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  • Connected Forces Initiative (CFI)
  • Interoperability
  • Military Readiness
  • Military Training, Exercises and Simulations
  • Military Transformation
  • Multinational Armed Forces
  • Special Forces
  • Special Operations

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    Trident Juncture 2015


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    The NATO Response Force is the spearhead of this Alliance: a rapid-reaction group able to defend any Ally, deploy anywhere, and deal with any threat. Exercise Steadfast Jazz will make sure that the spearhead is sharp, and ready to use.NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen (14 Oct 2013).


    • Launched in 2002, the NRF consists of a highly capable joint multinational force able to react in a very short time to the full range of security challenges from crisis management to collective defence.
    • NATO Allies decided to enhance the NRF in 2014 by creating a “spearhead force” within it, known as the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF).
    • This enhanced NRF is one of the measures of the Readiness Action Plan (RAP), which aims to respond to the changes in the security environment and strengthen the Alliance’s collective defence.
    • Overall command of the NRF belongs to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).
    • The decision to deploy the NRF is taken by the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s highest political decision-making body.

             (From NATO RESPONSE FORCE, NATO web page, 23 June 2016)

    This LibGuide is intended to provide a few starting points to assist you with your research on issues related to NATO Response Force.

    Good places to start your research include the NATO Pages on: 


    The NATO Response Force initiative was announced at the Prague Summit in November 2002.

    The NATO Response Force (NRF) is a highly ready and technologically advanced multinational force made up of land, air, maritime and special forces components that the Alliance can deploy quickly wherever needed. The NRF will become more important post-2014, after the NATO-led International Assistance Force (ISAF) has completed its mission. It will provide a vehicle to demonstrate operational readiness and as well as a “testbed” for Alliance Transformation.

    On 21 February 2013, Defence Ministers agreed that the NATO Response Force will be at the core of the Connected Forces Initiative (CFI) which aims at maintaining NATO’s readiness and combat-effectiveness through expanded education and training, increased exercises and a better use of technology. According to NATO's Secretary General,  Anders Fogh Rasmussen, The NATO Response Force is "an immediate resource, but also an investment in the future" (Source: NATO Defence Ministers agree to expand exercises and mulitnational cooperation).

    As part of the initiative, Ministers agreed that the Alliance should hold a major live exercise in 2015 that will include the NRF and draw up a comprehensive programme of training and exercises for the period 2015-2020.

    The NRF is comprised of three parts: a command and control element from the NATO Command Structure; the Immediate Response Force, a joint force of about 13,000 high-readiness troops provided by Allies; and a Response Forces Pool, which can supplement the Immediate Response Force when necessary.

    In comments made by Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, NATO's Supreme Allied Commander for Europe and Commander of U.S. European Command, on 2 August 2013 (Source:"Meeting Future Air Threats", Supreme Allied Commander Blog, ACO Website):

    "My aim is to make sure that our NRF deployable headquarters and troops are ready to deal with any situation in any environment. The NRF and associated training is essential in maintaining and enhancing the ability of forces from across the alliance to work together." That, Breedlove emphasized, "will be increasingly important as our mission in Afghanistan winds down and we prepare to meet future challenges."

    Four training events scheduled through the end of 2013 "that will enhance and certify the capabilities of NATO’s Response Force" (Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove):

    • Exercise Brilliant Arrow (25 August - 5 September, in Norway)
    • Exercise Brilliant Mariner (25 September - 6 October, a maritime exercise staged in the Baltic Sea)
    • Exercise Brilliant Sword (October, in Italy)
    • Exercise Steadfast Jazz 2013 (from 2-9 November, in Latvia and Poland). "Several alliance nations, including the Baltic states and Poland, will participate in Exercise Steadfast Jazz. That exercise will bring together air, land, maritime and Special Forces components, as well as the headquarters staff from Joint Force Command Brunssum, which will lead NATO joint operations next year." (Source: "Exercises, Training to Posture NATO for Future Challenges", US Department of Defense, 5 August 2013).   
    • Exercise Arccade Fusion (16-29 November)

    On 15 April 2014, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that the Ukraine crisis has amplified the need to strenghten cooperation between NATO, the European Union and otehr partners: "We need to train and exercise more together -- for instance, the NATO Response Force and the EU Battle groups -- so that we stand ready for whatever the future may bring."

    On 5 February 2015 (just before NATO Defense Ministers meeting), Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is about to suggest to the Defense Ministers: "We will strengthen our existing NATO Response Force.[...]. The current size is around 13,000. I expect that they will decide on a force which will be around 30,000 and part of that enhanced NATO Response Force, I expect will be the establishment of this Spearhead Force, which I expect will be of a size of around 5,000. And this Spearhead Force will have some lead elements which will be able to deploy within a very very short notice. We  speak about a few days. [...] But this is going to be decided later on today and its too early to tell the final conclusions." (NATO Source)

    The Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) concept - this Spearhead Force - will be tested and refined during 2015. "A series of exercises, trials, and evaluations will be conducted throughout 2015 in order to develop, refine and implement this concept [...] With the introduction of the VJTF concept, the NRF will have a new structure". (Source: NATO ACO: NRF/VJTF Fact Sheet, 9 March 2015) 

    In order to train and test the NATO Response Force, Exercise Trident Juncture 2015 (TRJE15) took place from 28 September to 06 November 2015 in multiple locations across the Alliance including Italy, Portugal and Spain. Over 25,000 troops participated in the exercise. (Source: NATO Allied joint Force Command Brunssum - Trident Juncture 2015)

    "The ongoing recasting of NATO’s Rapid Response Force and the creation of a brigade-size force able to deploy in 48 hours (the “spearhead” or “very high readiness joint task force” – VJTF) raises a question of primary importance, namely that of what authority should decide deployment.": this point was discussed by the NATO Parliamentary Assembly on 18 May 2015 at Budapest (Online source available to NATO staff only; 'NATO/ASSEMBLY: Members of Parliament tackle question of authority relevant for authorising deployment of “Spearhead” NRF' in "Europe Diplomacy & Defence", no. 796 dated 18 May 2015)

    In May 2015, NATO Chiefs of Defense discussed the way ahead with the Readiness Action Plan and stated that the VJTF would become fully operational in 2016”.

    On 17 June 2015, Allied troops in action tested the capabilities of NATO’s new very high readiness Spearhead Force during "Noble Jump," its first deployment exercise. 

    During the 24-25 June 2015 at NATO HQ, halfway between the NATO Summits in Wales in 2014 and Warsaw in 2016, the Allied Defence Ministers met to review the implementation of key decisions taken in Wales and noted the significant progress they have achieved, in particular in implementing the Readiness Action Plan. They also decided to bolster the NATO Response Force and reinforce collective defence.

    On 3 September 2015, as part of the NATO Readiness Action Plan, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg inaugurated a NATO Force Integration Unit (NFIU) in Vilnius, Lithuania, calling the opening “a big step forward towards greater solidarity, greater strength, and greater readiness.” The Lithuanian NFIU is one of six small new headquarters activated this month in Lithuania, as well as in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Poland and Romania. (NATO Source)

    During the Foreign Ministers meeting at NATO HQ on 8 October 2015, the "Ministers reviewed the implementation of the Alliance’s Readiness Action Plan" and "[...] gave their green light to the completed military concept for the Enhanced NATO Response Force, including its command and control arrangements. “We now have everything in place to make the Response Force stronger, faster and more capable,” Mr. Stoltenberg said. The Ministers also agreed to set up two more NATO Force Integration Units (NFIUs) or small headquarters in Hungary and Slovakia. Six other NFIUs were activated in September in  Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania. The Secretary General also welcomed the announcement by Germany to lead the Alliance’s very high readiness Spearhead Force in 2019 and plans by the United Kingdom to rotate more troops into the Baltics and Poland for training and exercises." (NATO News, 8 Oct 2015)

    On 19 October 2015, NATO Allies and partner nations kicked off the Alliance’s Trident Juncture live military exercise during an opening ceremony at the Trapani air force base in Italy, launching three weeks of intensive training involving 36,000 troops from more than 30 nations across Italy, Spain and Portugal. The exercise will continue until November 6 and will also certify next year’s NATO Response Force headquarters and the functions of the new very-high readiness Spearhead Force. (NATO News, 19 Oct 2015)

    In the 2015 NATO Secretary General Annual Report, published in February 2016, Mr. Jens Stoltenberg gives an overview of the 2015 implementation of the Readiness Action Plan and of the enhanced NATO Response Force (p. 14-15).

    In May 2016, with only a few months until the next NATO Summit in Warsaw (Poland), an academic article published in Strategic Studies Quarterly by J. M. Arnold offers an interesting evaluation of the RAP and the steps taken to implement it so far.

    In the analysis "NATO's Land Forces: Strength and Speed Matter", Gen. John Nicholson, the Commander of Resolute Support and United States Forces-Afghanistan, declares that as a result of Russia’s actions in 2014, "the “adaptation” of NATO’s land forces over the last year has resulted in strong, fast land forces that can generate options short of war. Should deterrence fail, these same measures will enable NATO to prevail decisively." (PRISM, 18 July 2016).