Breaching Overview

Overview


While breaching doors and other openings is an integral part of SF deployment, primarily during CT and hostage rescue, it was a neglected issue in the IDF until recent years. Each IDF SF unit used to train on its own techniques and deploy different tools with IDF-wide knowledge management organizational training. Even the formation of the IDF Counter Terror School in the late 1970’s contributed marginally to addressing this gap as the school's primary focus at the time was on hostage rescue room clearing tactics.

The first shift in the IDF approach for breaching occurred due to the failed rescue of kidnapped soldier Nachshon Vaxman in 1994. The raid’s failure was largely associated with Sayeret MATKAL insufficient experience with explosive entry, which compromised the element of surprise, slowing down the entry team and contributing in part to the death of the hostage and an entry team officer.

Following this unsuccessful raid, the IDF realized that its breaching capabilities were severely lacking, and decided to form a dedicated new SF unit, which will specialize in breaching and provide its expertise to other SF units, primarily in operations that require explosive entry. As a result, a new specialized company was created under YAHALOM in 1995. Known as Midron Mushlag, this company was build around a unique IDF SF concept, in which operators from specialized units join SF units during deployments to provide unique expertise.

The next evolution in the IDF SF breaching capabilities occurred in 2004 when the IDF Counter Terror School established a new breaching department, which offered a variety of new specialized training, such as the usage of hydraulic power tools, explosives, weapons and pick-locking to effectively breach openings. Unlike Midron Mushlag, which was designed to work primarily with elite IDF SF units, the Counter Terror School provides all IDF SF units with advanced and continuous breaching training, while ensuring knowledge management of this unique expertise within the IDF. As with most other Counter Terror School instructors, part from their main role of teaching, the school's breaching instructors also periodically support SF and regular units during deployments so they can gain real world experience.

As these specialized units are often in high-demand and their engagement result in non-organic teams, the IDF has been placing increased focus on training SF operators on basic demolition and breaching skills with training taking place at the IDF Combat Engineering School.

Collectively, SF are presented with multiple choices for demolition and breaching support:  

  • YAHALOM and the Counter Terror School's breaching instructors are the preferred breaching units for complex SF operations.

  • The SF units own operators can perform basic demolition and breaching.

  • While the IDF Home Front Command Rescue Companies (PALAHATZ) key role is to support in Search & Rescue during natural disaster situations, large scale terror attacks or wars, their operators receive limited combat training and are equipped with advanced heavy duty breaching tools which can be useful during deployment.

In line with the evolution of the IDF SF breaching capabilities, Hydro-Noa and SAN became the Israel's leading manufacturers of breeching gear. These companies are known for their backpacks carried by a single operator and contains various hydraulic power tools (such as cutters, spreaders, door busters, bar busters and rams), all of which can be attached to a single modular hydraulic pump. These breaching kits standard issue with the Israeli SF units and allow for quick, quiet, and effective breaching.

 

RAFAEL Simon


The RAFAEL Simon Door Breaching Rifle Grenade (also known as Rifle Launched Entry Munition - RLEM) is a ground breaking device in the areas of CT, hostage rescue and other scenarios which require breaching or dynamic entry. Prior to the introduction of the Simon the breaching of locked or barricaded doors required the operator to approach the door and place explosives, therefore risking himself, potential hostages and compromising the raid’s element of surprise.

The Simon, however, can be fired from 15 to 30 meters away from the target door and blast open most types of conventional doors. After it is fired the Simon automatically self armed itself, when the stand off road impact the door, the explosive charge blow up, causing the door to slam in, thus making a clear path for the entry team.

The Simon is made of two main parts: a shaped explosive charge (back part, similar in shape to a standard rifle grenade) and a stand off road (front part). Both parts are encased in plastic housing which makes the Simon a lightweight and portable device, which requires no maintenance for up to 10 years storage life.

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Simon advantages:

  • The Simon stand off road causes the target door to slam in due to impact wave rather then due to a direct contact with explosives. Accordingly, the target door will usually depart intact from its axis, rather then breaking into several pieces like often happens when using manually set explosives. The Simon therefore creates little collateral damage and minimizes the risk to hostages or civilians barricaded inside.
  • Remotely operated, therefore minimizing the risk to the operator and reduces the probability of detection.
  • Can be fired from any 5.56 mm rifle using regular live ammunition, so there is no need for the operator to change magazines after the fire.
  • Effective against most door types including wood and still doors.
  • Simple to operate and doesn’t require explosives or breaching skills from the operator, such as estimating how much explosives should be used for a specific door. This minimizes the need for a demolition expert to be part of the entry team or to be present during the raid.

The Simon only drawback is its high penetration power. As it was designed to break through all types of conventional doors including barricaded steal doors, when it is used against a light and non-barricaded door, the door will slams in strongly. Thus, if there are any hostages present right behind the door, or even few meters behind it, they might take a hit. Hence, in such situations (i.e. one-room apartments) the conventional approach of manually placing explosives is required. However, if there aren't any hostages present and rescuing the barricaded person is not a priority, this disadvantage immediately turn into an advantage adding to the killing potential of the entry team.

There are two types of Simon grenades in use which are similar in dimensions and vary only in the weight of the explosives charge they carry: Simon 120 (with a 120 gram explosive charge) and Simon 150 (with a 150 gram explosive charge). In addition to the two operational variants there is also an inert training version of the Simon, which contains no explosives and is fired by a blank 5.56 mm impulse cartridge. The inert version is reusable by replacing the stand-off rod.

Simon was developed by RAFAEL in the late 1980's. It entered service in the Israeli SF in the early 1990’s and was offered for export few years later in the late 1990's. Since then the Simon was sold to various SF and SWAT units worldwide. In Israel, until recently, it was used exclusively by elite CT units. However, operational lessons from the 2006 Lebanon War, the increased focus in the IDF on breaching and the 2008-2009 Gaza Conflict led to wider issue of the Simon within the IDF SF community and even to conventional infantry units.

YAMAM operator demonstrating firing the Simon. The operator is armed with a M4 fitted with a rubber but stock, an Aimpoint and a rail system, as well as a Glock handgun seen in one of vest's empty magazine pouches. Note KATA vest, Oakley protective eyewear and helmet mounted flashlight.

 

RAFAEL Wallbuster


Based on similar design as the Simon, the Wallbuster is a Wall Breeching Standoff Munitions, which enables tactical units with fast penetration into buildings by blowing man size holes in layered brick walls.

The Wallbuster is man-portable and tripod-launched. It can penetrate two and three-layers brick walls and is used for various urban terrain warfare applications, which require rapid entry into confined spaces, such as CT and hostage rescue scenarios.

The Wallbuster is remotely operated to eliminate risk to the end user. The rocket-powered device is mounted on a tripod and, after once fired, the fuse is armed at a predetermined safety distance. When the standoff rod impinges upon the wall, the Wallbuster impact detonator activates the charge which breaches the wall.

The Wallbuster was developed by the RAFAEL in the late 1980's and entered service with the Israeli SF in early 1990's. As with many other Israeli defense products, it was also offered for export few years later in the late 1990's.

Wallbuster.

Wallbuster's impact. Note the man size hole.

Breaching Guide