What is the NATO Warfighting Capstone Concept?

The NATO Warfighting Capstone Concept (NWCC), often referred to as NATO’s North Star, provides  20-year vision for the development of the Alliance Military Instrument-of-Power and sets out a realistic path forward to turn that vision into reality.

In light of the dynamic strategic environment, the Alliance Chiefs and Heads of Defence agreed to NATO’s Military Strategy in May 2019: a renewed approach setting out Alliance military-strategic objectives and the ways and means to implement them.

The Chiefs and Heads of Defence directed strategy implementation through two high-level concepts: one concept framing the employment of the Alliance’s military instrument of power to deter and defend against known threats and another concept setting a 20-year vision to develop the military instrument.

Together, the NATO Military Strategy and its two implementing concepts have the potential to set the direction for NATO’s ongoing adaptation. The NATO Warfighting Capstone Concept provides the long-view as part of the coherent package of NATO Military Authorities’ best military thinking. The 2019 NATO Military Strategy, the 2020 Concept for Deterrence and Defence of the Euro-Atlantic Area and the 2021 NATO Warfighting Capstone Concept together provide NATO Military Authorities with a new baseline on which to guide the development of the NATO military instrument of power and to provide military advice.


Success demands a military instrument able to out-think by anticipating threats and understanding the strategic environment; out-excel by striving towards excellence through integrity, people and culture; out-fight by operating decisively within and across domains; out-pace by recognising risks, seizing opportunities, deciding and acting faster than any potential adversary; out-partner by building interoperability and fostering mutually supportive relationships and partnerships; and out-last, by enduring as long as it takes through competition and any conflict situation. It must be able to do all of these things across three operational contexts: shaping, contesting and fighting.

Together, these indispensable and mutually reinforcing “outs” should help identify new operational concepts and capabilities, especially those that could have ‘game changing’ potential, enabling the Alliance to get ahead of, rather than just react to the threats it faces.