Ministry of Defence
UK forces have taken command of NATOs Response Force and its flagship Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), committing thousands of troops to be on standby and ready to deploy within days.
Defence Minister Earl Howe witnessed the handover at an official ceremony at Imjin Barracks, Gloucester. The force will comprise of 3,000 British troops standing ready, supported by NATO allies, to respond to any threat to the alliance.
As the UK takes over from Spain, the 20th Armoured Brigade will lead the force with the 1st Battalion The Princess of Waless Royal Regiment, the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, 26 Regiment Royal Artillery, 35 Engineer Regiment and 1 Logistic Support Regiment also contributing troops.
The US, Denmark, Spain, Norway and Poland will support the UK brigade, adding capabilities such as armoured infantry companies, aviation and mechanised infantry.
Further projecting our global influence, the Royal Air Force has also taken the lead in the air component of the NATO Response Force.
Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said:
With the Alliances second biggest and rising Defence budget, Britain is at the heart of NATO. In heading up the VJTF, the UK is taking another leading position in NATO and is sending a clear message that Britain is stepping up to our global defence commitments.
The UKs Armed Forces stand ready, at a moments notice, to defend our allies and protect the British national interest.
Leading the NATO Very High Readiness Joint Task Force is the first of a stream of activity which will see the UK stepping up its leading role in NATO.
Attending the official ceremony Defence Minister Earl Howe added:
Witnessing todays handover, its clear to see that our forces are ready to take the lead in the NATO alliance, one of the most important guarantors of British security.
The UK will also deliver one of four battalions to NATOs enhanced Forward Presence in the Baltic States and Poland, with a battalion being sent to Estonia from early 2017 and a company deployed to Poland.
In October, the Defence Secretary announced that the UK would commit RAF Typhoon aircraft to the NATO Southern Air Policing mission, offering reassurance to the Black Sea allies. Deployed from RAF Coningsby, the Typhoons will be based at Mihail Kog?lniceanu Airbase, Romania for three months in summer 2017.
Backed by a 178 billion equipment plan and defence budget rising in real terms for the rest of this parliament, the UK has the second biggest defensive budget in NATO and is one of five countries meeting the NATO 2% spending target.