|F-16s from the 22nd Fighter Squadron from Spangdahlem take part in Exercise Steadfast Jaguar, the first combined-joint exercise to test the new NATO Response Force. Most NATO countries and about 7,000 sailors, soldiers and airmen participated. (Photo by MSgt Ron Przysucha)
The NATO Response Force (NRF) provides a mechanism to generate a high readiness and technologically advanced force package made up of land, air, sea and special force components that can be deployed quickly on operations wherever needed.
The force package is capable of performing tasks across a wide spectrum of operations. Tasks could include providing an immediate response capability for conducting collective defence of Alliance members in the event of an Article 5 operation, acting as the initial force deployment as a precursor to deployment of a much larger force, whether that be for Article 5 or for any other operation, through to allowing the Alliance to react with military forces to assist civilian agencies manage the consequences of natural disasters.
In addition to the NRF mechanism providing the Alliance with a crisis management instrument, the NRF also serves as an engine for transformation of military capabilities through the cycle of building multinational force packages on a rotational basis, which then exercise together in order to integrate the operational and tactical levels of command and control and the joint forces.
Key facts regarding the NRF are as follows:
· There are no limits to the numbers, which nations can contribute.
· The very high readiness element under known as the immediate response force (IRF) consists of approximately 14,000 personnel.
· The remaining forces are held in a response forces pool (RFP), the scale of which will depend upon what nations are willing to make available, dependent upon operational commitments at the time.
There is no fixed scale to the RFP, it is as big or small as nations wish to provide the forces to make it and nations and partners can contribute under flexible terms and conditions. The forces contributed to the RFP are drawn from the much wider pool of national deployable forces within the NATO Force Structure or pool of partner forces.
Regardless of numbers the actual force deployed will always be tailored for a specific operation. The IRF element is only designed to provide the initial response to a crisis and is not scaled to be a stand-alone force for all but the smallest operations. The further capabilities required, whether these be additional infantry battalions, fighter bombers, frigates, aircraft carriers, or strategic air lift will be drawn from the RFP.
The capability shortfalls not available within the IRF or RFP are force generated by requesting the capability required from nations from the wider pool of deployable forces within the NATO Force Structure not offered to the RFP. If the capability is not available then ACO may have to readdress the overall mission or sub-tasks that the force is being directed to carry out until the mission and or tasks, balances the resources available.
Rotating forces through the NRF requires nations to meet the demanding standards required for expeditionary operations. This is the primary way the NRF acts as a catalyst for transformation of military capabilities spread throughout the forces of all member countries.
As the standards have to be very high, participation in the NRF is preceded by a six-month NATO exercise programme in order to integrate and standardise the various national contingents. Generally, nations carry out a pre-training period in preparation for the NATO exercises of between 6-18 months. Once the overall preparation period of as much as 24 months has been accomplished, from 2012 the force will be held on stand-by to deploy on operations for 12 months as opposed to the current 6 months.