MILITARY POLICE SPECIAL OPERATIONS DETACHMENT “COBRAS”

The elite military special unit, which long tradition is filled with exceptional professional achievements, whilst its operators` professionalism and military honour made it the pride of the Serbian Armed Forces and citizens of the Republic of Serbia.

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The VIP close protection group demonstrating tactics of action. : specijalne-jedinice.com

HISTORY AND PURPOSE

In the early 1970s, the world was facing a development of the new security threats, emerging at the global scale. The specificity of their preparation and application, along with the training and organization of its direct perpetrators, imposed the need for changes in national security elements organization, as well as the need to intensify cooperation at the supranational level. On the territory of former Yugoslavia, the events in the area around Bugojno (the area of the current Central Bosnia Canton of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina), followed by the military-police operation in the Raduša Mountain during 1972, indicated the weaknesses of the then security systems. With the decisions of the former federal management the organization of smaller, specialized formations began, trained and equipped under special standards. Such formations would have been capable of reacting effectively to the complex types of security threats in all conditions and would have represented very significant and formidable factors of both, the republics and the entire former federation systems. One of the first units of such type in former Yugoslavia was established within the armed forces of the former state, on April 14, 1978 in Belgrade, under the order of State Defense Secretary. According to the order, the Military Police Counter Terrorist Department was established, within the 282nd Military Police Battalion of the YPA (Yugoslav People`s Army), under Chief of the General Staff.

Nothing is Impossible!

At first, the department had 12 operators in strength, chosen according the special criteria, defined with the same order of State Defense Secretary. During 1985, the Counter Terrorist Department had increased its formation and organized as the Counter Terrorist Platoon, responsible to the then Guards Brigade command. With the personnel increase, the formation increased its operability volume, thus becoming able to effectively conduct other tasks then counter terrorist actions, such as the VIP and high-value infrastructure protection, along with other military-security tasks.

With the escalation of conflicts in former Yugoslavia, the unit was engaged in combat actions from the very beginning. The disintegration of former Yugoslavia had brought changes to this unit as well, so it was settled under the former Corps of Special Units and continued to carry out combat tasks. The reliability in the execution of all the combat tasks has built a great reputation of the unit, whilst the exceptional combat experience will have been of huge significance in the upcoming years, in training of the younger generations of the Serbian “Cobras”.

In 2000, the unit had been organized as a counter terrorist detachment, answering directly to Chief of the General Staff of the then Yugoslav Army. In the upcoming years, the detachment had been increasing its formation strength, with Colonel Stojan Kljajić having significant credits for the development of the unit throughout this period, who had been conducting commanding duties until 2005. Also, a new insignia of the unit was adopted in this period, in the form of a winged cobra, wrapped around a sword, which will have become a symbol of prestige amongst the Serbian soldiers. The unit had been organized as the counter terrorist detachment until 2006, and with the next systematization as the Military Police Special Operations Battalion “Cobras”, until the end of 2020, when — in accordance with tradition — was once again settled as the detachment directly under Chief of the Serbian Armed Forces General Staff. With these, the unit`s response time has been improved and chain of command simplified.

Today, the Military Police Special Operation Detachment “Cobras” is directly under Chief of the General Staff of the Serbian Armed Forces, being connected with the Military Police Directorate only professionally, specially trained and equipped for:

-VIP close protection, especially top military and state officials
-fighting terrorism in all conditions
-protection of important infrastructure
-protection of important assets, such as documents, gear and armament
-other military-police tasks defined under Article 53, of the Law on Serbian Armed Forces (Srb. Zakon o Vojsci Srbije)

The central base of the “Cobras” is settled at the Vasa Čarapić barracks at Banjica, Belgrade, and every April 14 is honoured as the day of the unit, remembering the date of the Counter Terrorist Department foundation, the eldest military counter terrorist unit. The commanding duties currently carries out Lieutenant Colonel Goran Colić, who succeeded Lieutenant Colonel Vladimir Ušljebrka, whose predecessor was Lieutenant Colonel Viktor Dobrić, at the beginning of 2015. From the foundation until the present day, the Cobras have been carrying out duties in over fifty countries in the world, in Russia, Iraq, Turkey, Nigeria, China, Qatar, Canada, USA, and are regular participants in peace-keeping missions in Cyprus, Lebanon and Somalia. Recognitions for devoted and professional execution of tasks were given with a myriad of medals from the highest state and military officials. The unit has been decorated by President of the Republic of Serbia multiple times, who is also the commander of the Serbian Armed Forces. In 2002, the then Yugoslav Army Counter Terrorist Detachment “Cobras” was decorated for exceptional credits in the areas of defense and security with the Medal of Knight`s Sword of III Degree, while at the beginning of 2015, the Military Police Special Operations Battalion “Cobras” was decorated with the Golden Medal for Exceptional Credits in the Areas of Defense and Security.

ORGANIZATION

The present organization of the Military Police Special Operations Detachment “Cobras” defines the commanding element, with the Command Platoon being operational with sub-elements: the Counter-diversion Protection Team, the K9 Team (with K9s mostly trained for explosives and explosive devices), the Communication Department and the Technical Maintenance Platoon. The counter-diversion protection technicians protect infrastructure within the central base of the unit, includng service vehicles being used, inspect paper or electronic documents, postal envelopes, packages and the like, conduct field inspections within the professionals activities. The Instructor Group is made of the most experienced Cobras operators, all of whom plan and conduct the regular and specialist training of the operating personnel, selection of candidates and regular training of rookies.

Operating companies are divided according to the entrusted tasks and jobs, or specialist training of the majority within a specific company. Amongst the operating companies one is intended to conduct counter terrorist actions and gathers younger operators, all of whom had previously completed courses of basic and advanced counter terrorist training, sniper specialist training and the like. Several operating companies are tasked to carry out the VIP close protection and high-value facilities protection, and their ranks are, as a rule, filled with the close protection specialists, assigned by the senior officers. The operating companies have 50-60 operators in strength. The companies are further divided into operating platoons, each with 3-4 tactical teams in strength, as a rule. In order to maintain and improve combat readiness of the operators and the entire unit, the operators` training curriculum is designed to make operators of any team able to participate in the execution of other companies tasks, or provide assistance to the teams of any company.

The logistics of the Military Police Special Operation Detachment “Cobras” is covered by the Serbian Armed Forces Guards Brigade Logistic Battalion.

Today, the unit enlists several versatile female operators of various specialties.

TRAINING

The decision on organization and execution of a selection of candidates for a vacancy at the detachment is brought by the detachment`s command, according to the needs of the unit and number of vacancies, defined by the ongoing systematization. Before the initial checks and tests, the decision on the job opening is published on time, so that the interested have certain time to submit the required documents. The application is voluntary, with candidates being selected exclusively among the professional personnel of the Serbian Armed Forces.

Watch the exclusive VIP close protection group demonstration on our YouTube channel .

The pre-selection of the candidates starts with background checks of every candidate, including the documents submitted. Mandatory medical checks are next in line, conducted at the Military Medical Academy at Banjica in Belgrade and include blood pressure, hearth rate at relative workloads, lungs, eyesight, hearing checks and the like. The candidates with positive evaluations from specialist doctors are dispatched to the selection training.

A place at the elite and eldest counter terrorist unit of the Serbian Armed Forces everybody wants, but only the very few manage to achieve it. The criteria are very high, because the “Cobras” need only the best individuals. In order to wear the black beret and insignia of the unit on a shoulder, one must pass through a heavy and long way, with constant proving.

The first part of the selection is a classical drill, lasting for a month. It begins at the “Cobras” base and Military Academy at Banjica with classic physical strength, endurance and stamina tests. As a rule, a certain percent of candidates does not meet the criteria at the very first tests. The drill is designed to push the candidates to the limits of physical endurance and force them to thoroughly question their motives of application.

They experience fear in terms of being unable to complete a given task. That is why the instructors impose on the candidates, with an attitude to believe in themselves and that it is the unit for which no task is impossible. At the beginning of training, the instructors work together with them to show by personal example it is possible to complete a task.
D.M.
instructor at the unit

Besides strength exercises, long full-gear marches are carried out in rough terrain, being almost a symbol of the Serbian Cobras drills with many operators earning the life-long memories , in terms of feet scars. Those, whose character is strong enough to withstand the hardships constantly imposed by the instructors, will have acquired an envious physical fitness that will have been very important for successful completion of the upcoming selection phases.

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A detail from firearm training. : specijalne-jedinice.com

With the completion of the drill, the remaining candidates are dispatched to basic training, also of elimination type, being carried out at several locations in the country. In the first three months of the basic training, the physical fitness of the candidates is improved, with close combat practice within the special physical training, including martial arts such as karate, boxing, kickboxing aikido etc. Special attention is given to ground techniques. The candidates practice self-defense with bare hands, cold arm and firearm self-defense, or using other tools (military shovel, axe, baton etc.). The experienced instructor Dušan Jakovljević is in charge of this part of training, who sets standards and instills respect in younger candidates, with his shape, and, above all, his broad experience and stance. Intensive firearm training is conducted (courses of handgun use, submachine gun and automatic rifle use) in conjunction with range shooting, with special attention given to safe firearm handling and carrying, especially after cocking a firearm, and the candidates firstly practice techniques of precision shooting and then master the combat one, using the domestic and foreign firearms in use at the unit. Certain parts of firearm training are being conducted in the handgun shooting range at the General Jovan Mišković barracks, as well as at the Rastko Nemanjić barracks[1] in Pančevo, and Peskovi military range. Climbing training, use of military technical systems and parts of expert military-police training are also practiced in this phase of training.

Watch the exclusive indoor shooting range demonstration on our YouTube channel .

The first three months of the basic training are organized in order to develop individual knowledge and skills of a candidate. Testing results of every candidate are carefully monitored and noted and have a decisive impact on the candidate`s capabilities evaluation, deciding their future status.

After the completion of the first phase of the basic training, in the next six months, the remaining candidates complete the most tests in groups. The checks in this phase have been carefully designed by generations of the Cobras instructors and set so that a successful completion is often possible only through a good teamwork. In this phase the candidates meticulously study tactics, the basics of special operations and quick reaction tactics in all conditions, close quarters battle, hostage crisis and their resolution in facilities, or hijacked means of transportation, elements of the VIP and facility close protection and the like.

With the completion of the six-months training, the team of instructors conducts evaluation of every candidate`s achieved results[2], including their behavior in extremely stressful situations, their determination, desire and capability to be a leader, to respect authorities and the like. If one meets the high standards of the Cobras, they are assigned to the unit for a fixed-term employment, but can be demoted to their genuine unit at every moment. During this period of employment, a candidate continues with training and self-proving. If they satisfy during the trial, they are rewarded with a permanent contract at the Military Police Special Operations Detachment “Cobras” and can proudly wear the prestigious insignia.

Watch the exclusive outdoor shooting range demonstration on our YouTube channel .

Further operators` training is being carried out continuously, through further specialist training and professional development. A significant part of the Cobras had completed the basic parachuting training throughout their careers, which is carried out with the 63rd Parachute Brigade operators in the city of Niš, as well as basic diving training, which had been carried out at the 82nd Naval Sabotage Center, whose operators moved to Serbia, after Montenegro`s independence.

Winter training is conducted at Kopaonik usually, and besides regular physical training and survival training in winter conditions, includes skiing training, first aid training, winter special operations and other elements.

The specificity of close protection tasks, besides expertise, requires a certain behavioral maturity of a retainer. A retainer has to be a calm person, with a superb perception and emotion control. Furthermore, an experienced retainer has to be able to rationally reckon situations, because it impacts the security and safety of the VIP, has to speak foreign languages and know the basics of good manners. Based on our experience, a practice to entrust these tasks to the older operators, who had previously proved their status and are professionally accomplished, has proven to be excellent.
D.M.
instructor at the unit

Bearing in mind that the a significant part of tasks entrusted to the detachment regards to the VIP and facilities close protection, operators of the companies complete expert courses in this field, domestically and abroad. In order to attain a rank of a retainer, operators must successfully complete demanding the VIP and facilities close protection courses, whilst the professional expertise within the field includes speed driving courses as well, being regularly organized at the Kovin Airport, near Smederevo. The deployment within the companies depends on the operators` preferences, along with the officers` evaluations.

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The Cobras specialists practicing the VIP extraction tactics. : specijalne-jedinice.com

The high standards and proper training at the Military Police Special Operation Detachment “Cobras” are confirmed by the fact that in 2000 the climbing specialists of the unit participated in conquering the highest peak in the world — Mont Everest, whilst the Cobras regularly participate and achieve top results in numerous sports competition in the country and abroad, in disciplines of orienteering, martial arts, athletic sports and the like. In February 2020, the Cobras Team participated in the prestigious Dubai SWAT Challenge 2020 international competition, winning the 17th place in the final standings.

In February 2003, operators of the unit founded the practical shooting club “IPSC Cobras” and have been successfully competing at this type of sport.

GEAR

In order to properly understand criteria under which a unit of this type is being equipped, it is important to deem the defined purpose of the unit, along with the ongoing security needs at various levels, also affecting the ongoing politics.

The detachment is beefed up with modern and reliable weaponry and gear, purchased from the Serbian and foreign producers. In the semi-auto handgun category, the CZ 99 9 mm handguns are at disposal, produced by the national Zastava Arms manufacturer, from the city of Kragujevac, which are usually used during selection and candidates` training. The detachment has a certain number of CZ 999s in the same caliber, being manufactured for special forces operators, by the national producer, as well as the compact[3] versions of these models. The main model in use is the Austrian Glock 17 Gen 4 (some operators still use the 17s of the third generation), in 9 mm Parabellum. A certain contingent of the Austrians with threaded barrels for suppressors mount is in use. The detachment has a contingent of the compact Glock 19s available, along with the Israeli Jericho 941F and 941FP models, all in 9×19 mm Parabellum caliber, including a batch of the Smith & Wesson revolvers and others. A contingent of CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow 9 mm is purchased for the operators who compete at practical shooting and achieve top results throughout the years. For the needs of the operating personnel, the BLACKHAWK! SERPA Tactical Level 2 holsters in black have been purchased, along with the high-end kydex holsters for Glock 17s and Shadow models, purchased from the Horned Viper manufacturer, and 5.11 holsters for Glock 17 to be seen as well. When conducting close protection tasks, operators use holsters for concealed carry, usually attached to a tactical or civilian belt. Most of these models are made from the specific material kydex, and models in use are commonly purchased from the Israeli producers.

The unit holds reliable 9 mm submachine guns procured from various producers, such as German HK MP5 A3s with a telescopic stock.

These reliable models are being upgraded (and adapted for CQB) by mounting rails, usually from FAB Defense, the TAL-4 assault handgrip from the same producer, the UTG tactical light, as well as the EOTech holographic sight.

The detachment uses the shorten HK MP5 K 9 mm models, which are, deeming the superb compact size, suitable for concealed carry. The newer HK UMP models, from the same producer, also in 9 mm, have been procured and the unit has a certain amount of the ERO and ERO Mini personal defense weapons, produced by the Croatian manufacturer in 9 mm caliber, modeled on the Israeli Uzi.

As for the automatic rifles, systems from the national Zastava Arms producer are in use, models M70 AB1 with a fixed wooden and M70AB2 with a folding stock, both in 7.62×39 mm Eastern caliber. The national-produced rifles are modeled on the Kalashnikov system and are mostly used for the needs of selection and training of candidates and operators, as well as during tasks and jobs in rural environment. The superb East-German AK 47 is chambered for the same caliber and allows a 40 mm under-barrel grenade launcher mount, when needed. Assigning a group of experienced special forces operators of the then Counter Terrorist Battalion “Falcons” of the former Serbian Armed Forces Special Brigade, the detachment hosted a contingent of compact Heckler & Koch G36 Commando in 5.56 mm. By equipping the elite Serbian Armed Forces units according to the “1500” Project, the capacities of the detachment have been significantly beefed up. Thanks to the effort of the unit`s command and officials at the Ministry of Defense, the detachment has been armed with a contingent of the Belgian FN SCAR L rifles in CQC model with shortened barrel, and the STD versions with a standard-length barrel, both chambered for 5.56 mm NATO.

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The specialist armed with the FN SCAR L CQC system, in 5.56 mm. : specijalne-jedinice.com

Depending on the requirements, the automatic rifles and SMGs from the detachment`s arsenal can be modified for the needs of shooters and tasks by mounting the Aimpoint CompM4 red dot sights, that are compatible with the Aimpoint 3×MAG magnifiers when needed, or by mounting the EOTech XPS2-0[4] holographic sights, or the high-end Elcan Specter DR 1-4× devices. Assault handgrips, C clamp accessories, tactical lights — mostly from UTG — and other tactical accessories can be mounted on the standard Picatinny rails, or special carriers of the same purpose.

High-end tactical shotguns, produced by Italian Benelli Armi SpA, in the M3 Tactical and M4 Tactical models, both in 12/70 caliber, can be used for CQB.

As for the precision rifles, the detachment has semi-auto M76 in 7.92×57 mm caliber Mauser available, produced by Zastava Arms, commonly fitted with the Zrak M76 4×5˚10 optics. The mentioned rifles are also modeled on the Kalashnikov system, but the Finnish Sako TRG 42 bolt action models in .338 Lapua Magnum are the tip top among the rifles of this purpose. In configuration with the Schmidt & Bender Police Marksman II optics they represent a very effective firearm at 1000-1500 meter distances. The detachment`s marksmen have the long-range M93 “Black Arrow” bolt action 12.7×108 mm rifles from Zastava Arms available for engaging targets behind covers, or light-armored ones at longer distances.

When it comes to fire-support systems, the detachment holds the FN Minimi MK3 5.56 mm light machine guns with a telescopic stock, as well as Zastava M84 systems in 7.62×54 R, from Zastava Arms. The same producer provides the reliable Zastava M93 30 mm automatic grenade launchers.

Two-piece black tactical uniforms have been purchased for the requirements of the detachment from various producers. Among the camouflage ones, the units uses two-piece uniforms, as well as overalls in rural camos M01, M02 and M03, produced by Mile Dragić, along with two-piece uniforms and overalls in the M10 rural camo, produced by the national Yumco ad producer. The mentioned camo pattern is adopted as the standard camo of the Serbian Armed Forces. During 2018, the monochrome tactical uniform Cobra Tactical was developed for the Cobras, manufactured by Yumco ad. The olive-gray set for special forces operators consists of tactical pants, field shirt, two polo t-shirts, two cotton t-shirts, summer combat shirt, winter combat shirt, soft shell jacket and winter jacket. In order to blend with environment, the marksmen[5] of the Military Police Special Operation Detachment “Cobras” use ghillie suits, produced by Mile Dragić. Tactical vests or body armors are worn over the uniforms and overalls, with the later ones mostly in plate carrier design, to meet the needs of mobility. Black models are in use, manufactured by Horned Ltd, from the city of Novi Sad, as well as the models delivered by Yumco ad, at the end of 2019, in both plate carrier and body armor versions, also in black. The tactical belts in use, mostly in black, have been provided by several manufacturers — Mile Dragić, Yumco ad, SOD. When conducting the VIP close protection tasks, ballistic protection can be achieved by using special protective ballistic suitcases with armor panels installed. The suitcases are commonly equipped with three IIIA armor panels. As for boots, black Haix Black Eagle Tactical 20 High are in use, with operators being pretty satisfied with. A significant contingent of the high-and and attractive LOWA Zephyr GTX MID TF military boots in black and sage[6] colour, has been delivered by Horus Ltd.

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New tactical uniform, being developed for the needs of the Cobras. : specijalne-jedinice.com

Ballistic head protection is achieved with the second-generation high cut helmets in black, delivered with helmet covers by Yumco ad, at the end of 2019. During parachuting or climbing training, operators use the JOBE and MICH 2002 helmets with tactical rails and a shroud, in black, in order to protect a head against mechanical traumas or various fragments. Eye protection is achieved with the Revision Military Wolfspider, Bullet Ant Tactical and Sawfly Military tactical goggles.

Multi-purpose binoculars JIM UC, as well as the Moskito day-night laser rangefinders, both systems purchased from Safran Electronix & Defense, can be used for specific activities.

As for the tactical gloves, they are being purchased from reliable foreign manufacturers, such as BLACKHAWK!, 5.11, Pentagon and Mechanix. Operators often purchase models from the mentioned producers privately, according to their preferences. The same producers provide tactical knee and elbow pads.

Specialist gear, such as detectors, bomb suits and the like, has been purchased for the needs of the Counter-diversion Protection Team from several reliable manufacturers from abroad. The K9 Team uses Labrador, Retreiver and German Shepherd breeds.

The Mercedes-Benz G-500 off-road vehicles are being used for personnel transport in urban areas, while the luxurious Audi, Mercedez-Benz and other models, adapted to the needs of the unit, have been provided for the needs of VIPs transport and escort.

Tactical comms are achieved with various Motorola systems.

COOPERATION

Joint tactical exercises and security seminars with domestic and foreign units are an integral part of professional development of the Military Police Special Operations Detachment “Cobras” operators. In the country, the detachment nurtures a good cooperation with the elite 72nd Special Operations Brigade and 63rd Parachute Brigade of the Serbian Armed Forces, Special Anti-Terrorist Unit, as well as the VIP and Facilities Protection Unit of the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs. Joint exercises, seminars, sports events and competitions are a chance to check the training and operability, but to improve the joint response to all the security threats as well.

In 2009, with the initiative of the Serbian Ministry of Defense, the Military Police Department and Cobras command organized a two-week joint training of the Serbian and French elite units. The participants were the French GIGN operators and, on the Serbian side, beside the Cobras operators, the police special forces operators, the then Counter Terrorist Unit, Special Anti-Terrorist Unit and Protection Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The largest part of training related to exchange of experience in the VIP close protection and counter terrorist actions. A cooperation with the French RAID was established in the same year.

During 2010, the GIGN operators were yet again guests of the “Cobras”, which is an another confirmation of the superb cooperation and friendly relations of the two units.

On several occasions, the Cobras conducted training with Israeli units, while in 2013 a group of operators successfully completed the two-week specialists Close Protection course, organized in Israel.

[1] The Rastko Nemanjić Barracks is the central base of the 72nd Special Operations Brigade of the Serbian Armed Forces.
[2] It is possible for a candidate to complete the selection training, but not get assigned to the operational part of the unit, due to a negative evaluation of their psychological profile by the instructor team.
[3] An expert expression for firearm models with a shortened barrel, therefore, total length as well. In the CZ 99 models of the Serbian manufacturer, the handgun barrel with bolt, recoil spring and slide are shortened for 8 mm, compared to the standard models.
[4] During 2016, with the effort of the Ministry of Defense, the gear capacities have been improved, therefore, a contingent of the holographic sights used at the unit was significantly increased.
[5] An expression used to define specialists in precision shooting. The sniping specialists expression is used as well.
[6] A lighter shade of green colour.

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