Patch of EKO Cobra
|Branch||Federal Ministry of the Interior|
|Type||Police Tactical Unit|
|Garrison/HQ||Wiener Neustadt, Austria|
|Nickname(s)||As Gendarmerieeinsatzkommando: GEK
As Einsatzkommando Cobra: EKO
EKO Cobra (Einsatzkommando Cobra) is the elite Police Tactical Unit of the Austrian Federal Ministry of the Interior. EKO Cobra is not part of the Austrian Federal Police but is directly under the control of the Federal Ministry of the Interior.
The roots of the EKO Cobra lie in the Gendarmerieeinsatzkommando Bad Vöslau that was originally formed by the regional police authority of Lower Austria to protect east European Jews during their migration via Austria to Israel against terrorist threats. As the tactical skills of this unit were welcome in other fields, too, the mission of the Gendarmerieeinsatzkommando became broader in the course of years, and it climbed the hierarchy, from being a regional unit to becoming assigned directly to the Generaldirektion für öffentliche Sicherheit, the leading authority for public security within the Ministry of the Interior.
The name Cobra was coined by the press. It was a reference to the US TV series Mission: Impossible that was aired in German under the title Kobra, übernehmen Sie. It first appeared in June 1973 in the Kronen Zeitung.
The determining step of founding today's Cobra as a unit of the Ministry of the Interior rather than a regional police unit was done in 1978, primarily as a response to the attack on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Its main office is in Wiener Neustadt, with sub-offices in Graz, Linz, Salzburg and Innsbruck.
The Federal Ministry of the Interior changed the unit's name from GEK to EKO Cobra in 2002.
The 450 men of EKO Cobra have trained with some[which?] of the most elite special forces units.
EKO Cobra was involved in a hostage rescue in the Graz-Karlau Prison in 1996 and numerous other operations. Although it has never participated in the same type of hostage rescue operations that the HRT, GIGN, GIS, NSG, ERU, GSG 9 and the SAS have had, the EKO Cobra is the only Counter-Terrorism unit to end a hijacking while the aircraft was still in the air. On 17 October 1996, four Cobra officers were on board an Aeroflot Tupolev Tu-154 escorting deported prisoners to Lagos when a Nigerian man threatened the cockpit crew with a knife and demanded a diversion to Germany or South Africa. The team overpowered the man and handed him over to the authorities after landing. The officers received a decoration from Russian Prime Minister Putin.
135 EKO Cobra operatives together with units of the Austrian Armed Forces were involved in the search for Alois Huber in the Annaberg shooting, who killed three police officers and one Red Cross EMT on September 17, 2013, in Lower Austria.
Recruitment and training
Any member of the Austrian Federal Police may apply for the EKO Cobra. The tests consist of medical examinations, psychological tests and vigorous physical tests. Upon successful completion of the tests the recruits attend 6 months of specialized training which includes marksmanship, tactical training, sports, driver courses, abseiling/rappelling, hand-to-hand combat, language classes, etc. Besides the courses taught in the basic training, further specialization is possible in fields, such as parachuting, diving, explosives or sniping.
Since its establishment in 1978, 1,140 officers have served in EKO Cobra.
The unit's headquarters is located in Wiener Neustadt (Lower Austria). It performs all administrative activities and the training for the EKO Cobra officers. Further departments exist in Vienna, Graz, Linz and Innsbruck with small field offices in Klagenfurt, Salzburg and Feldkirch.
Each department contains four teams and each field office contains two. This structure allows the units to be deployed anywhere in Austria in less than 70 minutes.
EKO Cobra is armed mainly with Austrian weaponry, but sometimes foreign-produced arms are used too.
They are equipped with many Steyr-manufactured weapons, such as the Steyr AUG (military designation: StG 77) assault rifle, the sniper rifle Steyr SSG 69 including its sound-suppressed variant and the 9mm Steyr TMP machine pistol. Glock pistols are used as sidearms, the most common being the Glock 17 and Glock 19 semi-automatic 9×19mm Parabellum pistol along with the Glock 18 with full-auto capability.
Other types of weapons, like the Manurhin MR 73 revolvers, the Franchi SPAS-12, Remington 870 and Heckler & Koch HK512 shotguns, the MP5A3 or Heckler & Koch MP7 sub-machine guns or the MZP-1 40 mm grenade launcher are also used depending on the situation.
EKO Cobra use a variety of equipment designed for a variety of situations.
EKO Cobra officers wear the uniform of the Austrian Federal Police with certain modifications:
- Maroon beret to indicate their elite status
- The unit's insignia is worn instead of the police insignia
- The rank insignia's background is black instead of red as from the regular Federal Police uniforms
During tactical operations the officers wear green or black coveralls along with their tactical gear.
Austria's capital city, Vienna, has its own police tactical unit, WEGA (Wiener Einsatzgruppe Alarmabteilung). It is trained to similar standards and is capable of handling serious situations such as hostage taking.
Annual Warrior Competition
EKO Cobra competed in the 2011 Annual Warrior Competition winning top honors. EKO Cobra defeated a United States Marine Corps 13th MEU and a joint team from U.S. Army Special Forces 5th Group and Jordan SFG 101 among many others.
- Riegler, Thomas (2013). "Vom "Gendarmeriekommando Bad Vöslau" zur "Cobra": Der Aufbau der Österreichischen Antiterrorkräfte" [From the "Gendarmeriekommando Bad Vöslau" to the "Cobra": The Build-Up of Austria’s Counterterrorism Forces]. Journal For Intelligence, Propaganda And Security Studies (in German). 7 (1): 116–138. Retrieved 28 December 2017.
- Nilsson, Jeff. "Top 10 Most Dangerous Special-Forces Around the World". The Richest. Retrieved 9 February 2015.
- Loinig, Matthias. "Charred body of Austrian gunman found in bunker of house". Austrian Times. Archived from the original on 10 February 2015. Retrieved 9 February 2015.
- "Tiroler Cobra-Beamte in München im Einsatz" [Tyrolean Cobra officers in action in Munich]. ORF (in German). 23 July 2016. Retrieved 28 December 2017.
- "42 Cobra-Beamte in München im Einsatz" [42 Cobra officers in action in Munich]. Die Presse (in German). 23 July 2016. Retrieved 28 December 2017.
- Wenda, Gregor (2017). "Gemeinsame Terrorbekämpfung" [Joint Counter-Terrorism] (PDF). Sondereinheiten (in German). Federal Ministry of the Interior: 11–16. Retrieved 28 December 2017.
- Unger, Christian; Emmrich, Julia (9 July 2017). "Österreichische "Cobra" im Einsatz". Berliner Morgenpost (in German). Retrieved 28 December 2017.
- "Drei Österreicher verletzt: Deutsche Polizei fürchtet neue Eskalation". Die Presse (in German). Retrieved 28 December 2017.
- Hofer, Stefan (11 July 2017). "G-20: Cobra und Wega "an vorderster Front"". Kurier (in German). Retrieved 28 December 2017.
- Spiegel TV Spezial: Einsatzkommando Cobra - Ausbildung einer Elite-Einheit. Fernsehreportage, 2006.
- "30 Jahre "Cobra"" (PDF). Federal Ministry of the Interior (in German). Retrieved 1 August 2012.
- "Österreichische Sondereinheit: Cobra, übernehmen Sie!". Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (in German). 26 July 2011. Retrieved 26 July 2012.
- "3rd Annual Warrior Competition Event, 2011". Warrior Competition. Retrieved 28 December 2017.
- (in German) Official website