9 ways the UK Armed Forces provide support for NATO

Royal Navy Aircraft Carrier sails under the Northern Lights

The UK is strengthening its support to NATO allies to provide a stronger defence, here are 9 ways the UK is supporting NATO

UK Armed Forces supporting NATO in its operations

UK Armed Forces personnel are deployed on NATO operations and Headquarters across the alliance, demonstrating our ability to operate together as one.

NATO can call on over 3 million men and women for active service. Exercises take place each year demonstrating NATO partners integrating together to become a stronger force, helping to keep threats at bay.

9 ways the UK Armed Forces provide support for NATO:

1. Operation BILOXI — Romania 🇷🇴

RAF Tycoon jet takes off as part of Op BILOXI
RAF Typhoon jet takes off as part of Op BILOXI

Op BILOXI is an air policing mission between the UK and countries in and around the Black Sea region. The Royal Air Force is assisting Romania in deterring threats from adversarial countries.

The mission, which started in 1961 during the Cold War, is a purely defensive one designed to protect the alliance’s airspace.

As well as adding an aircraft carrier to the NATO response force, the UK has also added a squadron of RAF Typhoons and a Voyager in the Black Sea region, for this year's mission, to help with NATO air policing missions.

2. Operation CABRIT — Estonia & Poland 🇪🇪 🇵🇱

Soldiers take part in the building clearance part of the exercise
Soldiers take part in the building clearance part of an exercise on Op CABRIT.

The Baltic States and Poland have a long history of risk of potential foreign aggression.

To help deter this, in 2017 around 4,000 troops were deployed to Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Estonia. This deployment along the Baltic States and Poland makes up NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence (eFP).

As a founding member of NATO, the UK’s role in NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence is vital.

Roughly 900 soldiers from the British Army are deployed to Estonia where they lead one of the four Multi-national battlegroups.

These soldiers make up the bulk of the battlegroup in Estonia, with allies from Denmark and France supporting.

Operation CABRIT also accounts for around a small number of British soldiers deployed to Poland, where they are part of the US-led battlegroup.

3. Operation FORTIS 🌎

HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales pictured at sea, for the first time
HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales pictured at sea, for the first time.

Operation FORTIS, or Carrier Strike Group 21, was a British-led naval force that was deployed from May to December 2021.

The group was led by aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth and was joined by a strike group of ships, submarines and aircraft from the UK and allied nations.

In a practical military sense, this means that the group not only protected the carrier from ship, submarine, aircraft and missile threats but was also capable of completing a range of supporting missions, from maritime security to disaster relief operations.

Exercise Virtual Warrior

In February 2021, the carrier strike group’s warfare staff took part in Exercise Virtual Warrior, a command and control exercise that tested how the ship’s crew would react in the event of a crisis on the maiden deployment.

The exercise took place at the Maritime Warfare School, at HMS Collingwood in Fareham, utilising the base’s combined simulation training suite.

Exercise Strike Warrior

This exercise saw the carrier strike group building on and enhancing the scenarios that were tested in the previously held Exercise Virtual Warrior.

A total of 31 ships, 3 submarines, 150 aircraft, and 13,400 personnel from 10 nations took part in the exercise.

4. Allied Rapid Reaction Corps

Overview of Cherry Hill, staging area for allied troops taking part in the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force
Overview of Cherry Hill, staging area for allied troops taking part in the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force

Headquarters Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) provides NATO with a rapidly deployable, flexible HQ that can act as a Joint, Land or Corps HQ for operations and crisis response.

With the end of the Cold War, HQ ARRC emerged as the first NATO Rapid Reaction Land Force HQ.

From 1994 until 2010, the ARRC was based in Rheindahlen, Germany. In 2010 the ARRC moved to its current location at, Imjin Barracks, Gloucester.

The ARRC is the UK’s largest deployable Land HQ. Although HQ ARRC’s ‘framework nation’ is the UK, comprising approximately 60% of the overall staff, the ARRC is fully multinational in nature and organisation, with twenty-one NATO and Partner Nations overall contributing personnel.

5. NATO Standing Maritime Groups

HMNLS Eversten, HMS Diamond, IT Andrea Doria, NRP Sines during Exercise Steadfast Defender
HMNLS Evertsen, HMS Diamond, IT Andrea Doria, NRP Sines during Exercise Steadfast Defender.

Standing NATO Maritime Group One is one of NATO’s standing naval maritime immediate reaction forces which is tasked to provide NATO with an immediate operational response capability.

The Royal Navy has contributed various ships to the force over the years, HMS Northumberland being the only one currently in use for the force.

6. Enhanced Vigilance Activity

British Army staff Sergeant survival instructor teaches troops survival procedures
British Army survival instructor teaches troops survival procedures.

The RAF has sent Typhoons to Poland and Romania as a way to contribute to airborne patrols as part of Allied enhanced Vigilance Activity. This is a NATO-led Operation initiated due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

This activity sees the UK fighters flying side by side with their Allied colleagues to defend the region and is a response to Russian aggression, contributing to the security of Europe.

7. Exercise Cold Response

Surveillance and Reconnaissance Squadron conducting live fire break contact using Oversnow Reconnaissance Vehicles in Norway
Surveillance and Reconnaissance Squadron conducting live fire break contact using Oversnow Reconnaissance Vehicles in Norway.

Cold Response 2022 is a long-planned exercise, that includes around 30,000 troops from 27 different European and North American NATO countries, testing their ability to work together in cold weather conditions on land, in the air and at sea.

This year the operation takes place in Norway across March and April, where more than 3,000 sailors and Royal Marines were deployed deep inside the Arctic Circle.

They joined more than 27,000 personnel, warships, armour, and air power from more than two dozen NATO allies and partners for Cold Response 2022, the largest military exercise hosted in Norway since the Cold War.

8. Exercise Swift Response

Members of the Pathfinder Platoon prepare for their kit
Members of the Pathfinder Platoon prepare for their kit

Exercise Swift Response is part of a US-led, annual exercise known as Defender Europe.

Held across 16 European countries, it is designed to showcase the ability of NATO to carry out large ground combat operations in support of its members and allies.

Around 600 US and UK paratroopers take part in the exercise based in Estonia. Helicopters then supported the incoming aircraft and brought in additional troops and equipment, once they were within Estonian airspace.

9. Exercise Defender

Soldiers practising their skills recently learnt on Exercise NOBLE JUMP
Soldiers practising their skills recently learnt on Exercise NOBLE JUMP

Exercise Defender is an annual large-scale U.S. Army-led, multinational, joint exercise. This exercise is designed to build readiness and skills between the United States, NATO and partner militaries.

Last year’s exercise included more than 30,000 personnel from 27 nations who conducted coordinated operations across over 30 training areas in a dozen countries.

The British Army acted as a leading role in the exercise which acted as a validation of NATO’s ability to deploy large-scale troops and equipment in defence of the Euro-Atlantic area.

Find out where else the UK Armed Forces are deployed here:


9 ways the UK Armed Forces provide support for NATO was originally published in Voices Of The Armed Forces on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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