Four NATO Allies establish a regional Special Forces command


On Friday 25 October 2019, the Defense Ministers of Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish a Regional Special Operations Component Command (R-SOCC). Under the leadership of Hungary, this multinational command will increase the ability of these four nations to effectively employ their special forces.


Four NATO Allies establish a regional Special Forces command
The Regional Special Operations Component Command (R-SOCC) is scheduled to reach initial operational capability in January 2021 (Picture source: NATO)


The R-SOCC is scheduled to reach initial operational capability in January 2021 and is expected to be fully operational by December 2024. The Command will enable each nation to use its own contributions separately while benefitting from an integrated R-SOCC structure once activated for deployment.

At the signing ceremony, NATO Deputy Secretary-General Mircea Geoana highlighted the importance of this initiative. “As Special Operational Forces constitute a highly versatile tool in modern conflict, this signing ceremony takes an important step towards strengthening Special Forces in the region and increasing cooperation and interoperability within the Alliance,” he said.

NATO Special Operations Forces (SOF) provide capabilities that complement those of NATO air, maritime and land forces and are relevant across the full range of military operations. These SOF capabilities are also applicable to the Alliance’s core tasks of collective defence, crisis management and cooperative security. The NATO Special Operations Headquarters (NSHQ) is the primary point of development, coordination and direction for all NATO Special Operations activities.

Located at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in Mons, Belgium and under the daily direct operational command of the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), the NSHQ focuses on ensuring Allied Joint* SOF personnel possess a multinational foundation to allow them to operate as effectively, efficiently and coherently as possible in support of the Alliance’s objectives from the strategic to the tactical level. Twenty-six NATO member countries and three partners (Austria, Finland and Sweden) are represented among 200 plus headquarters staff.

The NSHQ is a unique hybrid organisation. It is involved in a very diverse set of activities such as NATO SOF policy, doctrine, capabilities, standards, training and education. On a daily basis, the NSHQ is actively coordinating, advocating and advising reference SOF across NATO. These activities include areas such as SOF-specific intelligence, aviation, medical support and communications.

The NSHQ also supports SOF involvement in NATO operations. This includes assisting with SOF force generation, integration into strategic and operational planning, and SOF-specific intelligence analysis. There is a Special Operations Component Command element responsible for command and control of SOF within the NATO Response Force (NRF). This element is provided on a rotational basis by a handful of countries that possess the requisite SOF capacity and capability. Enhancing SOF command and control mechanisms is also an area where the NSHQ works diligently to better integrate SOF into NATO exercises from their initial inception and design all the way through the gathering of lessons learned.

The NSHQ provides an additional deployable NATO SOF command and control option to complement other existing mechanisms provided by NATO member countries for the NRF. At the Wales Summit in September 2014, Allies declared the NSHQ’s Special Operations Component Command – Core element at full operational capability. This is a scalable expeditionary NATO SOF command and control capability under the daily command of SACEUR that is agile, responsive and capable of deploying to support NATO operations on very short notice. The NSHQ is also a pillar of the CFI, which aims to ensure that Allies and partners retain the progress made in terms of interoperability and collaboration from their experience working together during multinational deployments, such as in Afghanistan, Libya, the Horn of Africa and the Balkans.

The NSHQ also supports SOF involvement in NATO operations. This includes assisting with SOF force generation, integration into strategic and operational planning, and SOF-specific intelligence analysis. There is a Special Operations Component Command element responsible for command and control of SOF within the NATO Response Force (NRF). This element is provided on a rotational basis by a handful of countries which possess the requisite SOF capacity and capability. Enhancing SOF command and control mechanisms is also an area where the NSHQ works diligently to better integrate SOF into NATO exercises from their initial inception and design all the way through the gathering of lessons learned.

* ‘Joint’ refers to activities, operations and organisations in which elements of at least two services participate (land, air, maritime, SOF).


 

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