NATO Response Force (NRF)
The NATO Response Force (NRF) was established in 2003 as a high readiness force comprising of air, land, maritime and special forces units capable of rapid deployment. The NRF is capable of performing a wide variety of tasks including:
- Immediate collective defence response capability, prior to arrival of other forces;
- Crisis management & peace support operations;
- Disaster relief and the protection of critical infrastructure.
Overall command of this force belongs to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).
NATO’s two Joint Force Commands (based in Brunssum, The Netherlands and Naples, Italy) have operational command of the NRF each year on a rotational basis. Rotating forces through the NRF requires contributing Allies and partner nations to meet strict standards and adopt procedures required for defensive and expeditionary operations.
The Enhanced NRF: developing the VJTF concept
At the 2014 Wales Summit, NATO Allies agreed to enhance the capabilities of the NATO Response Force (NRF) in order to adapt and respond to emerging security challenges.
Having carefully considered the options presented during post-Wales discussions, the decision to incorporate a Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) within the overall NRF structure was taken, increasing the size of the NRF to 40,000 and providing NATO with a highly capable and flexible air, land, maritime and special forces package capable of deploying at short notice when tasked.
The Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF)
The VJTF comprises a multinational brigade (approximately 5,000 troops), with up to five manoeuvre battalions, supported by air, maritime and special forces. Once fully operational, the VJTF will be supplemented by two additional brigades, as a rapid-reinforcement capability, in case of a major crisis. If activated, the force will be available to move immediately, following the first warnings and indicators of potential threats, before a crisis begins, to act as a potential deterrent to further escalation. The rapid arrival of this small but capable military unit would send a very clear message to any potential aggressor: “any attempt to violate the sovereignty of one NATO nation will result in a decisive military engagement with all 28 allied nations”.
The VJTF is established on a rotational and persistent basis and will not be permanently based. Contributions to NRF will rotate between different NATO countries each year, with the need for a number of lead or framework nations to stand up the force.
All Allies have national troops at high states of readiness that can quickly respond to a crisis.
With the introduction of the VJTF concept, the enhanced NRF now comprises 4 parts:
- Command and Control element: based on a deployable Joint Task Force HQ;
- Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF): a new component of the NRF consisting of forces at the highest level of readiness. It is a joint force, consisting of a land component with appropriate air, maritime and special operations components, as needed, able to deploy within a few days in response to any threats or challenges that may arise on NATO’s flanks;
- Initial Follow On Forces Group (IFFG): These are high-readiness forces that can deploy quickly, following the VJTF, in response to a crisis;
- Response Forces Pool (RFP): NATO will retain the same broad spectrum of military capabilities that it did in the previous NRF structure.