The Turkish army will take the lead of NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) on Friday (1 January 2021), placing thousands of soldiers on standby, ready to deploy within days. Built around Turkey’s 66th Mechanised Infantry Brigade of around 4,200 troops, a total of around 6,400 soldiers will serve on the VJTF. Units from Albania, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, the UK, and the United States will also serve on the force, which is part of the Alliance’s larger NATO Response Force. Turkey takes over from Poland, which provided the core of the force in 2020.
Turkey has made substantial investments into the unit – amongst the most mobile in NATO – particularly in its logistics and ammunition requirements planning. The latest models of Turkish armed vehicles, anti-tank missiles and howitzers have been allocated to the force. The 66th Mechanised Infantry Brigade was certified to lead the VJTF during exercise ‘Anatolian Caracal 2020’ in October. The brigade operates the latest models of Turkish armoured fighting vehicles, anti-tank missiles, and artillery according to NATO. These include Vuran and Kirpi 4×4 armoured vehicles, Firtina 155 mm self-propelled howitzers, and HY1-12 120 mm mortars. It also has TOW anti-tank guided missiles.
NATO heads of state and government decided to create the VJTF at the Wales Summit in 2014 in response to a changed security environment, including Russia’s destabilisation of Ukraine and turmoil in the Middle East. NATO members take turns heading the VJTF. Poland led the VJTF in 2020, Germany in 2019, and Italy had rotational control of the force in 2018. The VJTF will be a high-readiness “Spearhead Force” able to deploy at short notice to threats against NATO sovereignty. It will consist of a land brigade numbering around 5,000 troops, supported by air, sea and special forces. The VJTF would be supported by two more land brigades as a “rapid reinforcement capability” in case of a major crisis.