Italian special forces
The Italian Special Forces include special forces units from several branches of the Italian Military: the Esercito Italiano or Army, the Marina Militare or Navy, the Aeronautica Militare or Air force and l'Arma dei Carabinieri. Each of these four branches has its own special forces unit, and other state bodies, such as the Italian State Police, have their own units.
Italian Army special units
Italian Army special units are divided into Special Forces and Special Operations Forces:
- 9th Parachute Assault Regiment "Col Moschin", an SAS-like force trained for special operations in all kinds of environments. It is descended from the Arditi (Brave) units that operated on the Italo-Austrian Front of the First World War.
Special Operations Forces
- 4th Alpini Parachutist Regiment "Monte Cervino" - a combination of elite mountain infantry and airborne troops. The 4th is best suited for high-altitude operations. It inherits the name from the Battaglione Alpini Sciatori (Alpine Skiers Battalion) "Monte Cervino", a battalion of "special operation forces" born during WWI and deployed in the eastern front in WWII. They were nicknamed Diavoli Bianchi (White Devils) for their white snow camouflage suits. Disbanded after WWII, in 1964 it became the Compagnia Alpini Paracadutisti (Alpini Parachute Company), in 1990 it gained the name of "Monte Cervino", and in 1996 it was reformed. In 1999, the battalion earned the qualification of "Ranger" (the only one amongst the Italian special forces). In 2004 it was elevated and took the name, flag and traditions of the 4th Alpini Regiment.
- 185th Reconnaissance Target Acquisition Regiment "Folgore" (RAO - Reggimento Acquisizione Obiettivi) - its mission is to find and mark enemy objectives for bombers or artillery units. The regiment is divided into four batteries (BAOs), trained to operate in different environments:
- 1st "Draghi" (Dragons) - desert environment;
- 2nd "Aquile" (Eagles) mountainous and Arctic environment;
- 3rd "Diavoli" (Devils) amphibious environment;
- 4th for "special reconnaissance" and surveillance.
- The 185th RAO is the ideal "son" of the 13th GRACO (GRuppo ACquisizione Obiettivi, Target Acquisition Group) "Aquileia", joint group of airborne and artillery personnel part of the 3rd Missile Brigade "Aquileia", who were trained to parachute close to or even behind the enemy lines in order to give accurate launch coordinates.
- Every BAO is composed of several DAOs Distaccamenti Acquisizione Obbiettivi (detachments of eight men each). For every BAO there is a minimum of two DAOs specialized in amphibious ops, two in forward air control and one in advanced parachute usage.
- 26th Special Operations Helicopter Unit "Giove" - a special helicopter unit trained to support, supply, infiltrate/exfiltrate SF and SOF units in enemy territory.
The Italian Navy special forces unit is the COMSUBIN (Comando Subacquei ed Incursori) - the Raiders & Divers Group. Specifically the 150-200 men of the Operational Raiders Group are the special forces section of the elite unit.
- GOI (Gruppo Operativo Incursori) - is the branch with raiders; they are trained for naval/coastal operations (but are also used on the mountains of Afghanistan in operation ISAF), are also equipped with special over/under water vehicles for silent insertions.
- GOS (Gruppo Operativo Subacquei) - is the sub branch for rescue tasks and damage inspection / repair of vessels.
COMSUBIN's origins lie with the famous Italian special units "X MAS" (Italian acronym for Anti Submarine Motorboats). The name referred to an early vehicle employed by the units, an explosive-laden crewless motorboat ("barchino") which was aimed and launched against enemy submersibles (keep in mind that until well after WW2 subs were essentially surface ships with the capability of temporarily diving underwater for attacks). After WWI much study and development went into underwater raid techniques but the unit's name was never altered, leading to the false impression that Italian seafaring commandoes were still relegated to anti-submarine warfare only. Instead many flotillas were armed and equipped to direct raids on enemy ships using explosive head-charges in guided torpedoes with 2-man crews (Siluri a Lenta Corsa or S.L.C.), with hand explosive charges (by frogmen) or with small, fast, self-explosive boats (S.M.A.). Sometimes the raiders approached the target by means of submarines with special tanks installed on the external bridge containing the special vehicles (S.L.C.). COMBUSIN GOI personnel are largely drawn from the ranks of the Navy's San Marco Marine Regiment.
Italian Air Force special units
- 17º Stormo Incursori the raiders corp of Italian Air Force. Its primary missions: raids on aeronautical compounds, forward air control, combat controlling, and combat search and rescue. Its origins are in the A.D.R.A Arditi Distruttori Regia Aeronautica (Royal Air Force Brave Destroyers), a corp of WW2. They were used in not-well-known missions against bridges and allied airfields in North Africa after the fall of Tunisia. The only well-known mission reported the destruction with explosive charges of 25 B-17s and the killing of 50 bomber crew members.
- The Italian Air Force operates a special helicopter wing (the 9° Stormo "Francesco Baracca") dedicated to supporting the special operations conducted by the special forces units of other branches of the Armed Services.
Carabinieri Corps special units
The Carabinieri is a Gendarmerie (military police) with both (civil and military) law-and-order police duties and military peacekeeping and war-fighting capabilities. The Carabinieri has its own special forces in the form of the Gruppo di Intervento Speciale or the Special Intervention Group. The GIS features some one hundred or so troops specially trained in counter-terrorism operations with a special emphasis on marksmanship. Another special unit is the 1° Reggimento Carabinieri Paracadutisti "Tuscania" (1st Carabinieri Airborne Regiment). It is a regiment of military police/anti-terrorism unit. The usual roles:
- military, common with all other airborne/special operation forces troops;
- law-enforcement, supporting the Carabinieri law-enforcement units in dangerous areas (homeland security e.g. mafia-controlled zones, violent metro riots) and VIP escort and security service;
- provide training for other Carabinieri special operation units. All the GIS operatives come from the "Tuscania" Regiment
Police special units
The Italian State Police operates its own counter-terrorism unit, called the NOCS or Central Security Operational Nucleus. It cross-trains with the Carabinieri Corps' GIS but is wholly independent of it both logistically and administratively.
The Italian Guardia di Finanza also has a counter-terrorism unit, the ATPI, on grounds that the Force is tasked with the main responsibility of high-profile duties such as fighting tax evasion, financial crimes, copyright violations, smuggling, money laundering, international illegal drug trafficking, illegal immigration, credit card fraud, cybercrime, counterfeiting, terrorist financing, in addition with being tasked of maintaining customs and borders checks, conducting anti-Mafia operations, maintaining public order in some circumstances, and enforcing safety, political and military defense of the Italian borders. The ATPI team has participated in several operations overseas in cooperation with local law enforcement bodies, especially in the countries of provenience of most of the illegal immigrants, drugs and other contraband that's introduced yearly in Italy: Albania, Kosovo, Hungary, and also trained newly founded local law enforcement agencies in investigative activities and tactical responses in Afghanistan and Iraq.
There is talk of increasing cross-service training, especially in the field of special operations, with the possibility of forging a joint special operations command to facilitate operational flexibility and interoperability.
The Local Police of the city of Milan has its own counter-terrorism unit, the Nucleo Specialistico Emergenze, which is trained for chemicals and biological attacks against the city.