ATJ Lucko: First in war, first in peace

24th anniversary of ATJ Lucko (Photo: CroPix)

ATJ Lucko is an elite police tactical unit of the Croatian Police stationed in Lucko near Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. Like all police units in the country, it is under the command of the Ministry of the Interior.


The Anti-terrorist unit Lucko (Croatian: Antiteroristička jedinica Lucko, ATJ Lucko) unit was established on September 7, 1990, as the first Croatian fighting unit in the Croatian War of Independence. It was also the only fighting unit of Croatian forces at the time. During the Croatian War of Independence, 13 officers were killed and 52 wounded in the unit of 350 members.

Operators from ATJ Lucko brandishing their weapons during the 30th anniversary of the unit
Operators from ATJ Lucko, Croatia’s prime counter-terrorism unit, during the drill on the 30th anniversary of the unit (Photo: MUP RH)

Since Croatian independence, they were Franjo Tudjman’s (first president of independent Croatia) first bodyguards. The Armed Forces of the Republic of Croatia were formed, and seven HV generals emerged from their ranks. Today, ATJ Lucko has about 130 specially trained operators in dealing with hostage situations on planes or ships and in diving.

Organization and tasks

Their primary mission is to fight organized crime and deal with the suspects that regular police cannot.

ATJ Lucko’s structure

In its structure, the unit has:

  • Special Intervention teams
  • Snipers
  • Breachers
  • Paratroopers
  • Divers
  • Climbers / Rappelers
  • Skiers
  • Medics
  • Dog Handlers
  • A helicopter unit with 30 members, including mechanics
  • Diving center in Mali Lošinj

ATJ Lucko specializes in several types of operations: counterterrorism and organized crime, high-risk arrests and executing high-risk search warrants (a high-risk search warrant is a term used by agencies to describe a situation where violence is likely to happen), and hostage crises (the only ones in the country trained to deal with hostage situations on planes).

ATJ Lucko is also tasked with the security of the foreign officials during their stay in Croatia. The diving team of the unit is tasked with the search for the missing persons on the water, while the bomb squad is tasked with dealing with EOD. ATJ Lucko is part of the ATLAS group, consisting of 35 special police units from 28 EU countries.


Only one in 20 candidates get a chance to become a member of the unit. The candidates undergo a security and background check, a demanding medical examination with all regular tests included. After the initial check-up, they go through altitude tests, endurance and strength tests, and even rhythms and speeds.

The instructors also drive them through basic shooting training to determine their skills, psychoanalysis, and martial arts. If selected, candidates will spend the next six months in individual and another six months in group training. All for that, one of the twenty to become part of the most elite and oldest unit of the Croatian special police.

ATJ Lucko Croatia Training drill
Operators from ATJ Lucko, Croatia’s prime counter-terrorism unit, during the drill on the 30th anniversary of the unit (Photo: MUP RH)


ATJ Lucko operators are going through rigorous training during their service in the unit. Although no one has been killed in action since the Homeland War (24 operators were killed), several have drowned in diving missions.

They also work and cooperate in training with various European and World special units, including the American special forces. It includes joint training with GIGN, FBI HRT, RAID, GSG 9, EKO Cobra, and other units. They are also part of ATLAS.

Weaponry and gear

ATJ Lucko is superbly equipped, although the media sometimes report that the actual situation is worse than what is publicly shown at situational exercises attended by the public. They are armed with most modern western weapons.


In addition to standard tactical uniforms, knee and wrist protectors, helmets, gas masks, and mini cameras, operators are equipped with bulletproof vests. They also have various ballistic shields at their disposal. They are fully equipped for rural and urban warfare.


The operator can choose his sidearm between HS 2000 (Springfield xDM), Heckler & Koch, and Glock pistols. At their disposal, there are modern submachine guns (Heckler & Koch MP5 and MP7), assault rifles (HK G36 or M70AB2 assault rifles – a Yugoslav version of Kalashnikov), and shotguns Benelli M3 and Franchi SPAS12. Snipers are equipped with Heckler & Koch PSG1 sniper rifles.


The unit has at its disposal Humvees and VW Touaregs. For further distances, they use helicopters Bell 212 and Eurocopter 135 (now Airbus H135). In 30 minutes, they can reach the farthest point of Croatia directly from their base in Lucko (although Croatia’s special police had other detachments in Split, Rijeka, and Osijek).

Mirko Cro Cop

Professional martial artist, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipović, was a member of the ATJ Lucko for six years.

Mirko Filipovic, alias Mirko Cro Cop, a famous Croatian martial arts expert served in the Croatian special police unit ATJ Lucko during his early career
Mirko Filipovic, alias Mirko Cro Cop, is a famous Croatian martial arts expert who served in the Croatian special police unit ATJ Lucko during his early career (Photo: Mirko Cro Cop)
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