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Unit 5101, Shaldag is the Israeli Air force’s Tier 1 commando unit and is considered to be one of the most elite units in the IDF.
The unit’s mission is to deploy undetected into combat and hostile environments to conduct special reconnaissance, establish assault zones or airfields, while simultaneously conducting air traffic control and commando actions.
Shaldag helps the Israeli Airforce strike its targets from the air. Unit members speak the IAF's language and transmit precise target coordinates to fighter jets and attack helicopters.
Most of Shaldag's operations are highly classified and not known to the public. The achievements of the unit are numerous, dramatic, and hidden behind a tight veil of official secrecy.
Shaldag was created as a result of lessons learned during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The IDF was poorly prepared for special operations and in the event of another war they needed a force with the ability to go deep into enemy territory and strike critical targets.
In addition the Israeli air force needed its own ground unit, to be able to hunt down and target enemy surface-to-air missile batteries.
Throughout the years, the unit underwent several stages of evolution, falling under the IAF's direct command in 1986, and becoming a core part of the IAF's special airborne forces. The unit was built for flexibility, readiness, and total availability for missions as it’s core characteristics.
Shaldag operators undergo the longest training phase of any unit in the IDF, lasting 22 months. Training has a heavy emphasis on navigation, With exercises between each phase, designed to provide extensive navigation experience while elevating intense physical tension from long forced marches with heavy weights.
Their other specialized training consists of: A Parachuting course at the IDF's parachuting school, Counter-terrorism at the IDF's LOTAR counter-terrorism school, Air-to-ground cooperation and airborne operations training. Specialized reconnaissance and communications training.
The last 2 weeks of the training phase consists of a course in enduring enemy captivity. They are subjected to a surprise mock kidnapping, held in prison-like conditions, and must endure interrogation, physical violence, and humiliation.
Shaldag has carried out some of Israel's most dangerous and high risk missions over the past 40 years.
They have also played a major role in almost all of Israel's wars and conflicts since the unit's establishment. In 2007 Shaldag was reportedly involved in Operation Orchard, the destruction of a Syrian nuclear reactor. The unit is reported to have infiltrated an underground depot near the Syrian site suspected of being a nuclear reactor, in order to designate the target for the incoming Israeli fighters that destroyed it.
During Operation Protective Edge in 2014, the unit conducted attack missions and assisted the IDF's ground offensive. It also took part in finding and destroying Hamas cross-border attack tunnels. It conducted attacks and killed dozens of terrorists while building up what sources describe as "an intelligence infrastructure" for the rest of the military to use in Gaza.
Today, Israels Airforce needs more intelligence than ever before, as Israel's enemies prepare to target the home front with waves of rocket strikes and cross-border raids. Shaldag is at the forefront of this battle. When it is not engaged in top secret, classified operations, it is analyzing Israel’s enemies and preparing for whatever challenges it may need to face in the near future.
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