Connected Forces Initiative

  • Last updated: 22 Jun. 2016 14:29

The Connected Forces Initiative (CFI) aims to enhance the high level of interconnectedness and interoperability Allied forces have achieved on operations and with partners. CFI combines a comprehensive education, training, exercise and evaluation programme with the use of cutting-edge technology to ensure that Allied forces remain prepared to engage cooperatively in the future.


  • CFI is a key enabler in developing the goal of NATO Forces 2020: a coherent set of deployable, interoperable and sustainable forces equipped, trained, exercised, commanded and able to operate together and with partners in any environment.
  • The Initiative is essential in ensuring that the Alliance remains well prepared to undertake the full range of its missions, as well as to address future challenges wherever they may arise.
  • In light of the current security environment, it is also a means to deliver the training and exercise elements of the Alliance’s Readiness Action Plan.

  • Key CFI elements

    At the 2014 Wales Summit, NATO endorsed a CFI package demonstrating the continued cohesion and resolve of the Alliance. This package is made up of the following measures:

    • An updated NATO Education, Training, Exercise and Evaluation (ETEE) Policy

      This policy provides ETEE direction and guidance to the Strategic Commands for application throughout NATO.  It is a long-term document that reflects political guidance and provides the policy, inter alia, to educate, train, exercise and evaluate individuals, units, formations and headquarters in the NATO Force and Command Structures. 

      It also addresses the process for linking national and NATO exercises and details for partner and non-NATO entity involvement.  It helps ensure that those units, formations and headquarters can address the full range of Alliance missions and meet the NATO level of ambition.

    • A broader NATO Training Concept 2015-2020 

      This concept ensures that NATO maintains and further improves its readiness, interoperability and operational effectiveness.  The central element is the use of education and training, including e-learning, resident courses, key leader training and multinational exercises.

      It also addresses three of the vehicles which help promote CFI, namely bolstering the NATO Response Force (NRF), enhancing Special Operations Forces (SOF), and enhancing linkages and interactions between the NATO Command Structure, the NATO Force Structure, and, where mutually beneficial and affordable, national headquarters.

    • High-visibility exercise

      As the flagship event for CFI, the exercise called “Trident Juncture 2015” was hosted by Portugal, Spain and Italy.  Based on a crisis-response scenario, it certified the 2016 NRF as operationally ready.  The next such exercise will be hosted by Norway in 2018.

    • Major NATO Exercises from 2016 Onwards Programme 

      This Programme provides a conceptual framework to determine and lay out the exercise requirement to meet the NATO level of ambition and to train the follow-on forces required to reinforce Allies in times of crisis identified by the Readiness Action Plan.  It assists in operationalising the NATO ETEE Policy in the very critical and visible domain of major NATO exercises.>

    • Continued progress in implementing the technological aspects of CFI 

      Exploiting technology to help deliver interoperability is a key component of CFI.  Delivering a Federated Mission Networking framework is the centrepiece of ongoing work, as its implementation will allow rapid interconnection within the Alliance, and with partners, in support of training, exercises and operations as well as day-to-day communications and activities.

    • A Special Operations Component Command headquarters capability under operational command of SACEUR

      This deployable core headquarters achieved full operational capability in July 2014, providing a new capability for Special Operations Forces (SOF) command and control, coordination, interoperability and connectedness. 

      This provides the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) with a capability for commanding SOF personnel on exercises and operations, with lead elements kept at very high readiness.
  • Evolution

    At the 2012 Chicago Summit, NATO adopted the goal of NATO Forces 2020: a coherent set of deployable, interoperable and sustainable forces equipped, trained, exercised and commanded to operate together and with partners in any environment. Two key programmes support this goal: the Smart Defence initiative and CFI. The latter aims to enhance the high level of interconnectedness and interoperability which Allied forces have achieved on operations and with partners.

    In February 2013, NATO defence ministers endorsed plans to revitalise NATO's exercise programme. Allies are also encouraged to open national exercises to NATO participation, adding to the opportunities to improve interoperability. They also agreed that the NRF will become even more important post-ISAF and provide a vehicle both to demonstrate operational readiness and to serve as a “testbed” for Alliance transformation.

    In November 2013, NATO conducted its largest live exercise since 2006 in a collective defence scenario. “Steadfast Jazz” brought together thousands of personnel from Allied and partner countries to train, test and certify the units serving in the 2014 NRF rotation. This exercise was conducted at sea, in the air and on the territories of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. It incorporated a headquarters component provided by Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum (The Netherlands) to test the new NATO Command Structure.

    At the 2014 Wales Summit, in light of the Russia-Ukraine crisis and with growing instability and security challenges across the Middle East and North Africa and beyond, Allied leaders endorsed the Readiness Action Plan (RAP) to strengthen NATO’s collective defence and to ensure the Alliance is ready to deal with any challenges from wherever they may arise. They also agreed a package of six key CFI measures, including the high-visibility exercise “Trident Juncture 2015”; a broader and more demanding exercise programme from 2016 onwards; and a deployable Special Operations Component Command headquarters.

    In June 2015, the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) took part in Exercise “Noble Jump” in Zagan, Poland involving over 2,100 troops from nine nations.  Established to address the security challenges on NATO’s southern and eastern peripheries, the VJTF is the “spearhead” element of the NRF.  Exercise “Noble Jump” was the first time that high-readiness units deployed and conducted tactical manoeuvres under the enhanced NRF framework.

    In October and November 2015, Exercise "Trident Juncture" took place across Italy, Portugal, Spain, the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea and also Belgium, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway with about 36,000 personnel, 140 aircraft and 60 ships from over 30 Allied and partner nations.  As the culminating training which certified the 2016 NRF, the exercise provided an opportunity to refine their operational capabilities.  Air, land, maritime and SOF units participated simultaneously in several locations and from different headquarters to train in a complex environment to improve the Alliance’s full-spectrum capabilities.  Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum was certified to lead the NRF, if activated, throughout 2016.  More than 12 major international organisations, aid agencies and non-governmental organisations, such as the European Union and African Union participated in the exercise, demonstrating NATO’s commitment and contribution to a comprehensive approach.