Israel’s Air Force (IAF) today officially inaugurated the special operations wing, a combat formation that groups the air-force operated elite units under one wing. Based in Palmachim Air Force Base south of Tel Aviv, the 7th Special Operations Wing includes the 669 combat rescue squadron, 5101 Shaldag Special Tactics Squadron, and the Tactical Air Operations Unit. The new wing will soon establish a new intelligence to provide intelligence support for the special operations. A training center scheduled to open will complete the wing’s structure in 2022.

Shaldag is the Israel Air Forces’ land-oriented special-operations element. Photo: Amit Agronov, IAF

“We are in times of regional change – with a global pandemic and a battlefield becoming more complex every day. Our commanders understand that these changes force us to adapt to the challenges that the future holds”, said Commander of the IAF, Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, during the opening ceremony.

In the early ’90s after the Gulf War, a decision was made to create an Aerial Special Forces Command. The command managed “Shaldag” and was responsible for Unit 669 and later for the Frontal Landing Unit as well. Forming a unified special operations wing follows other reorganization in Israel’s special operations units held in recent years. These include the formation of the strategic Depth Corps in 2011 and the establishment of the 89 Commando Brigade (Oz Brigade) in 2015, commanding three elite units – Maglan, Duvdevan, and Egoz. In recent years the new Corps and Brigade held several exercises in neighboring countries, including Cyprus and Greece, where the forces were assisted by 669 and Shaldag.

669 is the IAF combat air search and rescue unit. The teams are also trained to provide emergency aeromedical support. Photo: Amit Agronov, IAF

The new wing combines the complementary capabilities of the 669 with its inherent air mobility assets, Shaldag, the air forces’ land-oriented special-operations, and tactical air operations unit. Together, the wing provides integrated and coordinated support for the Depth Corps and other special operations (GHQ Intelligence Unit – Matkal and 13th Squadron of the naval commando), reflecting the growing role of special operations in modern warfare.

The 7th Wing that opened today at Palmachim AFB, was created due to operational needs and the changing and increasing threats on different fronts, as part of a broader process to strengthen and sharpen the special unit’s operational effectiveness. There is great operational significance to a body that will unify the IAF’s Special Forces and reinforce the IAF’s capabilities by synchronizing their activity. The base of the plan – improving the operational effectiveness of the units by adapting tactics and weapons systems, and broadening cooperation in the IAF, IDF, and the defense system as a whole. “A systemic organization of Special Forces, which focuses on the unique operational response to the IAF’s challenges, is a dream for the IDF’s Special Forces personnel and in general”, said Commander of the Wing, Col. E. “The time has come, and also in the IAF, our special forces are at the core”.

669 is the IAF combat air search and rescue unit. The unit is qualified and equipped to carry out advanced helicopter infiltration and exfiltration tactics. Photo: Amit Agronov, IAF