German forces on 1 January 2019 took the lead for NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), providing thousands of soldiers to be on standby and ready to deploy within days; taking over from Italy, which provided the VJTF lead brigade in 2018.
The VJTF in 2019 is based on a German brigade, the 9th Panzerlehrbrigade. The Netherlands and Norway support the German contingent adding capabilities such as aviation and mechanised infantry. France, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, Latvia and Lithuania also provide forces. Together, they represent a multinational brigade of around 8,000 troops.
"The VJTF is a substantial contribution to our collective defence," said NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu. "In 2019, nine Allies will contribute to the VJTF. This is a strong display of our capabilities and our resolve to work together. Once activated, the VJTF, our Spearhead Force, is available to move immediately to defend any Ally against any threat."
The VJTF is a joint force, consisting of a land component, supported by air, maritime and Special Forces. It is part of the alliance’s larger NATO Response Force (NRF) with around 40,000 troops. This year, the 1st German/Netherlands Corps is in charge of the NRF’s land forces. Admiral James Foggo commands the entire NRF from NATO’s Joint Force Command in Naples, Italy.
Exercise "Trident Juncture 18," which took place in Norway last autumn, certified NRF for 2019, with the VJTF at its core. "Trident Juncture" involved around 51,000 personnel, including six army brigades and Marine ground forces supported by air, maritime and Special Forces. A main exercise focus was NATO’s ability to move personnel and armour quickly across Europe.
NATO heads of state and government agreed to create the VJTF at the Wales Summit in September 2014, in response to a changed security environment, including Russia’s aggressive actions against Ukraine and turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East.