Rheinmetall is equipping NATO's spearhead VJTF

Bundeswehr prepares for the VJTF leadership in 2023

For 12 months the Bundeswehr leads the Very High Joint Readiness Task Force (VJTF), known as "NATO spearhead ". In case of deployment, German soldiers would be on the front line. As a partner of the Bundeswehr, Rheinmetall makes a sustained contribution to fulfilling the increased requirements of the VJTF and to protecting the soldiers.

NATO requires the spearhead Very High Readiness JointTask Force (VJTF) to be operational within 48 to 72 hours. This includes at least 5,000 soldiers from the army, air force, navy and special forces – and they need to be at the ready. Every year, the NATO nations change leadership of the superfast response force. As well as Germany, countries such as France, Great Britain, Italy, Poland and Spain have declared their willingness to be involved. For the year 2023, Germany will take over the VJTF as the leading nation and provide up to 2,700 soldiers. Rheinmetall Defence will bear a major responsibility for the continuous supply of materials.

The crisis response force

The VJTF unit is the core of the NATO Response Force (NRF) – the previous crisis response force – and is therefore part of the Readiness Action Plan (RAP). It is NATO's fastest response force. Its most important role is to increase response capacity. In order to protect the Baltic states, NATO initiated the RAP in 2014/2015 and thus the VJTF. The annexation of Crimea by Russia is the reason for increasing the response time of the armed forces.

Germany's responsibility as a framework nation

The NATO membership condition for Germany was fulfilled in 1954 when the Paris Treaties were signed. Germany has been a reliable partner of NATO since 1955 and participates in foreign military operations and in alliance defence. During the Cold War, the sovereign territory of the Federal Republic of Germany was protected by the stationing of large NATO units and the Bundeswehr. Germany is now assuming a similar role by leading the VJTF.

Operations are decided together at the political level by the NATO member countries by unanimous vote. The second step is for the Bundestag to decide on German participation.

The response times of the VJTF

The VJTF rotation principle consists of three phases:

  • Stand-up phase: 45 days' time to operational readiness
  • Stand-by phase: Two to seven days to operational readiness
  • Stand-down phase: 30 days to operational readiness

Three states are operational according to this rotation principle with different response times. In the event of an emergency, NATO thus has three multinational brigades at its disposal, which respond within two to 45 days. From 2020, Poland will rotate into the stand-by phase, Germany into the stand-down phase. The multinational VJTF brigades increase NATO's operational readiness.

VJTF and the Bundeswehr

The Bundeswehr struggled with bottlenecks for some time – whether material or personnel shortages. As the framework nation of the VJTF leadership in 2023, this needs to change. For the major manoeuvre "Trident Juncture" in autumn 2018 on the Norwegian coast, the Bundeswehr took up the challenge – with success. Logistically, time was tight, but it was sufficient for VJTF certification, even though "Trident Juncture" had contracted material from the Bundeswehr since it was not yet fully equipped at the time. The German Ministry of Defence is satisfied with the result because the process was deliberately prepared to identify weaknesses.

The major manoeuvre "Trident Juncture" was the biggest NATO manoeuvre since the end of the Cold War. 50,000 soldiers from 31 nations practiced defending alliance territories. 8,000 German soldiers successfully took part in the major manoeuvre.

Due to the rotation principle, the brigades are bound to the VJTF for a period of three years. The VJTF is a substantial exertion because they are not available for other missions and international obligations during this time.

Rheinmetall delivers to the Bundeswehr

As a partner of the Bundeswehr, Rheinmetall plays a key role in equipping NATO's spearhead Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF 2023) for the stand-by phase in 2023.

Christoph Müller, Head of Program Organisation for Germany:

"We have understood the precise requirements of the Bundeswehr. Now we have an obligation to act. The armoured infantry officer system will be the material spearhead of the German army for VJTF. Ultimately, we will have to be assessed in terms of our delivery time, quality and adherence to budget. If we keep to our promise, we will create the basis for the Bundeswehr's success. That is entrepreneurial responsibility because our only success is if the Bundeswehr succeed."

Rheinmetall products for VJTF

Puma armoured personnel carrier


The Puma is supposed to be the core for the NATO spearhead VJTF 2023. 41 Puma armoured personnel carriers will be delivered for the VJTF. The Puma will receive the following modifications to fall in line with the VJTF design standard:

  • First vehicle equipped with Software-Defined-Radius (SDR)
  • Integration of the WA MELLS guided missile system
  • Improvement of the visibility systems in the running gear by means of coloured day vision cameras as well as coloured flat screens, thermal imaging cameras, as well as their positioning
  • Infantryman of the future: installation of new radios and the TACNET unified command and control system
  • Integration of the AGDUS and EWES training system
  • Pre-fitting for the turret-independent secondary weapon system
  • Improvement of the visibility systems in the turret
  • A second heavy-duty cable

With the VJTF configuration state, the PUMA can be used in Out-Of-Areas operations as well as crisis and conflict situations. With the introduction of digital SDRs, the Puma will be the German army's first digitalised vehicle and will form the core of the army's digitalisation.

Leopard main battle tank
Leopard 2

Leopard 2

The Leopard 2 is used for the VJTF. Thanks to the ideal combination of firepower, protection and mobility, the Leopard 2 main battle tank offers an enormous fighting power. This makes it the most powerful main battle tank in the world.

Rheinmetall supplies the Leopard's weapons system and range of ammunition, firing control system, turret electrics and visibility systems.

Fuchs light wheeled tank
Fuchs 2

Fuchs 2

The Fuchs still forms the backbone of the Bundeswehr's tanks with over 900 in use. Many Fuchs will be used with different configurations for the VJTF too. Its unique selling point is its versatility:

  • ABC armoured reconnaissance vehicle
  • Ambulance vehicle
  • Pioneer group vehicle
  • Fuchs KAI
  • Carriers for various additions such as radars

A new version of the Fuchs has just been developed. The Fuchs 1A8 Plus has been developed together with the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support, which – thanks to a new drive train – can once again keep up with the Boxer on the battlefield.

As a group vehicle the Fuchs can reach speeds of up to 100km/h, thanks to its 6x6 drive formula.

Marder armoured personnel carrier
Marder MELLS

Marder MELLS

The Marder armoured personnel carrier still forms the basis of the armoured infantry unit troop's equipment and can meet the demands of today's combat with the most modern means. The MARDER has already impressively demonstrated its capabilities in Kosovo and under extreme conditions in Afghanistan.

The official planning envisages the use of the Marder 1A5 and A3 armoured personnel carrier for another few years and, together with Rheinmetall Landsysteme GmbH, is carrying out measures to extend the service life and for the Very High Joint Readiness Task Force (VJTF). For example, the discontinued MILAN anti-tank weapon is being replaced by the state-of-the-art MELLS system with fire-and-update capability, or command capability is improved with digital command and control means.

The Marder is therefore also prepared for the armed forces in the future.

Unprotected transport vehicle (UTV)


For the VJTF, the Bundeswehr is planning to use trucks from the HX2 family. The unprotected transport vehicles will be delivered to the Bundeswehr under the framework agreement signed in 2017. These are HX2 vehicles with a payload class of 5 and 15 tonnes.

By 2025, 2271 vehicles will be delivered to the Bundeswehr, and this will complete the order. It has been agreed with the Bundeswehr for the delivery to be implemented much faster. A delivery of 1000 HX2 vehicles is planned for next year, so that the order will now be completed in 2021 and a follow-up procurement will be possible.

The HX2 is the successor of the legendary KAT I, which is still used in the Bundeswehr today. The HX vehicles are particularly suitable for heavy off-road use. Thanks to its robust leaf suspension and steel shock absorbers, the all-round vehicle serves as a reliable load transporter.

Live ammunition
40mm live ammunition

40mm live ammunition

Rheinmetall is the Bundeswehr's main supplier of live ammunition and for the upcoming VJTF missions for combat.

In 30mm x 173 calibre, Rheinmetall produces and supplies the two main types of live ammunition: KE-TF DM21 and KE DM33 for the PUMA armoured personnel carrier. Both types of ammunition are designed and qualified according to the latest standards and are unrivalled worldwide in terms of reliability, performance, penetration and precision. The extremely reliable programming of the KE-TF enables the PUMA armoured personnel carrier to combat larger infantry area targets.

For the grenade machine gun, Rheinmetall is supplying three cartridge types: 40mm x 53 HE, HE-DP and HE-ABM. Due to their modern ESD detonator, these cartridges with a range of up to 2,200m become the most reliable active agent of infantry. The programming of the 40mm x 53 HE-ABM DM131 makes it possible to fight enemy parties in and behind cover. This is a function that is currently only available to the Bundeswehr in modern combat.

Rheinmetall is the sole supplier of the 120mm x 570 HE-Temp DM11, KE DM63 live ammunition. The department-funded DM11 development project was explicitly developed for the fight against infantry area targets measuring 85 x 100m. This ammunition is fired from the Leopard 2 A7V main battle tank and has three detonator modes: Air burst, impact and delay.

The performance upgrade of the KE ammunition to the DM73 will be completed in 2020 and will offer the German army a decisive advantage in terms of range and penetration. It will also substantially increase the duel capability of the main battle tank.

Developed by Rheinmetall for the armoured howitzer, the 155mm DM121 active-mass optimised projectile delivers eleven-and-a-half kilograms of high-performance explosives to the target with maximum precision at a distance of 30 kilometres. This makes it the most explosive HE type projectile in the world. At maximum distance, approximately 85% of all projectiles strike the area the size of a football field. Due to the interaction of the high-quality components, the DM121 is capable of penetrating ten centimetres of reinforced concrete and moving it in a controlled manner behind it. Thanks to guaranteed functioning in a temperature range from -46°C to +63°C, the DM121 can be used worldwide with constant high performance. The insensitive explosive ensures the protection of one's own forces in the event of ammunition strikes or other incidents.

  • Rheinmetall AG

    Press and Information

    Oliver Hoffmann
    Rheinmetall Platz 1
    40476 Düsseldorf
    Phone: +49 211 473-4748
    Fax: +49 211 473-4157

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