After the Munich massacre in 1972, the European countries started to form a new law enforcement and military units to deal with similar situations. As the French always had strong Army and law enforcement agencies, they also followed that example. Among the many formed units, one is quite special. In June 1985, the French Police Nationale formed RAID in an effort to combat the rising amount of violent crime and terrorism sweeping through Europe and France at that time.
Although they are not the first created counter-terrorism unit in France they have quickly gained an excellent reputation as an intervention unit that is able to respond quickly and professionally to all tasks. They were not well known as it’s older counterpart, the GIGN, but now they are almost equal. Their unofficial nickname throughout France is The Black Panthers due to the design of RAID insignia and the black coveralls and jackets worn by it’s operators.
In France, RAID is tasked with “leading the National Police in tactical combat against serious crime and terrorism”.Their missions and ordinary tasks include the following:
- Intervention in extreme criminal and terrorist attacks involving hijackings and hostage takings.
- Assisting other police and security agencies in dealing with violent criminal and terrorist organizations.
- Assisting other law enforcement agencies in securing large events of national and international importance.
- Protection of French VIPs, as well as foreign presidents and heads of state visiting France.
The French Police Nationale’s RAID headquarters is based in Bievres ( on the outskirts of Paris ). The RAID is a relatively small special weapons and tactics unit consisting of approximately 60 operators, which are organized into four 10-man assault groups, one 10-man specialist group ( such as EOD personnel, hostage negotiators, and other specialists ), and the balance forming the unit’s command cadre.
Training and selection
The candidates for RAID operators are selected from Nationale Police officers which are experienced in doing their job. The candidates must be between 25 to 35 years old and to have at least five years of job experience. Normally, they must be in excellent physical condition. Candidates from all over France apply, but the rate of candidates who successfully finish selection process is only about 10 from 600. After passing selection, candidates are sent to basic training which lasts for nine months, after they successfully finish that, they are considered operators.
The RAID’s training course is designed to be both physically and mentally demanding. It includes intense physical conditioning, with undergoing at least six hours of physical training daily. Usually, candidates and operators already in the unit undergo same physical training on a daily basis. Candidates are provided instruction in various martial arts, tactical operations, combat and instinctive shooting techniques, rappelling, linear assaults (buses, aircraft, and trains), hostage rescue scenarios, heliborne assaults, high-speed driving techniques, surveillance training, combat medicine. The candidates even go through basic parachuting skills and maritime operations training. The operators who choose to become combat diver or paratrooper are also sent to attended military training courses and attain HALO/HAHO, and combat diver qualifications.
RAID’s best-known operation and best public known occurred on May 15, 1993 when a RAID assault force consisted of fifteen men ended a two-day stand off between law enforcement units and a terrorist. The terrorist had an explosive device on his chest. He also took 21 nursery school children and their teacher hostage. The explosive device strapped on his chest was made of 16 sticks of dynamite. When microphones placed around the school by RAID operators indicated that the terrorist, an Algerian named Eric Schmidt, was snoring, the RAID jumped into action.
They divided into two groups, one formed a shield that began evacuating the hostages while another raced to the last known location that intelligence said a terrorist was holed up. The running boots and sound of escaping children woke up him and he began to move menacingly towards the approaching RAID operators. Three shots ended his extortion attempt. The entire assault had lasted no more than 30 seconds, and none of the hostages were killed.
In the next years, RAID, along with other French security and law enforcement agencies, has been heavily involved in operations and missions combating a new wave of Islamic terrorism directed at France due to its support of the Algerian government. In a large scale operation conducted in November of 1994, RAID, and several other police and intelligence, launched a massive sweep to round up suspected members of known terrorist organizations. The sweep was successful in netting a large cache or weapons, explosives, ammunition, and other equipment.
Gear and equipment
RAID operators are equipped with the best gear and equipment money can buy. They are outfitted with flame resistant coveralls, balaclavas, and gloves. The both RAID and GIGN use a variety of weapons but, unlike GIGN, RAID operators are permitted to select their own weapons.
Usually, the RAID’s primary entry weapon is the submachine gun Heckler & Koch MP5. When long range firepower is needed RAID operators use the SIG SG551 Commando rifle chambered in 5.56mm caliber. The pistols used in RAID varies, but the most used are the Matra-Manurhin MR-73 .357 revolver, and the Beretta 92FS pistol with the extended 20 round magazine. The other personnel weapons such as the Glock 19 and Sig-Sauer family are gaining in popularity among RAID members.
For its transportation needs, RAID has access to the entire Ministry of the Interior fleet of vehicles and aircraft. The unit also maintains several specially modified vehicles at its base for ground transport and for various tactics used in the situations such is hostage taking situations (train, bus, car, plane etc.).
And I forget to mention that RAID is abbreviation for Recherche Assistance Intervention Dissuasion which stands for Research, Assistance, Intervention, Deterrence.