The NATO spearhead Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) will be led by Turkey in 2021. Turkey is replacing Poland, which took on this task in 2020. In 2019, Germany took the lead at the spearhead. The VJTF consists of a spearhead battalion that can be deployed in two or three days, followed by three battalions that can be deployed in five to seven days. The spearhead was set up by NATO after Russia occupied Crimea. Above all, it was supposed to protect the countries on the eastern border of the alliance in the event that Russian expansion policy should be pursued further with military means. However, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg made it clear as early as 2016 that these units, which can be deployed particularly quickly, apply to all crisis regions, including, for example, the southern flank.
The decision that Turkey would lead the VJTF in 2021 was made several years ago. The obligation binds the armed forces for three years. In the first year the readiness of the associations is built up. You are then ready for a second wave. In the third year, the level of readiness subsides again. Since Germany will take over leadership responsibility again in 2023, the Bundeswehr will be in the first standby phase again from 2022, after being released from "declining" standby on December 31, 2020.
The decision for Turkey is politically explosive. Turkey and Russia have grown closer in recent years, which has been underpinned by armaments purchases. In Syria, a hot spot, Turkey pursues a different policy than the NATO countries. In the eastern Mediterranean, Turkey is in conflict with its NATO partner Greece, which is supported by several other NATO countries. Many observers ask whether Turkey is really a reliable partner in the event of a conflict.
The core of the spearhead 2021 is the 66th Mechanized Infantry Brigade of Turkey with around 4,200 soldiers. The core of the VJTF 2020 consisted of Poland's 21st Podhale Rifles Brigade, supported by units from Poland's 12th Mechanized Division, the 3rd transport aircraft squadron, the military police, as well as logistics experts and specialists in combating chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear hazards ( C-CBRN). The total contingent comprised around 6,000 soldiers, around 3,000 of them from Poland. Other soldiers came from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Latvia, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Slovakia and Great Britain.
Regarding the current contingent, NATO says that the 66th Mechanized Infantry Brigade is one of the most mobile units in the Alliance. She had to go through a NATO certification program in which her military skills were tested. This took place in October 2020 with the exercise “Anatolian Caracal 2020”. According to the findings of the NATO auditors, Turkey has made significant investments in the brigade, especially in logistics. The brigade has the latest models of Turkish armored transport vehicles, anti-tank missiles and artillery. These include the armored vehicles Vuran and Kirpi 4 × 4, the 155 mm Firtina self-propelled howitzers and the 120 mm HY1-12 mortars. It also has TOW anti-tank guided missiles. The Turkish armed forces are supported by another 2,200 soldiers from Albania, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Great Britain and the USA.
NATO Response Force
The NATO spearhead is part of the NATO Response Force (NRF). It is the rapid reaction force of NATO, which can be deployed in a wide range of possible operations with high availability due to its modular structure. It consists of contingents of ground forces, air forces, naval units and special forces.
The Response Force is under the command of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Europe (SHAPE). NATO's Joint Force Command (JFC) in Naples will be the lead headquarters in 2021. The NATO Rapid Deployable Corps (Turkey) takes over command of the land component of the NRF, replacing the Eurocorps. The Allied Air Command of NATO in Ramstein is the air component command of the NRF for collective defense according to Article 5 of the NATO Treaty. The air component of the Italian armed forces is currently ready for crisis response. France will be in command of the maritime component in 2021, and the Belgian-Danish-Dutch Composite Special Operations Component Command will be in command of the NRF's special forces.
The NATO response force consisting of air, land, sea and special forces with 40,000 men should be deployable within two to seven days and then support and relieve the spearhead.
When the Bundeswehr grows back into the leadership role from 2022, which it will take on in 2023, the lead will be with Panzergrenadierbrigade 37 "Free State of Saxony". It is still planned to use the Puma infantry fighting vehicle for the first time.
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