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The NATO Response Force (NRF) is a "coherent, high-readiness, joint, multinational force package" of up to[1] 25,000 troops that is "technologically advanced, flexible, deployable, interoperable and sustainable".[1] Its role is to act as a stand-alone military force available for rapid deployment by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as a collective-defense, crisis management or stabilization force, or to act as an initial entry force for a subsequent primary deployment. The NRF comprises land, air and sea components provided by NATO members. Contributed forces first train together and then become available for a 6-month period before being replaced by a new force.

The purpose of the NRF is to provide a quick reaction force of high quality to support NATO missions as required. The concept of NRF was first endorsed with a declaration of NATO's Heads of State at the Prague Summit on 22 November 2002. It was then approved by NATO Defence Ministers in June 2003, and the first headquarters created in October 2003 in Italy under command of NATO Joint Force Command in Brunssum, Netherlands, designated NRF 1. Its rotation replacement was designated NRF 2 (2004) at the same time.[2]

Although NRF 1 included personnel from 15 nations,

"Of the 9,500 personnel, about 8,500 were airmen and sailors, and only 1,000 were ground troops. Its land component included a French paratroop battalion, a Greek airmobile company, and a Belgian commando company—enough troops for only about one-half a brigade. Lack of ground forces was a problem that continued affecting follow-on NRFs during 2003–2006."[3]

NRF was pronounced to have achieved Initial Operational Capability with 17,000 in 2004, and a success after participating in security operations for the Athens Olympics and Afghanistan elections. NRF 3 (2005) and NRF 4 (2006) confirmed popularity of the concept among NATO member states. Only the command structure of the NRF became fully developed by October 2006.[2] It succeeded a similar plan, the IRTF(L), Immediate Reaction Task Force (Land). In February 2006 the NATO Defence Ministers met to seek a way for the NRF to achieve Full Operational Capability by the end of 2006.[4]

The first elements of the NRF are able to deploy within five days, with the rest of the force capable of operating self-sufficiently for a period of 30 days. Depending on mission requirements, the NRF will operate either as an Initial Entry Force to facilitate the arrival of Follow-on-Forces, or as a Stand-alone Force. Within the full spectrum of NATO missions, the NRF may conduct the following types of missions:

  • Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations
  • Counter Terrorism Operations
  • Embargo Operations
  • Quick Response Operations to support diplomacy as required.

To fulfill these tasks the NRF consists of a combined and joint force package that will be tailored to each specific mission. This force package is based on a brigade size land element (including special operations forces), a joint naval task force, and an air element capable of 200 combat missions per day. Accordingly, the NRF command and control structure consists of a Combined Joint Task Force Headquarters (CJTF HQ) with subordinated Land, Air and Maritime Component Commands (LCC/ACC/ MCC).

Forces participating in the NRF are drawn from the entire NATO Command and Force Structure. Forces will be assigned to the NRF on a rotational basis with the formal stand-by period lasting six months. Units that are assigned undergo a specialised 12-month preparation program that is split into the six months of unit training under national responsibility and six months of joint and combined training under the responsibility of the respective component command. After a successful final test, NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) certifies the force.

The NATO Response Force has only been used 6 times (The 2004 Olympic Games, the Iraqi Elections, the 2011 Libyan civil war, humanitarian relief to Afghanistan, humanitarian relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and humanitarian relief in the earthquake disaster in Pakistan).

Finland joined the NRF in March 2008. By October 2011, NRF was in its seventeenth generation.[5]

Ukraine joined in 2010. In July–December 2010 Ukraine's Armed Forces platoon specialized in nuclear, biological and chemical threats participated in the 15th rotation of the NRF.[6]

Sweden jointed in 2013.[7]

Criticism[edit | edit source]

"Despite these various efforts, the cold reality is that across a series of recent conflicts, from the Balkans to Afghanistan to Iraq, the United States and its allies remain unable to meaningfully fight wars together.

• In Bosnia and Kosovo, the United States was unable to share air tasking and targeting data with its NATO partners, severely restricting the ability of NATO aircraft to fly the same missions or even in the same airspace with U.S. aircraft. Airspace management and deconfliction remained a problem throughout the conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo.
• The U.S. was unable to share remote sensor information in a timely manner with its NATO partners because of security restrictions and incompatible communications and battlefield information systems. This problem remained unresolved in Afghanistan, and even in Iraq, where British forces found their flexibility and operational tempo constrained by the inability to access U.S. targeting systems such as JSTARS and Global Hawk.
• Shortages of precision munitions and aircraft cleared to deliver them limited the numbers and types of targets that could be engaged by NATO aircraft; suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) remained a major weakness through both operations.
• Combat Identification has remained problematic, despite significant effort devoted to operational solutions. The loss of Canadian troops in Afghanistan and British aircraft in Iraq to U.S. “friendly fire” points out the difficulty of operating multinational forces in a common battlespace."[8]

Given the time required for bonding and cohesion to build in standard military units, it is questionable if six-month rotations are long enough to generate high unit cohesiveness in an international, joint-services force such as the NRF:

"On the other hand, as a standing force, AMF-L did manage to develop a coherent doctrine and operational method, with considerable interoperability among the national components, something that the rotational nature of the NRF makes much more difficult to accomplish."[9]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. www.nato.int "Evolution"
  2. p.8, Kugler, Richard, The NATO Response Force 2002–2006: Innovation by the Atlantic Alliance, Case Studies in Defense Transformation, National Defense University, Center for Technology and National Security Policy, Fort Lesley J. McNair,Washington, DC, 2007
  3. p.8, Kugler, Richard, The NATO Response Force 2002–2006: Innovation by the Atlantic Alliance, Case Studies in Defense Transformation, National Defense University, Center for Technology and National Security Policy, Fort Lesley J. McNair,Washington, DC, 2007
  4. p.10, Kugler, Richard, The NATO Response Force 2002–2006: Innovation by the Atlantic Alliance, Case Studies in Defense Transformation, National Defense University, Center for Technology and National Security Policy, Fort Lesley J. McNair,Washington, DC, 2007
  5. www.manp.nato.int
  6. "Developing constructive partnership between Ukraine and NATO". MFA of Ukraine. http://mfa.gov.ua/en/about-ukraine/euroatlantic-cooperation/ukraine-nato. 
  7. "Sweden to join NATO Response Force and exercise Steadfast Jazz". NATO. 14 October 2013. http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/news_104086.htm. Retrieved 14 October 2013. 
  8. http://www.ndu.edu/CTNSP/Def_Tech/DTP%2018%20NATO%20Response%20Force.pdf
  9. www.ndu.edu, p. 18

^ NRF Factsheet
^ The NATO Response Force - Facilitating coalition warfare through technology transfer and information sharing.

External links[edit | edit source]

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