The need to respond quickly to an emerging crisis has formed the bedrock of much of the UK’s force capability generation activity for some time. Beyond the counter-terrorism role of UK Special Forces there are a number of capabilities held at high or very high readiness, examples of such capabilities might include everything from a single C17 to a spearhead battalion or the NATO Submarine Rescue System.
Under the control of the Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ) in Northwood is a collection of forces called the Joint Rapid Reaction Force. This is defined as;
The Joint Rapid Reaction Forces (JRRF) is a pool of highly capable units from all services that are maintained at high readiness for contingency operations. CJO is responsible for the JRRF, although operational command of the units is retained by the single service CINCs until they’re deployed.
These units are trained to joint standards and are deployed in joint force packages, tailored to meet the operational requirement. The pool is configured to mount operations up to medium scale war fighting and can be employed nationally or multinationally under NATO, EU, UN or other ad hoc coalition.
To command the JRRF a fully resourced Joint Task Force HQ (JTFHQ) is maintained at 48 hours notice to move.
This used to be supported principally by two elements from the British Army and Royal Marines although these have contracted and been renamed as part of SDSR 2010 and subsequent force changes. The Spearhead Lead Element was replaced with the Airborne Task Force and UK Operations Battalion in 2012.
This was modified further with the announcement of two combined high readiness forces.
The Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (CJEF) is a joint UK/French construct and the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) is a an agreement between the UK and Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Norway that will create yet another high readiness force by 2018.