The Gruppo Operativo Incursori (GOI): Italian Raiders

The Gruppo Operativo Incursori (GOI – Operational Raiders Group) is a Tier 1 elite special forces unit of the Italian Navy. The GOI is part of the COMSUBIN, which is the Comando Raggruppamento Subacquei e Incursori “Teseo Tesei” (Divers and Raiders Group Command “Teseo Tesei”).

Gruppo Operativo Incursori (GOI)
Gruppo Operativo Incursori badge

History of the Gruppo Operativo Incursori

The Gruppo Operativo Incursori’s origins trace back to Decima Flottiglia MAS (10th MAS – 10th Assault Vehicle Flotilla), which was an Italian flotilla of the Italian Royal Navy during the Second World War. Between 1940 and 1945, during the Battle of Mediterranean, thanks to their bravery and their skills, the men of this unit managed to damage and sink 20 merchant ships and five warships.

With the armistice of the 8th of September 1943, the unit was divided into two groups. One group, called Mariassalto, moved to Taranto, and the second was based in La Spezia.

After the war, in 1947, the Italian Navy established the Maricentrosub. It had to coordinate operations with divers and frogmen with the aim of clearing mines from various Italian harbours. While carrying out these missions, the unit never stopped training, and in 1952, the Italian Navy decided to create a diver and raider unit, called Gruppo Arditi Incursori.

On the 15th of February 1960, the unit took the current name of COMSUBIN.

In the 1970s, the British Special Air Service trained the Raiders, especially in counterterrorism operations and hostage rescue. Since then, the GOI took part in various missions both in Italy and abroad, making it the first counterterrorism military unit in Italy.

Gruppo Operativo Incursori (GOI)

Structure of the Gruppo Operativo incursori

The GOI is a Tier 1 elite special forces unit and it consists of around 100 and 150 individuals. It is part of the COMSUBIN, but operationally the unit is under the Joint Special Forces Operations Command (COFS – Comando interforze per le operazioni delle Forze Speciali).

Operators of the Gruppo Operativo Incursori

The COMSUBIN is dependent on the chief of staff of the Italian Navy and it is based in Varignano, La Spezia.

It consists of six commands:

  • The Gruppo Operativo Incursori, which is the only special forces unit of the Italian Navy
  • The Gruppo Operativo Subacquei (GOS – Operational Divers Group), which specialises in scuba diving
  • The General Headquarter, which is responsible for logistics and administration
  • The Ufficio Studi (Studies Office). It is involved in the development of the equipment of the units
  • The Gruppo Scuole (Schools Group) is responsible for the training of the personnel. It specialises in three different subjects: divers, riders, and underwater and hyperbaric medicine
  • The Gruppo Navale Speciale (Special Naval Group). It manages the navy units that support the COMSUBIN such as the Anteo, Marino, and Pedretti.

Joint Special Forces Operations Command (COFS)

The COFS (Italian:Comando interforze per le operazioni delle forze speciali) is in charge of planning and carrying out special operations and it controls all the special forces of each Italian armed force:

  • 4th Alpini Paratroopers Regiment “Monte Cervino”
  • 9th Paratroopers Assault Regiment “Col Moschin”, part of the Italian Army Special Forces
  • 17th Raiders Wing, part of the Italian Air Force
  • 185th Paratroopers Reconnaissance Target Acquisition Regiment “Folgore”
  • Operational Raiders Group (GOI)
  • Special Intervention Group (GIS – Gruppo di Intervento Speciale), part of the Carabinieri.
The organisational chart of COFS

Responsibilities Gruppo Operativo Incursori

The GOI primarily focuses on maritime special operations. These operations concern direct actions, military assistance, and special reconnaissance.

The specific assignments appointed to the GOI are:

  • Attacks on merchant or naval ships either at sea or at port
  • Naval counterterrorism operations, specialised in rescuing hostages
  • Infiltration and long-term stays in hostile areas for reconnaissance missions
  • Attacks on military and civil infrastructures and coastal and port installations within 40km from the coast.

The GOI is able to operate at short notice and in a covert manner employing different weapons systems. This unit is also responsible for:

  • Raids
  • Sabotage
  • Rescue of sensitive targets
  • Neutralisation of sensitive infrastructures
  • Collection of tactical data
  • Collaborate with foreign special forces in the event of a crisis

Training of Gruppo Operativo Incursori

The training process for the recruits that want to join the GOI is harsh, selective, and thorough. Only 10% of the recruits usually gain the “combat ready” licence.

The first step is the aptitude test, which takes place in the selection centre of the Navy in Ancona. After that, the recruits have to go to Varignano and they need to pass more physical tests.

Phase 2

After succeeding in these first tests, the recruits have to go through the second phase, which lasts around nine months. This phase consists of:

  • Ground combat. It lasts 12 weeks and it focuses on marches, swimming skills, physical exercises, handling weapons, cartography, and mapping.
  • Water combat lasts 13 weeks. It focuses on naval assault techniques, teamwork, studying the breathing apparatus, swimming at depth and underwater.
  • Amphibious warfare lasts 12 weeks. The recruit receives training on how to operate in different kinds of coastal terrain, handling explosives, and direct action against hostile installations.

Phase 3

The third and final phase lasts fifteen weeks. During this period the recruits have to plan and overcome a series of missions: one land and one maritime.

Gruppo Operativo Incursori (GOI)
GOI during CQB training in 2016

After this ordinary course which lasts almost a year, the recruits, that have now become riders, are still not combat-ready, and consequently, they have to gain a parachuting license.

Specialisation Phase

Following there is the specialisation phase, which lasts around eight months. In this phase, the operators have to learn how to use underwater means, and naval vehicles, and they can improve their skills and deepen their knowledge, acquired during the previous phase.

(Video; GOI Training Exercises; via anaim on YouTube)

At the end of the training, all the recruits need to be able to deliver these performances:

  • Drive vessels and naval means
  • Covert long-term stays in hostile territories
  • Handle various types of weapons and underwater explosives
  • Assault on naval ships in port and at sea
  • Overcome rocky walls
  • Land navigation
  • Rappelling
  • Parachute training

Equipment of the Gruppo Operativo Incursori

The GOI’s motto is “E fluctibus irruit in hostem“, which means “from the sea we break into the enemy”.

The Gruppo Operativo Incursori has access to a variety of weapons including:

Assault rifles

  • Heckler & Koch 416 and 417
  • Colt M-4
  • Sig Sauer MCX .300

Sniper rifles

  • Sako TRG-42 and TRG-21
  • Barrett M107
  • Accuracy International Arctic Warfare
  • SR-25

Sub Guns & Hand Guns

  • Heckler & Koch HK MP5, MP5K, and MP5SD
  • Heckler & Koch HK MP7
  • Glock 17 and 41
  • FN Minimi
  • Sig Sauer 716 and 716G2
  • Beretta RS202
Active Duty GOI operator, Mario Chima’s loadout

Vehicles

The vehicles adopted by the unit are:

  • Unità Navale Polifunzionale ad Alta Velocità (UNPAV – Cabrini-class patrol boat)
  • Single Delivery Vehicle (SDV) used by the operators for the submarine propulsion
  • Zodiac Hurricane inflatable boats
  • Iveco VM90, Land Rover Wolf and Defender, used as ground vehicles

Missions of the GOI

In 1994, the GOI, with Col Moschin, was deployed to Rwanda. It took part in a delicate mission aimed to rescue the Italian citizens stuck in the country during the genocide and the political crisis.

Afghanistan

Between 2001 and 2005, the Gruppo Operativo Incursori took part in the Enduring Freedom Operation in Afghanistan. The GOI had to operate in Khost, in the East. This counterterrorism mission saw the GOI securing and monitoring the bordering areas in order to be safe for the international contingent. It was on this occasion that the GOI’s sniper proved their skills, also being able to kill possible threats during the night. 

At the end of the mission, the riders remained on board the US Navy, operating with the US Navy SEALs, which were then focused on raiding enemies bases.

The GOI was stationed in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2016. It was a member of Task Force 45, an Italian Special forces-led military unit affiliated with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

The key responsibilities included training the Afghan forces, rescuing hostages, conducting special reconnaissance, gathering intelligence, and capturing enemies.

Since 2016, the GOI also operates at the request of the Agenzia Informazioni e Sicurezza Esterna (AISE – External Intelligence and Security Agency). Very similar too the increment with MI6 or US Special Mission Units of JSOC with the CIA.

The Gruppo Operativo Incursori took part in several international operations, including one in Mali. In 2020, the GOI joined Task Force Takuba alongside other Italian Special forces, including the 9th Paratroopers Assault Regiment “Col Moschin” and the 17th Raiders Wing.

Rachele Momi
Rachele Momi
Rachele Momi is a graduate in Intelligence & Security Studies at Brunel University and in Middle East Politics at SOAS. Her research is mainly focused on the Middle East region, tradecraft, and defence issues.

Related contents