President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday visited the Shaldag (Kingfisher) special forces unit, escorted by Israeli Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin and the unit’s commander, Lt. Col. Y. Rivlin received a briefing on the unit’s operational activity, then saw a display of weapons and viewed an exercise in which the warriors demonstrated the unit’s capabilities, including storming a building.
The president thanked the warriors, saying “Every day, you are protecting the State of Israel but the public knows little of what you do. On behalf of all Israelis, I thank you for your duty and your devotion.”
Unit 5101, more commonly known as Shaldag, was established in 1974, in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War, under the auspices of the IAF. Its mission is to deploy undetected into hostile environments to conduct special reconnaissance, establish assault zones or airfields, while simultaneously conducting air traffic control and commando actions.
Shaldag operates from the Palmachim airbase and spaceport. Its soldiers carry M16 and M4A1 assault rifles fitted with the M203 grenade launcher. For special missions, they carry Glock 17 pistols and Mauser SR 82/66 sniper rifles.
In 2007, Shaldag was involved in Operation Orchard, the destruction of a Syrian nuclear reactor. The unit reportedly infiltrated an underground depot near the Syrian site and marked the target for incoming Israeli fighters that destroyed it.
Speaking about the importance of compulsory service in the IDF, the president said: “I do not see a situation in which the IDF will not be the people’s army, it is as simple as that. The Israel Defense Forces are our children, our grandchildren, and they are Israel’s security. Even when the face of war changes, the duty to serve is passed down from generation to generation of Israelis, and that will continue. Our operational targets may change, but the makeup of our army must not. It is a vital component of our strength, not empty words.”
Maj. Gen. Norkin said: “Shaldag is a special forces unit of the IAF that makes a great contribution to Israel’s security. At present, and in the current state of the Middle East which changes all the time, we understood we needed to increase our capabilities and operational range. A special ground force as part of the IAF gives us a significant advantage and force multiplier in many missions.”