IDF unveils first-of-its-kind unit unifying pilots, tank drivers and more

Military says the unit, which has yet to be named, will focus on ‘locating, attacking and destroying the enemy,’ will also be used to try out new fighting techniques and tactics

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Illustrative. Infantry soldiers take aim in front of a tank during an exercise in southern Israel on August 14, 2017. (Cpl. Eden Briand/Israel Defense Forces/Flickr)
Illustrative. Infantry soldiers take aim in front of a tank during an exercise in southern Israel on August 14, 2017. (Cpl. Eden Briand/Israel Defense Forces/Flickr)

The Israel Defense Forces on Wednesday created a new type of combat unit bringing together infantry, tanks, combat engineering and air power to serve as a proving ground for new fighting techniques and tactics.

The unit appeared to be first of its kind anywhere in the world, the army said.

The military said the troops who will serve in this unit were already arriving at their new base, whose location has not been disclosed, and would begin a team-building process shortly. It was not immediately clear when this new unit would become fully operational.

“Its members are meant to know how to operate in all fronts of the war, with the central characteristic being a high level of fitness and the ability to locate, attack and destroy the enemy in all regions and on all levels,” the military said.

The creation of this multi-faceted unit is part of IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi’s multi-year Tenufa (Momentum) Plan to make the military more lethal, effective and prepared for the types of threats it is expected to face, which is currently being rolled out.

This new detachment does not yet have a formal name or an official tag worn by the soldiers within it, but is for the time being referred to as “the multi-faceted unit.” It is approximately the size of a battalion, meaning it contains several hundred soldiers.

The unit is commanded by a lieutenant colonel, who can only be identified by the first Hebrew letter of his name, Ayin. It is subordinate to the IDF’s 98th Division, of the Central Command, which also contains the military’s Commando Brigade.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi visits a special forces exercise taking place in Cyprus in December 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

The military said this unit was not a pilot program or an experiment. However, it is also meant to serve as a testing ground for new combat techniques and tactics that will be developed by another newly created unit, known by the Hebrew acronym Shiluah, which stands for “fighting methods and modernity,” the army said.

The unit is considered revolutionary within the IDF as it brings together ordinarily disparate and discrete units into one hierarchy. This does not exist elsewhere in the IDF. Even in cases where tanks are fighting alongside an infantry unit, the tank operators are subordinate to their armored units and the infantrymen are led by their infantry commanders.

That will not be the case in this type of new unit. The fighter pilots serving there will no longer be directly subordinate to the air force but would be formally part of the same unit, under the same commander, the IDF said.

Over the past year, the military has tested this type of multifaceted fighting style in several exercises and had begun building its organizational structure, but the arrival of soldiers to the unit marks a significant step toward its full realization, the military said.

For now, the IDF would not fully reveal all of the units that will be part of this new detachment. However, it said that among them would be teams from the Nahal Brigade’s Reconnaissance Battalion, the elite Yahalom combat engineering unit, the 401st Armored Brigade, the Golani Brigade and the Paratroopers Brigade.

The military said intelligence and communications units would also be part of the detail.

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