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NATO Special Operations Headquarters (NSHQ)

NATO Special Operations Headquarters provides strategic advice, enables development, and synchronises activities to deter threats and defend the NATO Alliance.


Welcome Transforming SOF

The Alliance’s key purpose and greatest responsibility is to ensure the collective defence of Allies. NATO Special Operations Headquarters promotes and ensures that the SOF of NATO support alliance efforts to deter in peacetime and defend in crisis and conflict against the Alliance’s two main threats, Russia and Terrorist Organizations. NSHQ enables collective readiness, responsiveness, deployability, integration, and interoperability of our forces through policy, doctrine, education, training, verification, and certification. NSHQ’s leadership’s synchronizes Allied and Partner SOF activities to support NATO’s three core tasks: deterrence and defence; crisis prevention and management; and cooperative security.


Mission Focusing Special Operations

The mission of NSHQ is to provide strategic advice, enable development, and synchronise activities to deter threats and defend the Alliance.


Vision Adapting to Change

NSHQ serves as a bridge between the NATO requirements, demands and opportunities to the national SOF commands. NSHQ achieves its mission through continuous improvement of SOF forces capability/ability to deter and defend against all threats from all directions.

Featured NSHQ News

The latest news and information on the NSHQ missions.


About Us

What is NSHQ?

Since 2010, NSHQ has increased the readiness and interoperability of Allied SOF forces and assisted NATO to develop and integrate partner SOF forces. NATO Special Operations Forces (SOF) are designed to respond to complex and dynamic security missions within the evolving strategic environment that compliment NATO air, maritime and land forces and are relevant across the full range of military operations. Special Operations are military activities conducted by specially designated, organised, trained, and equipped forces using distinct techniques and modes of employment. These activities may be conducted independently or with conventional forces across the full range of military operations. Political-military considerations may require clandestine operations and acceptance of a degree of political or military risk not associated with operations by conventional forces. Special operations create strategic or operational level effects or are executed where significant political risk exists. Special Operations Forces serve the Alliance’s collective defence by supporting NATO’s Strategic Concept through deterrence and defence, crisis response and management and cooperative security.

NATO Special Operations Headquarters (NSHQ) serves as the primary focal point for Allied SOF.

NSHQ History

At the 2006 NATO Summit in Riga, Allied Heads of State and Government agreed to launch a Special Operations Forces Transformation Initiative aimed at increasing Allied and partner SOF’s ability to train and operate together, including through improving equipment capabilities.

The NATO SOF Coordination Center (NSCC) was created to implement the SOF Transformation Initiative and synchronize SOF capability development across NATO. The NSCC supported NATO’s International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan and stood up the NATO Special Operations University (NSOU). In 2010, the NSCC was reflagged as NATO Special Operations Headquarters (NSHQ).

Today, NSHQ continues its mission to update and implement NATO SOF policy, doctrine, capabilities, standards, training, education certification and verification in support NATO’s three core tasks. NSHQ actively coordinates, advocates and advises allied and partner special operations commands in areas such as collective defense, crisis prevention and management, intelligence, resilience/resistance, aviation, maritime development, medical support, and communications.



NSHQ's unit emblem was designed to represent the three dimensions of SOF capabilities: The sword and trident symbolise land and maritime capabilities. The wings represent the air component and express the ability of SOF to respond rapidly over great distances, overcoming obstacles in the path of mission accomplishment. The parachute represents SOF’s airborne capability The varied shades of blue represent the North Atlantic’s seasonal faces, indicating SOF’s dedication to the Alliance through the calms and storms of today's challenging environment. The NATO emblem is placed in the middle, reflecting the overall architecture wherein NSHQ operates. The Latin motto "Unitate Sententiae, Certo Actio" translates to "Through Unity of Purpose, Certainty of Action".

NSHQ and NATO SOF Facts:

  • NSHQ is recognized as a NATO Military Body under the NATO Force Structure during crisis. It is a Memorandum of Understanding organisation with the United States as the lead framework nation.
  • NSHQ is located on the same premises as the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in Mons, Belgium and under the operational command of the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).
  • The NSHQ Commander is dual-hatted as the Special Operations Advisor (SOFAD) to SACEUR.
  • Twenty-seven NATO member countries and three partners (Austria, Ireland, and Sweden) are represented among the 200-plus headquarters staff.
  • The SOF of NATO are organized in a manner with land, maritime and air units to allow Allies and partners to coherently and efficiently act together to achieve tactical, operational, and strategic objectives.
  • Special operations can be conducted independently or in conjunction with conventional forces, interagency partners, and operations by, with, or through local or surrogate forces. Most SOF operations require non-SOF support.

NSHQ Roles

What are the roles of NSHQ in NATO?

NSHQ is co-located with Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in Mons, Belgium. It falls under the operational command of the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR). Twenty-seven NATO member countries and three partners (Austria, Ireland and Sweden) are represented among the 200-plus headquarters staff.

NSHQ's mission is to enhance the interoperability of Allied SOF and the integration of partner SOF alongside NATO forces. In 2018, Allies gave NSHQ the responsibilities to act as the Theatre Component for NATO SOF. The NSHQ Commander, as the Theatre Component Commander, provides strategic SOF Advice, enables SOF development and synchronises SOF activities to deter threats and defend the Alliance.

The NATO Special Operations University on Chièvres Air Base in Belgium provides training and education to build Allies' and partners' SOF capabilities, capacity and interoperability. This effort enhances the development of capable, realistic, geographically oriented SOF relationships and structures to create effects in peacetime, crisis and conflict.

NSHQ, in support of the Alliance's Special Operations Forces, continues to adapt, coordinate, enable and support the integration of multinational SOF, ensuring the Alliance’s collective defence based on 360-degree approach.


Getting to SHAPE

NSHQ is located at SHAPE, in Mons Belgium.

The recommended airports for arrivals and departures are Brussels Airport (BRU) for international flights or Charleroi Airport (CRL) for European and national flights. Transportation around Mons and most of Europe is relatively easy. This can be accomplished by train, bus, or taxi, depending on the destination.

The closest train stations are in the towns of Soignies (about 11 km to the northeast of SHAPE), Mons (7 km to the southwest), and Jurbise (9 km to the northwest).

GPS Reference

SHAPE: 50°30′01.6"N 3°58′59.7"E
Chièvres AB: 50°35′14.3"N 3°48′29.9"E

Additional Arrival Information

Contact Us

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NATO Special Operations Headquarters

Building 915
B-7010, SHAPE
Email: webteam@nshq.nato.int