The Israeli Navy conducted a two-day hostage rescue drill at sea last week. The exercise, dubbed Sea Minister, involved dozens of naval forces, including the elite Flotilla 13 (Shayetet 13) commando unit, which was deployed in response to a simulated terrorist takeover of a large merchant ship off Israel’s northern Mediterranean coast.
"We gave all the actors the ability for independent judgment. […] I didn’t even know how it would end. We were dealing with all of it, at all of its stages, as the mission evolved,” Rear Adm. Ido, head of force implementation in the Israel Navy’s Operations Branch, told Defense News.
According to the officer, the scenario began with a distress call from a "civilian" ship, which activated the Israeli Navy's procedures for gathering intelligence with which to identify the vessel and its precise location. In parallel, the Navy began negotiations with the "hostage takers" in order to assess their demands and operative goals.
At this point, the Navy assessed there were 10 hostages and "a similar number" of terrorists aboard, he said.
"We knew that we were dealing with the seizure of a civilian ship; an act of terror … but we needed to understand first what were their intentions. Did they plan a suicide mission or did they have demands?" the officer said. "Our goal, at the end of the day, was to retake the ship, neutralize the terrorists and release the hostages."
Tactics determined for the operation included fast drop to the ship’s deck by an Israeli Air Force helicopter while another unit made its way to the ship by sea. At the same time, relevant "authorities" throughout Israel’s defense establishment were apprised of the situation.
"It’s a complicated operational challenge to have an exercise that just erupts on a normal day. […] Until a moment ago, it seemed we were dealing with a civilian ship, and then suddenly it became a national operation, involving the General Staff, Air Force, ground forces, counterterror operators and missile units," the commander noted.
The drill involved coordinated, joint force operations. "We practiced full synchronization to determine the right moment and the right conditions for our attack," he said.
"At the end of the day, the activity was successful. We managed to overtake the ship and to kill most of the terrorists," the officer concluded.
[Source: Defense News]