Israeli Air Force to Consolidate its Special Operations Forces Units into New 7th Aerial Special Forces Wing

On the 12th July, the Israeli Air Force announced that it would be combining the Shaldag, Frontal Landing Unit, and Unit 669 into the new 7th Aerial Special Forces Wing. Prior to the announcement, all three units operated independently, with their own administrative branches and selection process. The newly created wing aims to consolidate the support elements, so each unit can operate with increased efficiency. It will also result in the rebasing of some of the units to Palmahim Air Base.

While simple on the surface, the consolidation comes as the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) seeks to reorganize its multitude of special operations forces (SOF) units into unified commands under the “Momentum Plan”, which aims to reform the IDF in a way that leverages Israel’s traditional strengths: technology, air superiority, and reconnaissance to quickly win conflicts.

IDF special forces carried out an extensive exercise in Cyprus (Photo by Cpl. Omer Barr, IDF)

However, the first stage of Israeli SOF consolidation took place before the announcement of the Momentum Plan. In 2015, the Israeli Ground Forces consolidated the Maglan, Egoz, Duvdevan, and Rimon SOF units into the 89th ‘Oz’ Brigade, consolidating administration and providing a similarly unified support structure. In addition to providing common logistical support, the Oz brigade also aimed to create cooperation and common capability between the SOF units. This is possible as the purpose of all of the units are relatively similar, with most units being strategic reconnaissance or direct action, with the exception of Duvdevan which specialised in undercover operations.

The 7th Aerial Special Forces Wing differs from Oz in that the units that comprise it have all radically different roles. Unit 669 performs Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR). Shaldag serves as the Israeli Air Force’s strategic reconnaissance unit. The Frontal Landing Unit serves the purpose its name suggests: setting up makeshift airstrips and airbases for the air force and providing other pathfinder duties. As such, the combination into a single unit is unlikely to foster cooperation between the units, as their roles are so different.

In the light of the Momentum Plan and post-Coronavirus financial woes, the formation of the 7th Aerial Special Forces Wing can be seen as a shrewd organizational and financial move. Creating a single larger unit makes it harder for politicians to selectively kill a SOF unit that may be seen as redundant, while also decreasing logistical complexity by common basing.