The NATO Response Force (NRF) was established in 2002 from the Berlin Plus Agreement 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 the provision of an immediate collective defence response capability (prior to arrival of other forces), crisis management & peace support operations, plus disaster relief and the protection of critical infrastructure.
Overall command of this force belongs to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR). Two of NATO’s three Joint Force Commands (based Naples, Italy and in Brunssum, the Netherlands) exercise command and control over assigned forces within 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. As a result, participation in the NRF is preceded by a six-month NATO exercise program in order to integrate and standardize the various national contingents. Additional training serials are carried out by contributing nations during the 6-18 month period prior to assuming the role of an NRF high-readiness unit.
NRF 2021 Joint Force Command Naples is the lead headquarters for the NRF in 2021, and is supported by the following command and control elements:
Land: NATO Rapid Deployable Corps (Turkey),
Maritime: FRAMARFOR (France),
Air: ACC Ramstein (Art 5 and Collective Defence) and ITA JFAC (crisis response),
Special Operations: C2 and SF from Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Joint theater troops:
The CBRN Task Force, where three NBC EOD teams are available.
Joint Logistic Support Group (JLSG) from JFC Naples.
Air, land, maritime, special forces, and logistics troops from across the Alliance have been placed on a high level of readiness and are available to support NRF 2021 if required. The details of the exact composition, locations and readiness of these forces are not publicly releasable in order to protect operational security.
The Enhancement of 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, as well as the risks emanating, at the time, from the Middle East and North Africa. 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, between two to seven days.
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. The VJTF is fully operational and can be enabled as a rapid reinforcement capability, in case of a major crisis. If activated, the force will be available to move immediately, following the first indicators and warnings of potential threats before a crisis begins, to act as a potential deterrent to further escalation. The idea is that the rapid arrival of this 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 30 allied nations”. The VJTF is established on a rotational and persistent basis and will not be permanently based.
In ensuring a high level of readiness the VJTF is regularly exercised and deployed at short notice.