commander of S'13 was the first commander of Egoz).

Due to the knowhow of S'13 officers those units gain fearsome Counter Terrorism (CT) capability and used it to become highly successful units with excellent combat record.

Inner Organization

S'13 is divided into three companies known as Palgot.

Each Palga has a special role which it masters:

The Raids Palga ("Haposhtim")

This Palga contains the best soldiers in S'13, in charge on assassinations, incursions and CT. Like Sayeret MATKAL and it's unit -269 - S'13 also has a special CT team within the unit. This team is designated as Team 4 (T4) and belongs to the Raids Palga. Both T4 and Sayeret MATKAL Unit 269 represent the cutting edge in warriors, training and equipment of their "mother" units (much like Navy SEALs and the Development Group - DEVGRU, in the U.S.).

The 'Underwater' Palga ("Hat'zolelim"- the divers)

This Palga is in charge on all the underwater missions such hydrographic reconnaissance (surveying beach before landing) and underwater demolition against enemy ships and harbors. The Underwater Palga often works in cooperation with the other to palgot either supporting the Raids Palga operations such as securing the beaches before landing or conducting its own operations.

The 'Above Water' Palga

Specialize in the operation of S'13 boats (Zaharon, Snunit, Moulit and Morena) and in cooperation's with the IN ships and Submarines. Their main mission is to bring the 'Divers' and the 'Raids' Palgots safely and accurately to the targets. In many ways the above water Palga resembles the U.S. Special Boat Units (SBU). But unlike the SBU which is a separate outfit from the U.S. Navy SEALs, the above water Palga is an integral part of S'13 and its operators are full fledged S'13 warriors.

Out of the three companies, the biggest one is the Raids Palga follows by the Underwater Palga and the Above Water Palga.

Each warrior in S'13 serves a minimum of 4.5 years - three years of mandatory service (like all the other men in the IDF) and 1.5 years of non-mandatory service which the solders must sign as one of the basic demands for applying to the unit.

Over the years S'13 had distinguished itself in several aspects comparing to other Israeli SF units and especially comparing to the Israeli's most elite SF unit - Sayeret MATKAL.


S'13 training course lasts one year and eight months (like in most other IDF SF units) and is considered to be the hardest one in Israel (both comparing to the IDF SF units and to the Israeli civilian special units). this extreme training regime is the main reason for the big dropout rate in S'13 (mostly because of injuries) that brought S'13 to embrace a different selection method.

Most Israeli SF units begin their training course with one 20-25 man team and in the end of training course the team contains 10-12 man. S'13, however, begin its training with 80-100 men and ended it with small team of 10-12 man. this different selection system is mainly done because of large amount of injuries in S'13 rigorous training regime (especially due to the maritime environment and diving hazards), and also allowing S'13 to have much more freedom in hand picking the very best out of the new recruits. ironically, since S'13 needs to start its training with larger number of man then any other SF unit, the Gibush (a four day selection phase prior to acceptance into the unit) is relatively easy, with 30-40 percent passing out of the man who started the Gibush. in most other SF units the main focus in the Gibush is team work. in S'13 Gibush, however, a big emphasis is placed on the ability to perform alone under pressure, because when the soldier is diving underwater he is his own commander without anyone else for guidance or emotional support.

Life after the unit

Most of Sayeret MATKAL graduates usually use their service in the Sayeret MATKAL as a starting point to a military career or to civilian life. many Sayeret MATKAL graduates storm their way in the IDF all the way to the general staff (the IDF high command- a.k.a. "MATKAL", hence the name Sayeret "MATKAL") and later to key position in the civilian political life (for example Ehoud Barak currently Israel Prime Minster- former Sayeret MATKAL commander and Benjamin Netanyahu former Israel prime minister- former captain in Sayeret MATKAL).

Sayeret MATKAL graduates thinking they are above everybody else also rarely joined Israel security services - the SHABACH (Israel domestic general security service) and the Mossad (Israel foreign intelligence service). S'13 graduates, however, usually finished their military service in the unit itself and rarely left it to serve elsewhere. Even if they did, it usually was within the IN. Until this day the IDF had four IN commanders that were former S'13 Commanding Officers (CO) - Yohay Ben Nun, Zehev Almog, Amy Ayalon and Yedida Yahary.

Used to working in the silence and performing covert classified missions many S'13 graduates found their way into Israel security organizations. for example, most of the personal in the Mossad's operational "direct action" units are former S'13 operatives (especially from T4). the same goes for the SHABACH (especially since Amy Ayalon, former S'13 commander, was appointed as the head of the SHABACH in 1996). many S'13 members also joined Israel's elite civilian units - the YAMAM (belong to the border guard - MAGAV) and unit Gideonim (belong to the Israeli police - IP).

Joint Training

Unlike the first four decades of the IDF, in the 1990's IDF SF units rarely train with foreign units. There is simply no need. After more then five decades of continuous fighting, Israeli SF units are by far the most experienced combat units in the world, and have very little to learn from other foreign units. most of the training that do exist are not directly between the foreign units and the Israeli SF units but rather between Unit 707 (the IDF CT school) and the foreign units. this enable the entire knowledge gained in this joint training experience to be gathered and pass through the entire Israeli SF community rather then stay in just one unit.

S'13 is the one exception. Because of the complication and specialty involved in maritime training, it is impossible to conduct maritime training with Unit 707, so it is done directly with S'13 and the foreign unit. Also, even if it was technically possible to make such training with Unit 707, it would be a waste of resources since this training is only relevant to S'13 and S'13 alone, so there is not much sense in involving the entire IDF CT school.

In the 50's and in the 60's most of the joint training were conducted with the French Commando Hubert (in 1957 an S'13 operative even died in France during combat diving exercise) and today most of the training is with the US Navy SEALs. not only does S'13 do direct joint training with foreign units, but there are also the longest. while Unit 707 joint training barely last days, S'13 joint training usually takes weeks and some times even months, with training done either in Israel with the help of the US Sixth Fleet ships and submarines (the Six Fleet home base is the Haifa Israeli Naval Base) or in the US.


S'13 is currently the only unit that employed the Russian AK47 assault rifle as a standard issue weapon for its operatives. all other Israeli SF units use the CAR15 (the carbine version of the M16A1).


Over the years S'13 had performed over 1,000 missions - most of them highly classified. The large number of missions reflects one of the main differences between Sayeret MATKAL and S'13. Sayeret MATKAL works in the "projects" method, which means it perform 2-3 missions a year with long months of preparations before each one. S'13 however perform dozens of missions a year, most of them on the south Lebanon front. S'13 missions are surgical and selective - destroying terrorist boats, blowing up enemy headquarters (often with limpet mines- a powerful anti ship mine which has devastating effect once attached to the side of building), ambushes and planting explosives in terrorist routes. S'13 usually operates deep behind the Lebanese lines, which is by itself an act of war. Since each mistake may have international consequences the chosen unit must the best one for the job- S'13.

In most other SF units, once the solders finish their three year mandatory service, they are leaving the military service. A small number of them will serve in the unit reserve force, but the rest will serve as reserve solders in other units, usually in Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) units belong to reserve infantry brigades. Sayeret MATKAL and S'13 are different. not only are the solders required to sign more time after the mandatory service (six months more in Sayeret MATKAL and 1.5 years more in S'13) but most of them will serve in the reserve forces of the unit. Because of budgetary reasons most SF and "regular" units are not allowed to sign Non commissioned Officers (NCO) for extra non mandatory period (mandatory solders receive a symbolic wage of around US$150-200, while non-mandatory solders receive a "normal" civilian wage of around US$ 1,500-1,700)


Like most other IDF SF units the entire training course of S'13 lasts 20 months, and is consider to be the most physically and mentally demanding training regime in the in the IDF. only after finishing the entire 20 months training period the solders are qualified as warriors and begin to participate in actual combat.

The training phase is made off:

Four months basic infantry training in the Mitkan Adam army base, the IDF special forces training facility.

Two and half months of advanced infantry training held in the IDF infantry school (BISLASH) in south of Israel.

Three weeks high altitude low opening (HALO) and high altitude high opening (HAHO) course at the IDF parachuting school (.a.k.a. MARA) near the Tel Nof Air Force Base (AFB).

These three phases are relatively easy and usually there aren't any dropouts at this time. These phases are in a regular infantry difficulty level and are meant to build combat fitness and basic infantry skills. After finishing of the parachuting course the solders are reassigned to the S'13 home Base- Atlit Naval Base, switch their personal weapons from M16 to AK47 and start training in S'13's extreme standards.

"The Preparing" ("Hamachin") - The next phase is in the Atlit Naval Base and is known as "The Preparing" ("Hamachin") stage. This phase lasts seven months and is called "The Preparing" because it is the stage in which most of the solders dropout (usually after around two months - some voluntarily and some are told to). This stage prepares the soldiers to their diving course and underwater combat training which are the next steps. This phase is also the main selection phase, soldiers who will finished it will usually finish their entire training in S'13 and will be qualified as S'13 warriors (unless of course they are physically injured - a common reason for dropping out of S'13).

If a solder finishes the preparing stage and later turned out to be only an average warrior (by S'13's standards) he usually will finish the entire training period and reassigned to the above water Palga. it's simply uneconomic to dropout a soldier after his been invested with over a year of very expensive training. The "preparing" phase is composed of advanced infantry and weapons training, the basic elements of maritime warfare, seaman shipping - operation of small ships, long swims and marches and land demolitions. Also included in this phase are six weeks CT training - three weeks in IDF CT school located in the Mitkan Adam army base, and three more weeks inside the unit.

Basic combat diving course - This lasts about a month. During this phase the soldiers learn the basic elements of combat diving. how to face cold, diving in dark and clouded water, and how to survive dangerous underwater situations (rocks, curves, pressure, depth). all the diving is been done in pairs with the two operatives tied to each other so one can easily notify the other of a problem.

Advanced Phase - During this phase the solders learn advance diving techniques (with oxygen recycling system to avoid bubbles and to extend the diving period), underwater demolitions and weapons and long months of practicing sea-to-land incursions (with diving, ships, Submarines and parachuting into sea). then the solders learned how to combine all there knowledge to perform maritime CT operations (on ships, oil rigs and near coast buildings). In the middle of this phase the solders are divided according to the three S'13 Palgot- the best go to the 'raids' Palga ("Haposhtim"), the second best are reassigned to the 'underwater' Palga ("the Divers"), and the third best are assigned to the 'above water' Palga. From that moment on each group of solders will train separately according to their Palga's specialty: the raids Palga will master assignations, ambushes, sea incursions, CT and all types of land warfare.

The underwater Palga will focus on intensive combat diving exercises, underwater demolition and underwater warfare as well operating the mini submarines (minisubs). The above water Palga will master maritime navigation and the operating of S'13's three main kinds of Fast Attack Boats (FAB) - Zaharon, Snunit and Moulit. After finishing this 20 months of intense training the solders receive their bat wings insignia, and are qualified as warriors that can now engage in actual combat.


The standard personal issue weapon in the Israeli SF units is a modified version of the CAR15, often with M203 grenade launcher for increased firepower. As one of the results of the massive reorganization in the IDF CT units (caused by the Mahalot fiasco in 1974 in which more then 20 children were killed in failed Sayeret MATKAL hostage rescue raid), and several deadly identity mistakes, the IDF stopped using Soviet weapons (Arab-issued) and adopted the M16 family as the standard weapon. S'13, however, is currently the only unit in the entire IDF that uses the Soviet AK47 on a daily basis.

There are several reasons why S'13 chose the AK47 as its main personal issue weapon. During the 70's the IDF SF units used a variety of assault rifles of different calibers: AK47 7.62 mm, Israeli Military Industries (IMI) Galil AR (Assault Rifle) 5.56 mm, FN FAL 7.62 mm and the American rifles M16 5.56 mm and M14 7.62 mm (the American rifles arrived during the American airborne aid to Israel in the Yom Kippur war). In a series of tests conducted by S'13, it found out that the best weapons for maritime missions were the IMI Galil AR and the AK47, at least when it came down to water and sand resistance.

But the AK47 had one major advantage over the Galil - it was the 'number one' weapon among terrorists and carrying it gave S'13 operators a few seconds before the terrorists could be sure if the person in front of them was enemy or friend (the same line of thought that guided the US MACV-SOG unit during the Vietnam war, often performing missions in typical north-Vietnamese clothing and carry AK47). This was especially correct since in the 80's, when S'13 performed many missions for the SHABACH, both in Lebanon and in the Occupied Territories often dressed in typical Arab clothing (Mistaravim type missions). Since unlike most operations conduct by other SF units, S'13 operations in Lebanon are deep into Syrian-Lebanese held territory, S'13 found it convenient to use AK47 which are deniable weapons.

For the same reason, S'13 rarely gets credit for its operations in the media. most of this operations are never revealed to the media and to the public and are often describe as "terrorist clashes" in south Lebanon. since the Arabs terrorists in Lebanon are not exactly eager to admit they lose some of their comrades without a single enemy lost, they often keep the Israeli raids to themselves. in many cases the terrorists actually think that the raid was conducted by a rival terrorists fraction. using the standard terrorist issue AK47 help to support this thought. In the early 1990's with the CAR15 becoming the standard personal issue weapons in the IDF SF community, S'13 increased the use in the CAR15 especially when it wanted to carry grenade launchers for increased fire power (the AK47 can also be fitted with 40 mm grenade launcher but it's much less accurate then the M203 mounted on M16).

Over the years the AK47 become almost a myth in S'13 and their main recognition feature. Today the AK47 is being carried by the young soldiers throughout their training period in the Atlit Naval Base (after finishing training the solders receive 9mm handguns, usually SIG Sauer P226). The AK47 are only carried today in missions that involve diving. In other missions such as raids, which are the majority of operations performed by S'13 in peacetime, the warriors carry M16 CAR15 which is much lighter, more versatile and more accurate weapon then the AK47. Also, the M16 CAR15 carry the same type of ammunition (5.56 mm SS109/M855) as fired by the IMI Negev light Machine Gun (LMG) which is today the standard LMG in the IDF (the Negev replaced the old FN MAG 7.62 mm LMG that were ere in service in the IDF). SF units like S'13 have a special short barrel version of the Negev with only 330 mm barrel (the regular version has 460 mm barrel). Another reason for S'13 to minimize the usage in the AK47 is that there is simply no need any more to use it.

Today most of the undercover SHABACH missions are given to the Unit YAMAM which has unparalleled Close Quarters Combat (CQB) skills. the SHABACH "discovered" the YAMAM during the Intifada (the Palestinian uprising in late 80's) and transfer all of the delicate covert missions from S'13 to the YAMAM. Also, with so much high-tech equipment, bullet proof vests and communication gear carried by S'13 operatives, a terrorist should be blind to mistakenly identify S'13 operator as fellow terrorist. Carrying M16 CAR15 also prevent deadly identity mistake in joint operation with other SF units that in the hit of combat may consider anyone with AK47 as enemy.

Another favorite weapon among S'13 operatives is the IMI 9 mm Micro Uzi Sub Machine Gun (SMG). the Uzi SMG family is hardly used in the IDF. The only Uzi variant still used by the IDF is the Micro Uzi which the newest and the smallest version in the Uzi family. S'13, however, always found the Micro Uzi perfectly matching its needs. Because of its small size, weight and its folding stock the Micro can be very easily strapped to a soldier leg or fit nicely in his combat vest, and therefore able the soldier to dive or swim without the interference created by the bigger assault rifles. Due to financial as well as political reasons, Israel is the only western nation in the world whose SF units don't use the Heckler and Koch (HK) MP5 family.

S'13 adopted the Micro Uzi (usually carried with Sionics type sound suppresser) as its main weapon in maritime CT operations involving diving, and as a standard silenced weapon for the point man in surface operations. In the never ending search to find a compact yet maritime environment (sea, sand and salt water) proof weapon, S'13 also recently tested the newest version of the IMI Galil rifles family - the Galil 5.56 Micro Assault Rifle (MAR) a.k.a. the Micro Galil. during testing the Galil MAR showed all advantages and the disadvantages of the entire Galil family. On the one hand, it possessed amazing rough handling capability. On the other hand, low accuracy, high weight (both the weapon itself and its magazines) and low versatility (the Galil MAR isn't equipped to carry modern optics and aiming accessories and devices, and an expert gunsmith help is required in order to do so).

In the Galil MAR case, with only 195 mm barrel, the Galil family known accuracy problem is especially severe, making the weapon unfit for hostage rescue mission, but this can be solve by using barrel extended modern compensators. the Galil MAR has another very serious problem- due to a failure in its handguards heat absorbing mechanism, the Galil MAR's handguards get so warm after rapid single firing of only 3-4 magazines in a role, it's painful to hold the weapon. If fired in the auto mode it takes only two magazines to get the same effect. This was the main reason why the Galil MAR failed in the test and S'13 remained with the AK47 as the primary weapon in the unit's maritime operations.

While the Galil MAR is inferior in almost every way (expect for rough handling) to the M16 CAR15 Commando version (the extreme short barrel of the CAR15 carbine with only 11.5 inch barrel instead of the regular 14.5 inch CAR15's barrel), the Galil MAR is big leap forward comparing to the 1940's design of the AK47: the Galil MAR is much more lighter then the AK47 (the Galil MAR weight only 3.7 kg with full loaded magazine), shorter (only 707 mm with the stock in a full ready open position), the Galil MAR's 5.56 mm caliber, comparing to the AK47's short 7.62 mm caliber, enable not only carrying many more rounds while maintaining the same weight, but it allows interchangeability with the 5.56 mm ammunition (SS109/M855) fired by the CAR15 and the IMI Negev LMG which are also carried in most missions, especially since the Negev can use the Galil's or the M16 CAR15's magazines but not the AK47's magazines because of the different caliber.

Also, like HK MP5 family the Galil MAR can also be fitted with tactical forearm (usually containing flashlight or laser sight). with the Galil family originally based on the AK47 design, the basic operating system of the Galil MAR (safety, magazines insertion, dissembling, etc.) is very similar to that of the AK 47, so it's very easy to a S'13 member, used to firing the AK47, to switch to the Galil MAR. So in the case that the Galil MAR's handguards heating problem will be solved, the Mar is very likely to be S'13 future weapon replacing the mythical AK47.

Unit YALTAM ("Yechida Lemesimot Tat-Memyot", in Hebrew)

As its name suggest, the Israeli Navy Underwater Missions Unit ("Yechida Lemesimot Tat-Memiyot - YALTAM", in Hebrew) is in charge on complex underwater assignments.

These missions include:

Search And Rescue (SAR) and the retrieval of submerged ships and airplanes.

Various underwater construction, such as welding and explosions.

The unit also posses strong Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) ability, allowing it to explode or disarm devices such as old mines and other detonating weapons.

During wartime the unit will perform preemptive dives in Israeli harbors in order to prevent enemy divers’ incursions.

While primarily a mission of Unit YABAN, the Israeli Navy Harbor Security Unit, in Unit YALTAM’s home base – The Haifa Harbor – Unit YALTAM will also assist in diving tests for incoming vessels, including both military and civilian ones, to make sure there are no underwater mines attached.

Largely differs from other Israeli Defense Force (IDF) Special Forces (SF) units, Unit YALTAM is not only a totally defensive unit by nature, but it’s also very small and made almost entirely from non-mandatory personal. Most of Unit YALTAM personal did its three years IDF mandatory service in Unit YABAN. The rest are from Shayetet 13 (S’13) - the IDF elite Naval Commando unit.

Till today, the unit had only one casualty - Corporal Yuval Levy - during a diving accident, February 18, 1998. Yuval dived along with another Unit YALTAM diver to check out an incoming vessel for underwater mines. According to the procedure the ship's crew was not to engage the ship's engines until the end of Unit YALTAM security check. However, for some unclear reason one of the ship's crew members activated the ships engines, one of the propellers hit Yuval and he was killed on the spot. The second diver that was co-diving with Yuval instantly reported the incident, yet it took three more hours and 30 divers to recover Yuval's body due to the low visibility and muddy Haifa harbor's waters.

Since all the personal arriving to the unit already posses extensive and intense combat diving experience, Unit YALTAM training are short and is mainly focused on very deep diving and specialized underwater activation of SAR and construction tools, such as robots, torches, metal detectors and of various electronic equipment.

As mentioned above, the unit home base is in the Haifa harbor, a very logical location since it’s the Israeli Navy biggest base. Elements from the unit will also deploy to other naval bases according to need.

Unit YABAN ("Yechida Lebitahon Nemalyim", in Hebrew)

Land Corps Special Forces Units


Apart from Sayeret MATKAL and Shayetet 13, the IDF infantry Sayerets are the most famous Israeli SF units, and represent the classic model of an IDF SF unit - a hard core LRRP unit with advanced CT and hostage rescue capabilities.

The IDF have four regular infantry brigades that form the IDF Infantry Corps, each with its own distinctive head gear color:

Golany infantry brigade

Givaty infantry brigade

NAHAL infantry brigade

T'zanhanim (Paratroopers) infantry brigade

The four brigades are in theory identical and share the exact same inner organization. Each infantry brigade is made of three conventional infantry battalions and four special brigade level units:

Reconnaissance Company ("Plugat Siur - PALSAR", in Hebrew).

Anti Tank Company ("Plugat Neged Tankim - PALNAT", in Hebrew).

Engineering Company ("Plugat Heil Handasa - PALHAN", in Hebrew).

Signal Company ("Plugat Heil Kesher - PALHICK", in Hebrew).

Out of the above four brigade level units, the only one which is considered as a SF unit is the PALSAR. The other three companies are high quality specialized infantry units, with better manpower and gear then the conventional battalions, but they are not SF. Accordingly, the IDF four infantry Sayerets are:

Sayeret Golany (PALSAR 95), based in the Shrga army base.

Sayeret Givaty (PALSAR 8234), based in Mishmar HaNegev army base.

Sayeret NAHAL (PALSAR 374), based in the Beit Lead army base.

Sayeret T'zanhanim (PALSAR 5173), based in the Beit Lead army base.

As their name suggest, the infantry Sayerets wartime mission is path finders, moving ahead of the brigade, conducting intelligence gathering and reporting back to the brigade' headquarters. The infantry Sayerets will also act as elite assault teams and will take out tactically important enemy posts, which are too well protected for the conventional battalions.

Part from the four Sayerets, which are an integral part of the infantry units, the Golany brigade has a fifth unit - Sayeret Egoz, and the T'zanhanim brigade has Sayeret Maglan and Unit YANMAM. However, there is a big difference between these three units - Sayeret Egoz is an integral part of the Golany brigade just like the other four special brigade level units. However, Sayeret Maglan and Sayeret YANMAM personnel are only attached to the T'zanhanim brigade in their first six months training. Once finished, these operators are reassigned to Sayeret Maglan and to Sayeret YANMAM, which are completely independent units. Sayeret Maglan and Sayeret YANMAM are also located in different bases then the other T'zanhanim brigade units.

In the past, the brigades also had different orientations. The T'zanhanim brigade specialized in airborne operations using helicopters and parachuting, the Golany brigade specialized in deploying the Achzarit APC and the Givaty brigade specialized in maritime operations, akin to the U.S. Marine Corps. Today, all units train with helicopters, the Givaty brigade no longer train on amphibious operations and the brigades are much closer to each other.

Among the four infantry Sayerets, Sayeret Golany is considered to be the best by far. Enjoying a very generous budget, most of it deriving from civilian donations and contributions, having a strong focus on CT, and the second most rigorous training regime after Shayetet 13, Sayeret Golany had carved itself a name of a truly elite unit.

From the mid 1990's, Sayeret NAHAL had taken a big leap forward and today is considered as equal to Sayeret T'zanhanim.


Officially, the IDF infantry brigades are not voluntary units, which means that theoretically one can be assigned to the brigades against his will. However, due to the increasing demand for a position the infantry brigades in the last years, for most soldiers serving there it was a first choice.

There is one exception to that rule. As a historic relic from the time it was a small SF unit, the T'zanhanim brigade has a two days Selection Series (Gibush). Keeping the Gibush is actually a quite prudent move, which insures that the T'zanhanim brigade has the best manpower out of the four brigades. In the late 1990's the T'zanhanim brigade Gibush has expanded and today it screens not only for the T'zanhanim brigade but also for Sayeret Duvdevan, PALSAR 500, PALSAR 7, and Unit Oket'z.

However, all brigade level units, including the Sayeret, are volunteering units. A three-day Gibush is held at the beginning of each of the brigades' basic training phase. The infantry brigades Gibush is considered one of the hardest ones in the IDF. The best ones who passed the Gibush are selected for the Sayeret. The rest of soldiers, who successfully passed the Gibush, are spread around the other three special brigade lever units.

The Golany inner-brigade Gibush also screens for Sayeret Egoz and the T'zanhanim inner-brigade Gibush also screens for Sayeret Maglan and Unit YANMAM. As such in the Golany case, the PALSAR has the first choice of soldiers, follow by Sayeret Egoz and the other three brigade level units. In the T'zanhanim case, Sayeret Maglan choose first, then the PALSAR and Unit YANMAM and then the other three brigade level units.


All of the infantry Sayerets have about the same training regime which last 20 months. Only after finishing the training regime the soldiers received their unit's insignia and shifted to combat status.

The training consists of:

Four months basic training.

Two months advanced training.

Three weeks Engagement Unit course in the IDF Counter Terror Warfare School (Unit 707) in the Mitkan Adam army base.

Two weeks parachuting course in the IDF Parachuting School in the Tel Nof AFB.

Two months intelligence gathering and mobile reconnaissance course, in the IDF Intelligence and Reconnaissance School (MOS) in the BALISH army base.

Three weeks NCO SF course in the BISLACH army base.

The rest of the training is devoted to forced marches, raids, navigations and open field combat. Several members from each team will also attend a sniper course in the IDF Snipers School the Mitkan Adam army base.


In the late 1990's the IDF realized that its Infantry Corps hadn't evolve much since the creation of the IDF, and conduct some long due changes in the infantry corps. Part of these changes was also a decision to merge all four special brigade level units, which today are almost independents units, into one special battalion, akin to the U.S. Marines Corps Recon Battalions.

Another decision was to assign a fixed AO instead of the past rotation.

The future enrolment is:

Golany and NAHAL brigades along the Israeli-Lebanese border.

Givaty and T'zanhanim brigades in the Territories - the T'zanhanim brigade in the Judah and Samaria and Givaty and the Givaty brigade in the Gaza strip.

Note that these assignments reflect the IDF opinion on each of the brigades - trying to balance the deployment and placing a high quality brigade with lesser quality one.

The decisions on the infantry brigade combat deployment was postponed due to the recent Israeli-Palestinian clashes.

Special Missions Units:

Sayeret Duvdevan (Unit 217)- Undercover Counter Terror unit for the Occupied Territories.

Unit Oket'z (Unit 7142) - Special Forces canine Unit.

Unit Alpinistim - Extreme weather unit.

Force 100 - Military Police Special Emergency Response Team (SERT).

Sayeret Egoz (Unit 621) - Counter Guerrilla unit.

LOTAR Eilat (Unit 7707) - Counter Terror and hostage rescue outfit, located in the city of Eilat

Special Command Teams - Special versatile task forces attached to each of the IDF three regional commands.

Sayeret Maglan (Unit 212) - Long range missiles warfare unit.

Unit Rotem - Rapid deployment and a reconnaissance outfit based at the Israeli-Egyptian border.


Provides Computer Aided Design assistance in Counter Terror and hostage rescue scenarios.

Israeli Air Force Special Forces Units

Sayeret Shaldag (Unit 5101) - the IAF premier Special Forces unit.

Airborne Rescue And Evacuation Unit (Unit 669) - the IAF Airborne Combat Search And Rescue (CSAR) unit.

Unit T'ZASAM (Unit 5707) - the IAF laser designation, Bombardment Damage Assessment (BDA), and preliminary bombardment reconnaissance and intelligence gathering unit.

Airplanes Security Unit

Unit YANMAM (Unit 7298) - the Anti Aircraft (AA) corps airborne rapid deployment Special Forces unit.

Unit Egrophan (Unit 5107) - the AA corps enemy simulation unit.


Sayeret (pl. Sayarot) means Reconnaissance Unit.

Kahuta Pakistan India Israel

March 4, 2006