The new strategic and tactical needs resulting from this century’s asymmetric warfare have forced several NATO armies to accept new operational realities, especially in the area of special operations. The Italian Army, which for several years actively responded to the fight against terrorism, has created the COMFOSE (Comando Forze Speciali dell’Esercito – Army Special Forces HQ), a centralized command that optimizes the training of special units.

Italy, like other European countries involved in a serious economic crisis, should optimize its resources to address the government’s budget cuts. If each military department had its own training center, this would create an unnecessary dispersion of knowledgeable instructors and personnel, as well as an unjustified waste of public money. COMFOSE circumvents all this, at least on paper. The goal of the army chief of staff is to adopt a unique command able to coordinate various operational capabilities of the regiments as far as possible by standardizing training and creating the necessary interoperability to conduct special operations.

The deployment of detachments will always be the responsibility of COFS (Comando Operazioni Forze Speciali – Command for Special Operations), which reports directly to the Army General Staff (TIER 1). Among the various tasks assigned to COMFOSE, one will be to manage the acquisition of new equipment for the different regiments—a sort of testing ground where the best products available from the most qualified Italian companies (some already provide different NATO and U.S. Army units) will be reviewed and selected.

The commander of COMFOSE is Raider’s General (Incursore) Nicola Zanelli, who, from unit headquarters at Pisa (at the barracks “Gamerra,” seat of C. A. Par.—Centro Addestramento Paracadutisti—Parachute Training Centre), will have at his disposal some of the most prestigious Italian Army units.

The tip of the spear is certainly the 9th Assault Paratrooper Regiment “Col Moschin” (SOF TIER 1, based in Livorno), the only special forces unit within the Italian Army. The SF operators have been trained to fight in all environments, from mountains to the water.

The second unit in line is the 4th Mountain Para Regiment (SOF TIER 2, based in Verona), which has assumed the specialization of a Ranger unit. The alpine troops are already a peculiarity of the Italian army; the 4th has the largest and most versatile operational capacities, mainly due to their being airborne.

Becoming An Italian Special Forces Operator

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The third unit (élite of Folgore Parachute Brigade) is the 185th R.R.A.O. (Reggimento Paracadutisti Ricognizione ed Aquisizione Obiettivi – Parachutist Reconnaissance and Target Acquisition Regiment, SOF TIER 2 – Livorno) and consists of a command-and-logistics support component—a training and operative branch. Currently, the primary task assigned to the 185th regiment is special reconnaissance, oriented to search for important tactical information.

The 28th “Pavia” regiment (SOOS Supporto Operativo per Operazioni Speciali – Operational Support for Special Operations, based in Pesaro) is the only unit in the Italian Army to conduct communications operations that aim to create, reinforce, and improve the attitude of the local population toward deployed Italian military forces.

Completing the composition of COMFOSE is the 26th Special Operations Helicopter Unit, “Aldebaran.” Flight crews are qualified following a training cycle held by Special Forces instructors; the unit is equipped with AB412, CH47 and NH90 aircraft.

Source: Italian Army – COMFOSE

Opening photo courtesy of Marco Alberini