NATO Response Force put to the test

  • 30 Sep. 2013 -
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  • Last updated: 09 Oct. 2013 14:21

The NATO Response Force is being put to the test in a series of live exercises this autumn. Culminating in Exercise Steadfast Jazz at the beginning of November, a series of exercises is underway to train, test and certify the command structures and forces that will serve in next year’s rotation of the NATO Response Force (NRF). The NRF will play an increasingly important role in maintaining NATO’s preparedness as the operational tempo of the Alliance decreases following the end of the NATO-led combat mission in Afghanistan.

Photo: Eline B. Johanson

"The world is full of uncertainties and NATO needs to be prepared to meet future challenges," said General Philip M. Breedlove, Supreme Allied Commander Europe. "My aim is to make sure the NRF headquarters and forces are ready to deal with any threat in any environment."

The NRF is a multinational force with a high level of readiness and technological sophistication, which can be deployed rapidly by the Alliance wherever necessary. When called upon, 13,000 personnel are ready to respondwithin five days, for a period of up to 30 days, or longer when re-supplied. Personnel numbers can be increased to approximately 30,000, if necessary.

It is designed to provide a rapid military response to an emerging crisis, whether for the purposes of collective defence or for crisis-response operations.

Photo: BAW JMIC – M. Reudenbach

"The NATO Response Force should become the engine of our future readiness. I see us revitalising this force, to keep our ability to train and operate together, as Allies, and with partners. And to conduct more demanding, more realistic, and more frequent exercises," said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

The NRF will be a core element of the Connected Forces Initiative, which seeks to maintain the high level of interoperability, availability and cohesion of Allied and partner forces through expanded education and training. This will help achieve the goal set by Allied leaders at the 2012 Chicago Summit of 'NATO Forces 2020': modern, tightly connected forces which are properly equipped, trained, exercised and led.

Testing the NATO Response Force

Steadfast Jazz 2013 will take place at various locations in Poland and the Baltic States from 2 to 9 November. It will be the culmination of a series of 17 exercises held in 14 countries. Based on a fictitious scenario in a fictitious country, the exercise will bring together the land, air, maritime and Special Operations Forces components, who will take over NRF duties next year. NATO has not done a live exercise of this size since 2006.

Some 6,000 troops from 20 Allied and partner nations, including Finland, Ukraine and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia1, will take part. In the spirit of transparency, Russia has been invited to observe the exercise. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), theInternational Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) will also be represented.

"Steadfast Jazz 2013 is part of a series of exercises in which the NATO Command Structure and NATO forces are trained to a high level of readiness to be interoperable and connected," stated General Hans-Lothar Domröse, Commander of Joint Force Command (JFC) Brunssum, the Netherlands.

Steadfast Jazz will train, test and certify the military headquarters' personnel of Joint Force Command (JFC) Brunssum, which will be responsible for the 2014 rotation of the NRF. At the end of the exercise, it will be officially certified to lead NATO joint operations in the event of a crisis requiring NRF intervention.

The operational command of the NRF currently alternates between JFC Brunssum and JFC Naples. They come under Allied Command Operations, which is responsible for all NATO operations and is based at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in Mons, Belgium.

Maintaining NATO's vitality

The upcoming Steadfast Jazz 2013 exercise will feature the Ironhorse Brigade from Fort Hood, Texas. The US-based brigade has been assigned to support NRF operations and regular training. These forces represent the continued US commitment to NATO and to regional peace and prosperity in Europe.

Photo: BAW 13 JMIC – M. Reudenbach

The United States has enduring tactical, political and economic interests in supporting peace and prosperity across Europe as well as bolstering the strength and vitality of NATO," said General Breedlove, who, in addition to his NATO role, also commands US forces in Europe.

More multinational exercises such as Steadfast Jazz are planned for the future, with a much larger live exercise set for 2015. Nations will also be encouraged to open up their national exercises to NATO, thus offering new opportunities to increase interoperability within the Alliance.

"Future NRF deployments and exercises will allow the Alliance to continue to develop and hone current and emerging capabilities, employ new technology, and maintain our ability to deploy forces rapidly and effectively. Exercises like Steadfast Jazz allow us to try new and innovative approaches to contemporary problems, to learn from our experiences, and to improve our forces as a result," General Breedlove concluded.

1. Turkey recognises the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name.