International reaction force
The Dutch armed forces seldom carry out military operations alone. They operate together with other countries' armed forces within a NATO, UN or EU context. This international cooperation is important in the preparation and execution phases of many operations. The Netherlands also participates, on a rotational basis, in the rapidly deployable units of these alliances.
The European Union has 2 combat units (EU Battlegroups) on standby for immediate deployment on 30 to 120-day missions anywhere in the world. As part of the international community, the EU can thus intervene quickly and robustly in countries where the situation is threatening to get out of hand, or has already done so.
These units provide a full package of military capabilities, including combat support, logistics and transport. They can be deployed, armed if necessary, for carrying out evacuation operations and humanitarian support, but also for conflict prevention and crisis management operations in their early stages.
The composition of the 2 units is changed every six months. In the first half of 2010, the Netherlands provided a marine infantry company with supporting units to form a Battlegroup with the United Kingdom. During the first six months of 2011, the EU Battlegroup was under Dutch command. The Netherlands supplied 1.200 military personnel, mainly from 13 Mechanised Brigade, and the commander. The unit, comprising around 2.350 military personnel, also included personnel from Germany, Finland, Lithuania and Austria. The next Dutch participation in an EU Battlegroup will be in 2014. The Netherlands will not be lead nation, but will provide units.
NATO also has a rapid-reaction force, the NATO Response Force (NRF), which is manned by different units from NATO countries on a six-month rotational basis. The intervention force can be deployed within 5 to 30 days anywhere in the world. The NRF comprises:
- a land component;
- a sea component;
- an air component;
- a Joint Logistic Support Group;
- a multinational CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear) battalion;
- a Special Forces component.
As is the case for air and maritime operations, NATO maintains a headquarters on standby for deployment on land, the NATO High Readiness Force (Land) Headquarters, abbreviated to HRF (L) HQ. This headquarters is manned on a rotational basis by 6 existing NATO headquarters, one of which is 1 (German/Netherlands) Corps in Münster, Germany. Once every 3 years, therefore, the headquarters in Münster holds Land Component Command status for a period of 6 months.
For the sea component, naval vessels from the Netherlands take part on a rotational basis in:
- NATO’s 2 rapidly deployable maritime forces, Standing NATO Response Force Maritime Groups 1 and 2 (SNMG1 and 2). They operate in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, respectively. SNMG2 was under Dutch command from July 2010 to 30 June 2011. This involved the deployment of the navy frigates HNLMS De Zeven Provinciën, HNLMS De Ruyter and HNLMS Tromp consecutively as flagship. During this period, the ships of SNMG2 were also active for Operation Ocean Shield, NATO’s counterpiracy mission off the coast of East Africa. From 23 January 2012, the NATO flotilla (SNMG1) will be under Dutch command for one year, with HNLMS De Ruyter, HNLMS Evertsen and HNLMS Rotterdam acting as flagship of the flotilla for consecutive periods.
- A maritime force for mine-countermeasures operations: Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1). From 8 August, HNLMS Vlaardingen was part of the flotilla for a period of four months.
In 2010, the Netherlands contributed to the air component of the NATO Response Force. During the first 6 months, 9 F-16s and a detachment of some 240 military personnel from Leeuwarden Air Base were on standby for deployment within a few days. In the second half of the year, the F-16s of Volkel Air Base were on standby.