NATO Response Force

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NATO Response Force
NRF emblem
AllegianceNATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization
TypeMulti-national force
RoleRapid deployment force
Size40,000 (300,000+ planned)
Part ofSupreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe
HeadquartersJFC Brunssum, Netherlands
JFC Naples, Italy (annual rotation)
WebsiteOfficial website

The NATO Response Force (NRF) is a high-readiness NATO rapid deployment force comprising land, sea, air, and special forces units capable of being deployed quickly within short notice.[1][2] The NRF currently comprises up to 40,000 troops,[2] with plans to increase its manpower to over 300,000 troops.[3] Its forces include units from several non-NATO member partners, including Ukraine (since 2014),[4] and Georgia (since 2015).[5] Its forces also include units from Sweden, which joined the Response Force in 2013[6] and became a NATO member in 2024.[7]

The NRF was formed in June 2003 per endorsements at the 2002 Prague summit. Units assigned to the NRF were only used for disaster relief and security until February 2022, when it was activated for the first time in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.[8]


The NRF structure consists of four parts:

  • Command and Control element: Based on a deployable Joint Task Force HQ.
  • Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF): High-readiness "spearhead force" that can deploy wherever needed at short notice.
  • Initial Follow On Forces Group (IFFG): High-readiness forces that can deploy following the VJTF in response to a crisis.
  • Response Forces Pool (RFP): A broad spectrum of military capabilities encompassing command and control, combat forces, and support units, drawn from the national forces of NATO members and non-member allies.

Rotating forces through the NRF requires nations to meet the demanding standards needed for collective defense and expeditionary operations. As its standards are very high, participation in the NRF is preceded by a six-month NATO exercise program to integrate and standardize the various national contingents. Generally, nations carry out a pre-training period in preparation for the NATO exercises, lasting between 6–18 months. Once activated, Reconnaissance Teams deploy within 5 days. This is the first of a number of deployment phases that lead to the deployment of the entire HQ Joint Task Force and Immediate Reaction Forces within 30 days.

The NRF trains for various tasks, including:


Creation and early years[edit]

The NRF concept was first endorsed with a declaration of NATO's Heads of State at the Prague Summit on 22 November 2002 and approved by NATO Defence Ministers in June 2003.[10] Dual headquarters were created in Naples, Italy and Brunssum, Netherlands; command rotates annually between them.[11] In 2004 and 2005, NRF units were activated for a small number of civilian missions, including to provide security at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens[12] and the Afghan presidential elections,[13] as well as to provide humanitarian assistance in the United States after Hurricane Katrina and in Pakistan after the 2005 Kashmir earthquake.[14] Due to equipment shortages, unfulfilled troop commitments and falling political support among member countries, the size of the NRF was cut in half in 2007 and not used again until 2022.[15] During the 2014 Wales summit following the Crimean crisis, NATO leaders agreed to reorganize the NRF's core troops into a "spearhead force" known as a "Very High Readiness Joint Task Force" (VJTF) designed to be able to deploy at 48 hours notice, although the actual level of readiness was generally several weeks. It was also for the first time linked explicitly to NATO's Article 5 obligations.[15] Altogether, it amounted to around 30,000 troops.[16]

For most of its existence, the lack of enthusiasm of NATO's member states for the NRF resulted in chronic equipment and personnel shortages. It was sometimes branded a wasteful failure[17] and an insignificant force next to NATO's more established units. Nevertheless, some military scholars argue that it played a significant role in modernizing European militaries as their troops rotated through it.[15]

2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine[edit]

As Russian troops built up around Ukraine in early 2022, various units attached to the NRF were alerted or deployed. On 11 February 2022, a U.S. Army brigade combat team of about 4,700 troops from the 82nd Airborne Division was ordered to Poland, while a Stryker squadron (battalion-sized cavalry unit) was sent from Vilseck's Rose Barracks to Romania.[18] On 11 February 2022 F-35A squadrons of the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings deployed from the U.S. to patrol NATO's eastern flank.[19]

On 16 February 2022, 8,500 troops in some of the units that make up the U.S. contribution to the NRF were put on alert for possible rotational deployment to EUCOM's area of responsibility.[20][21] By 25 February 2022, 7,000 troops from this force, including the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division — 4700 troops, plus support units), were deployed to Germany.[22] This marked the first time in decades that three U.S. heavy brigades deployed to EUCOM concurrently (the 1st Brigade of the 3rd ID, the 1st Brigade, 1st ID, and an Initial Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division, all to be deployed as needed for the situation).[23] Two forward-deployed headquarters, one from V Corps (United States), and the capability for one from XVIII Airborne Corps, were positioned in Poznan, Poland,[24][25] and Wiesbaden, Germany[26] respectively, should any further need arise for a proportionate response to a threat to the member states of NATO.[27]

After a NATO meeting on 25 February 2022, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stated that the NATO leadership had agreed to deploy part of the NRF to alliance members in Eastern Europe. Stoltenberg said that Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, currently led by France, would be among the units sent.[28] This was the first time the NRF had been activated for a military mission.[29] In light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the NATO Response Force can activate up to 40,000 troops.[30] Eight of NATO's thirty member nations have triggered urgent consultations under Article 4 of the NATO Washington Treaty.[30] In advance of the 2022 Madrid summit, Jens Stoltenberg announced the plan to increase the NRF size to more than 300,000 troops, which was approved during the summit.[3][31]

It was reported in March 2024 that NRF has already deployed more than 100.000 soldiers in Poland.[32][33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "NATO Response Force/Very High Readiness Joint Task Force: Fact Sheet". NATO. 9 March 2015. Archived from the original on 14 April 2015. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  2. ^ a b "NATO Response Force". NATO. 22 February 2022. Retrieved 25 February 2022.
  3. ^ a b "NATO to boost troops on high alert to over 300,000 - Stoltenberg". Reuters. 27 June 2022. Retrieved 28 June 2022.
  4. ^ "Developing constructive partnership between Ukraine and NATO". Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine. 2014. Archived from the original on 24 January 2015. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  5. ^ "NATO Secretary General to Visit Georgia Next Week". Civil Georgia. Tbilisi, Georgia. 21 August 2015. Retrieved 21 August 2015.
  6. ^ "Sweden to join NATO Response Force and exercise Steadfast Jazz" (Press release). NATO. 14 October 2013. Retrieved 14 October 2013.
  7. ^ "Sweden officially joins NATO, ending decades of post-World War II neutrality" (Press release). APnews. 7 March 2024. Retrieved 10 March 2024.
  8. ^ Kitfield, James (12 March 2022). "Russia's invasion of Ukraine has created NATO's watershed moment". Breaking Defense. Retrieved 27 April 2023.
  9. ^ "Rapid Deployable Corps". NATO. 22 June 2022. Retrieved 30 June 2022.
  10. ^ Kugler, Richard (2007). "The NATO Response Force 2002–2006: Innovation by the Atlantic Alliance". Case Studies in Defense Transformation. Washington, DC: National Defense University, Center for Technology and National Security Policy: 8.
  11. ^ "NRF Rotation 2022". NATO Joint Force Command Brunssum. Retrieved 26 February 2022.
  12. ^ Brianas, Jason (December 2004). "NATO, Greece and the 2004 Summer Olympics". Master's Thesis. Naval Postgraduate School.
  13. ^ "NATO To Provide Troops For Afghan Election". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Retrieved 26 February 2022.
  14. ^ Jopling, Michael (2006). NATO and civil protection: special report. NATO Parliamentary Assembly.
  15. ^ a b c Ringsmose, Jens; Rynning, Sten (2 September 2017). "The NATO Response Force: A qualified failure no more?". Contemporary Security Policy. 38 (3): 443–456. doi:10.1080/13523260.2017.1350020. ISSN 1352-3260. S2CID 158836713.
  16. ^ "Defence Ministers agree to strengthen NATO's defences, establish Spearhead Force". (Press release). Brussels, BE: North Atlantic Treaty Organization. 6 February 2015 [First published 2015-02-05]. Archived from the original on 6 February 2015. Retrieved 6 February 2015.
  17. ^ John, Deni (14 October 2020). "Disband the NATO Response Force". Atlantic Council. Retrieved 26 February 2022.
  18. ^ Caitlin Doornboos (11 Feb 2022) Another 3,000 U.S. troops to deploy to Poland as White House says Russia could invade Ukraine within the week
  19. ^ Rachel S. Cohen (31 Mar 2023) The US Air Force sent F-35s to defend NATO. Here’s what it learned.
  20. ^ Jim Garamone (16 Feb 2022) NATO Leader Says Alliance Is Hoping for Best, Preparing for Worst 
  21. ^ Alex Hollings (14 February 2022) 5-MINUTE SUMMARY: WHAT’S GOING ON IN UKRAINE?
  22. ^ Meghann Myers (25 February 2022) Thousands of US troops deploying for first-ever NATO Response Force activation amid Russia attack
  23. ^ Corey Dickstein (2 Mar 2022) Fort Stewart soldiers deploying to Europe will draw heavy weapons from Army’s stockpile on the Continent for first time
  24. ^ "Kolasheski tapped to lead newly reactivated Fifth Corps". 12 May 2020. Retrieved 19 May 2020.
  25. ^ Rachel Nostrant (4 Mar 2022) V Corps soldiers headed to Europe amid Ukraine invasion additional V Corps HQ troops, to handle the additional nations, Bulgaria and Hungary, as well as the ongoing 4th SFAB and 2nd Cav Regiment assignments
  26. ^ Jim Garamone (14 Feb 2022) More US troops to deploy to Europe, Guardsmen reassigned out of Ukraine XVIII Airborne Corps HQ, led by LTG Kurilla
  27. ^ Andreas Sytas (16 Feb 2022) Russia 'likely' to launch 'limited' military attack against Ukraine, says Estonian intelligence
  28. ^ "NATO Response Force is being activated, Stoltenberg reveals; its numbers can grow to 40,000". AP. 25 February 2022. Retrieved 25 February 2022.
  29. ^ Gonzales, Oriana (25 February 2022). "Russian aggression "not limited to Ukraine": NATO Response Force deploys for first time". Axios. Retrieved 25 February 2022.
  30. ^ a b Lorne Cook (24 Feb 2022) NATO vows to defend its entire territory after Russia attack
  31. ^ "Madrid Summit ends with far-reaching decisions to transform NATO". NATO. 30 June 2022. Retrieved 30 June 2022.
  32. ^ Cremonesi, Lorenzo; Sarcina, Giuseppe (26 March 2024). "La Nato blinda il fianco est: schierati 100 mila soldati della «forza rapida» in Polonia". Corriere della Sera (in Italian).
  33. ^ "«La Nato schiera 100mila soldati in Polonia», rischio escalation con Mosca: la Response Force è pronta alla guerra". Il Messaggero (in Italian). 26 March 2024.

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