Lightweight warhead direct fire projection

The title looks awfully technical, but it's precisely on topic, for I see a gap in the available hardware.

I began to compile a list of lightweight equipment to see how much weight could be saved from the infantryman's load over a year ago, and identified a gap. There was no satisfactory device to propel a substantial grenade forward in direct fire.

All military off-the-shelf solutions appear to be deficient in one way or another.

The anti-tank weapons and munitions are often meant to penetrate heavy passive protection and are much too heavy for almost everything. The PzF 3 is one of the few good ones, but it's awfully heavy at 13.3 kg + sight unit.

There's a wide range of mid weight solutions with calibres of around 80-90 mm, but they are too weak against tanks from any but the best angles and still needlessly heavy (often about 6 k per round) for most other purposes.

The supposedly lightweight bazooka and RPG category solutions such as M72 and RPG-26 are terribly short-ranged. It's hard to hit a stationary tank at 200 m with these (unless you know the distance), and 300 m is an entirely impractical distance.

Rifle grenades overcame most of the old criticism with bullet traps and aren't that much slower to use than a stand-alone grenade launcher if the latter is not the primary weapon (extending a buttstock and flipping up sights costs time as well). Still, their dismal effective range and terrible dispersion in range at it disqualify rifle grenades. The calibre of rifle grenades varies form about 35-76 mm, with disclosed RHAeq penetration values of up to 275 mm RHAeq. The IMI BT/AT-44 HEDP round is a good representative at 41 mm calibre; 160 mm RHAeq penetration and 490 g weight. Still, its effective range of something around 100-150 m is very unsatisfactory in my opinion.

30 to 45 mm grenade launcher rounds need not apply. All of them have a small calibre and spin stabilisation, which degrades HEAT effect and thus penetration. The highest penetration claim for a 40x46 mm HEDP grenade that I ever found was the 90 mm RHAeq claim of the DM 12. That's theoretically enough to penetrate a BMP-3's frontal protection (~ up to about 60 mm RHAeq). The effective range of such a round is still dismal at a mere 76 m/s muzzle velocity (barely good for 100 m), and medium velocity models would have increased spin (=less penetration) and little more effective range.

Millions of "Panzerfaust" have been produced in WW2, most were used - but a mere few ten thousand were expended against tanks. Such "anti-tank" munitions are needed and used as grenade projectors beyond throwing range. This was observed in all wars ever since. All but dedicated anti-MBT munitions of man-portable grenade weapons should thus be HEDP (high explosive dual purpose = shaped charge with fragmentation liner outside) munitions or have no shaped charge at all.

- - - - -

The effective range of man-portable warhead projectors doesn't need to be huge against infantry because competent adversary infantry will hardly ever be detected beyond 100 m distance. The effective range against vehicles (including lightly armoured vehicles like BMP, BTR and BMD series) on the other hand should be fine. This should at least equal the 300 m effective range of small arms against soft targets, but 400 or 500 m would be better because no-one wants to dismount infantry from BMPs or BTRs 500 m distant from the next cover.

Having voiced my dissatisfaction with all the available hardware I'd like to present a hypothetical and certainly feasible design:

  • A simple launch tube with a 45-60 mm calibre
  • The sight accepts a standard night vision monocular device (such as taken from a helmet)
  • A rocket inside with a charge that expels the entire rocket forward at low speed with a slow spin, so indoors use is possible.
  • The rocket ignites and accelerates to a high subsonic speed (about 300 m/s) which it sustains.
  • Accelerometer chips measure the rocket's movements in four dimensions and a microprocessor calculates the fusing of minute charges to correct the trajectory against wind drift, gravity and so on.
  • A fuse which can be set to a short delay (enough to penetrate doors, windows and soft vehicles) or point detonation super quick modes by electromagnetic induction.
  • The HEDP warhead deals the damage (penetration and graze fusing sufficient to defeat a BMP frontally).  Its shaped charge should not use an expensive liner (no tantalum), and should be optimised for much effect behind thin armour plates.*
  • The accelerometers can be used to correct unsteadiness of the user, but they can also be used to observe the movement of a target which was tracked with the launcher's sight for two seconds prior to launch. The missile could then fly an intercept course based on the extrapolation of the movement.
There's but one weapon and munition that comes close: The Israeli IAI Picket. It's so very obscure and unknown I had to scan pages of my Jane's Weapon Systems 1984/85 book to show it, for there's almost nothing about it in the internet.

I suppose with today's technology such a rocket weapon could be reasonably cheap and weigh about 2.5 kg including a simple launcher. An effective range of 400 m should be feasible against 1x1 m target areas, even if the target is moving steadily. That's enough to choose where to hit a non-moving target instead of having an unsatisfactory chance to hit at 200 m distance at all as with RPGs. The Raytheon's Pike has shown how very small guided missiles can be made nowadays. Accelerometer chips of sufficient quality are what enables the flight stabilisation of all those cheap quadcopter toys. We don't need a gyroscope as the Picket had.

This goes beyond mere hardware. The ability to equip the infantry with well-ranged grenade projection and anti-BMD firepower at lightweight would enable a very different behaviour by infantry. It would be more agile than with legacy weapons and munitions, while having a much better punch against all but MBT targets than without or with few legacy weapons and munitions. Keep in mind, I don't trust even the heavy man-portable munitions against modern MBTs.

We could equip an infantry squad with a couple such munitions and be confident in their ability to deal with opposition in thin-skinned AFVs and adversaries behind walls or inside buildings up to the effective range of their small arms. They wouldn't need to carry a few super-heavy anti-MBT rounds just in case some thin-skinned BTR shows up and opens fire at 300 m distance, degrading their choice of evasion routes.
A squad of 8 with six 2.5 kg weapons (15 kg total) instead of three Panzerfaust 3-IT (42.2 kg with basic sight unit) would save 27.2 kg - that's 3.4 kg on average per infantryman. This makes a huge difference, especially since the three men who carry the rounds would be MUCH more agile and have much better endurance. The break-even is actually at six rounds of my concept and a single Panzerfaust 3-IT !
I suppose there's no question about the relative effectiveness compared to the cheaper LAW-style weapons (M72, Miniman, SARPAC, RPG-18/-22/-26, RPG-75) - they cannot compete in accuracy or range and most of their versions lack a fragmentation liner.


P.S.: One could in theory - if the infantry or scouts use a stand-alone grenade launcher such as AG36 anyway - use a different approach to the same end.  A muzzle-loaded overcalibre munition for such a launcher could do the same. Again, calibre 45-60 mm and fin stabilised, and the launch would merely provide a low muzzle velocity. The rocket would need to accelerate itself after this launch beginning at a safe distance so the rocket doesn't affect the user. I'm not in favour of stand-alone 40 mm grenade launchers, so I favoured the more bazooka-like approach.

P.S. next day: BTW, this kind of autopilot guidance is immune to quick reaction smoke, and the short time of flight (less than 2 seconds) has the same effect. The short time of flight isn't really a necessity, although it reduces the problem of gravity (the missile has to fight gravity mostly with minute charges in order to fly the programmed straight line).

*: This isn't trivial. Shaped charges in part rely on turning the armour plate into fragments for behind armour effect (spalling). The thinner the plate, the less they have to work with. Spall liners, fibreglass plating and highly ductile plates reduce the spall effect further. Finally, BTR type vehicles usually don't carry much inside that's good for secondary fires or even explosions. To penetrate them is the easy part of defeating them for good.



Erdogan visited Trump in Washington and his bodyguards saw it fit to assault peaceful protesters as if they were crushing dissent at home, in Ankara.

This reminds me of the Iranian Shah's visit to West Germany in 1967, which led to Iranian intelligence agents assaulting German protesters, which led to the creation of the German word "Prügelperser" ('beating Persians') specifically for this group of non-gentlemen.

The Shah, of course, was an absolutist monarch and his intelligence agents had zero respect for freedom of speech.



Theory of conventional land warfare at low force density again

There's a thing that you must not neglect when weaker and on the defence, even if this means neglecting everything else; reconnaissance and surveillance. The less assets you have, the more crucial it is to know how best to use them, and when to extract them from a crisis situation. You need knowledge about the enemy more than ever.

It's quite the same at low force density (few troops in a large region); some small element may encounter a superior hostile element any time because troops are not evenly dispersed. Local inferiority emphasises the importance of knowledge about the enemy. It's essential to avoid superior forces (or to delay them) and it's essential to extract a weaker element in a situation of impending doom.

The other ingredient is artillery, since it potentially covers a large area (or frontage) with its fires and is the quickest reinforcement for a locally inferior force.

General Otis, who had lived on that terrain, was also concerned about the ability of the two weak brigades to hold or even to cover 20 kilometres of ground. General Balck countered by saying that he would rely heavily an artillery in this sector.

There's still no major arms racing despite heavy mechanised forces and artillery have become fashionable in European NATO again. War scenarios for the defence of NATO (= what matters for conventional deterrence) are still showing a lower force density than the Cold War's Central European scenarios where a mere 26 NATO divisions faced a superior quantity of WP divisions on a roughly 1,000 km wide front for the first week. One brigade per 10-15 km frontage was a thin 'line', nowadays it's not unreasonable to expect temporary gaps as wide a a hundred km between brigades.

- - - - -

This should lead to a preference for scouting/skirmishing and artillery forces for "first two weeks of conflict" NATO ground forces in my opinion.

Instead, we see indications that more tank battalions and more artillery battalions will be raised in Germany after there was a perceived need to raise more infantry (Jäger) battalions during the Afghanistan occupation years. I have no knowledge of accurate plans (and doubt there are such plans yet), but there seems to be a neglect of scouting.

I write "scouting" for a reason; "observation" is not neglected. There are fine observation vehicles and (old) battlefield radars in use. Maybe the long range recon patrols (Fernspäher) should be more numerous (and accordingly less "special"), but overall surveillance and observation have gotten a lot attention post-Cold War. Technological progress was happening, and it was fashionable to exploit it (long range thermal cameras mostly).
It's the scouting part that's missing. Germany gave up the Luchs 8x8 vehicle years ago (out of service since 2009). It was quite silent, but its concept was stuck in the 1930's**. Nowadays we'd need something with a better gun, with better sensors, much smaller and with 360° camera coverage instead of a second driver for driving backwards. Sadly, there's no such vehicle available off-the-shelf that doesn't have the drawback of a too high ground pressure. It seems that either the expectations for the armament or the expectation for smallness won't be met. We have a choice between something Panhard VBL-like*** with a light armament (no more than a 20 mm gun such as the M621) and something as big as the Panhard SPHINX****.

It doesn't quite seem as if the doctrinal mistake of giving up scouting and focusing on surveillance & observation is going to be corrected in Germany and several other European countries (obviously excluding France) any time soon. The fashionable status of conventional land forces for deterrence should have led to more attention on scouting, but it doesn't seem so.

This may be because of the hopes on aerial drones as eyes in the sky. Aerial drones will not deliver persistent surveillance over a European battlefield, though. Much less will they be able to do true scouting here in the 2020's. They won't look into garages and sheds, under bridges, into buildings, talk to civilians, judge the state of foliage-covered forestry roads et cetera. This may become feasible in the long term (2030+), but that's a mere possibility and the gap is real. We shouldn't need to parcel out main battle tank trios for (noisy!) scouting while we have but a couple hundred of those.

- - - - -

This was so far mostly about "economy of force"; the weak forces that avert disaster in most places with as few assets as possible so the Schwerpunkt actions can be as powerful (irresistible) as possible.

I'd like to add that this temporal parallelism is not necessary, and at times not even advisable. We should strive to shape the battlefield in our favour before seeking a battle***** - battles should be decided ahead by preparations, not during the battle itself. This means that the conceptual and doctrinal Schwerpunkt should be on those forces that shape the battlefield in our favour. Scouting and skirmishing forces attached to corps or theatre command may do this by reconnaissance, counter-reconnaissance and interdiction of supply flows.

We should pay more attention to such scouting, skirmishing and raiding forces. MBT battalions represent a brute force approach that befit the targets of a strategic surprise attack much less.

one more link to a related post:


*: Attack helicopters were believed to be very quick reaction forces during the 1970's (Brossolet et al) under the impression of experiments which yielded an exaggerated estimate of attack helicopters' lethality against tanks and before army officers began to understand how easy it had become for fighters to kill helicopters even at treetop altitudes. Helicopters are slower than artillery anyway; Artillery may intervene in a 4 minute skirmish 30 km away, while helicopters would arrive several minutes late.
**: Daimler Benz had a prototype 8x8 of such a concept in 1927 and the Büssig-NAG Sd.Kfz 231 of 1937 was almost identical to the Bundeswehr's Luchs in its concept.
***: SPHINX  and many other scout cars neglect the ability to comfortably and quickly dismount one scout to inspect buildings, climb to a better vantage point, look under a bridge and so on.
****: Germany could  upgun its Fennek, but its ground pressure is too high for soft soils without a substantial armament already. There are plenty soft soils in Eastern Europe, even in summer.
*****: I reject the inflationary use of the word "battle" for just about every firefight. I don't count anything smaller than a contact with more than a thousand dead as a "battle". Anything smaller is a "skirmish" (Scharmützel) at most.


Where is North Korea?


Americans who could find North Korea on a map:
39% of independents
37% of Republicans
31% of Democrats

Net support for military action:
+5% of those who did find NK
+9% of those who did not

(I can't tell the support for military action because the share of the non-responders etc. is not given.)

Overall more those who did find NK on a map of Asia wanted something (military or diplomatic) to be done about NK than of those who did not find NK.



MBT kits

Wartime tends to show that the combat forces of peacetime tended to lack certain preparations. More specialised forces (NOT quite our "special forces") appear and vehicles appear and more countermeasures are introduced.* They aren't necessarily available when useful, but to be available sometimes is better than never.

This is a recurring pattern, and to take it into account may enable one to guess where we are lacking today.

Let's look at something that everyone seems to have an opinion on already; a tank platoon.
Today the MBTs of a tank platoon are meant to be identical and deviations from this are - safe for markers - rather technical imperfections due to different production batches, poorly functioning components, different state of being worn out and so on.

Would we still want tank platoons of identical MBTs after a year or two of experience-gathering in intense land warfare? I suppose no.

We might prefer upgrade kits (integration by army workshops) like this:

(1) command & control kit (longer range radio, larger and higher resolution computer screen, laser target designator for PGM fire support)

(2) air threat kit (LINK 16 download of air threat picture, Rheinmetall FIRST IR-based alerter device, radar warning receiver, maybe remotely-controlled weapon station with 20 mm gun that's usable against drones)

(4) mineclearing kit (KMT-like)

(5) recovery set (winch, dozer blade - also useful against barricades and surface-laid mines and to create hull down positions)

Most modern tank platoon organisations only include four MBTs, so having so many different sets would specialise every tank (and the mineclearing set would be carried rarely). The loss of any such specialised tank might be compensated by other tanks with the same set in another platoon of the company, but not inside the platoon. Then again, having but one such kit in the platoon would often be better than having none. Today we have none.


*: Look at a German WW2 fighter, for example; the Bf 109E-1 series was the latest design as WW2 broke out in Europe. One light and one heavy fighter type. The light fighter evolved into fighter-bomber, bomber destroyer, night fighter, fighter reconnaissance, high altitude fighter versions in addition to successive baseline versions.


Estimates without complete information

There's a quite promising (and successful) method for judging policies and organisations when up-to-date inside information is wanting:

Look at patterns and typical preferences.
This is much less inaccurate than to extrapolate the past.

I do apply this very often, and also presented some standard models that describe patterns. Niskanen's budget-optimising bureaucrat and the principal-agent model apply to seemingly all bureaucracies at least to some degree.

Another pattern I mentioned (many years ago) was that technology advances from one arena to another as it becomes more compact, more lightweight and/or simply less expensive.
Some areas of military affairs are kept secret for decades, not mere years - and become visible to outsiders (which includes the vast majority of actively serving armed forces personnel) only when applied on a grand scale in a conflict. It's thus extremely difficult to form an informed opinion on military affairs as a whole.

This is a problem in a democracy, for it requires a break between principal (the sovereign = the people) and agent (the armed services) somewhere. Somewhere along the chain of political decisionmaking there's a leap from ignorant to informed. The voter doesn't know military secrets (that were kept secret for real), and thus has to authorise policies (including spending) without being fully able to decide on basis of actual information instead of propaganda.

This issue can be reduced greatly by applying a substitute for accurate information; the interpretation of what's non-secret with the knowledge about patterns and preferences. 
Everytime an air force general who was a fighter pilot argues for new fighters you take it with a grain of salt.
Everytime an admiral complains that no warship was christened for a year and asks for more shipbuilding funds you take it with a grain of salt.
Everytime an army general argues for some fancy HQ or new tank battalions you take it with a grain of salt.

Their recommendations may be good ones, but it's utterly inappropriate to trust them entirely. If in doubt, one should conclude that they could do the job with less than they ask for - at least if they did a better job than they do.

On the other hand, it's rather not likely that the demonstrative confidence of the armed services in old key equipment is appropriate. A stealth fighter concept won't be utterly dominant in a high end conflict against a capable opposing great power that had the motivation, the means and 30 years time to devise countermeasures. Anti-ship missiles developed in the 1970's and upgraded only within the limits of their original concept are not going to be anywhere near as good as actually new ones of the same class. Anti-tank munitions (which in the West have a proven history of lagging behind the best Soviet armour designs) of more than 20 years age are not reliable against high end opposing forces MBTs, period.

This may sound "sceptical", but keep in mind that the other path is called "naive".



Safe fuel storage at logistics hubs

One of the things that the typically small peacetime exercises don't test & train much is how to run 'rear area' logistics, including how to run logistical hubs (the successors of the railheads of old). There aren't many supply transportation & field depot-running troops in peacetime armed forces. This is one of the areas that depend heavily on reinforcement by reserve personnel in many land forces.

I suppose it's fairly obvious that commercial transportation of supplies (semi trailers with container or fuel tank) should be the means of transportation towards two fairly protected and leap-frogging army corps logistical hubs. Transportation of supplies (=overwhelmingly diesel fuel and artillery shells & propellant modules) from the hubs to drop-off points (if not end users) in the field could and should then be done with military vehicles; mostly flat rack and PLS/MULTI/EPLS/DROPS-compatible vehicles in approx. 15 ton class. This resupply should happen daily, most likely it would happen on every other day and when things go wrong better don't depend on it at all. Hence all manoeuvre forces should be supplied for approx. three days minimum, and scouting forces for even longer.

Supply convoy in Vietnam; I would not want to serve in any
vehicle with "flammable" written in big letters on it, in a warzone!
The security of such supply hubs is an interesting topic. Relatively low quality troops could be used to secure them against attack on land, assuming that only armoured recce and airborne troops are likely threats (let's disregard agents and sabotage by civilians for this was hardly ever a substantial issue in short historical wars). Air and missile attack are an altogether different threat, and some area air defence system would be an obvious choice.

Defences alone would likely not suffice, though. The supplies consumed by a mechanised corps in a mere week may easily amount to 50,000 metric tons plus packaging material (lots of wood and plastic).

To store that many explosive munitions and that much fuel in a single area that could be secured against stealthy attackers like airborne forces or armoured recce forces by a battalion takes a huge area. All supplies distributed in pattern of 50x50 m cells with average mass stored per cell of 5 metric tons would still be 25,000,000 square meters - such as 5 km x 5 km, about the size of an airbase.
This area becomes even bigger if you want to keep one fire or secondary explosion from leaping to the next bunch of supplies by insisting on 100 x 100 m cells - now we're talking about areas such as 10 km x 10 km. You COULD bunch everything into a square kilometre, of course. That would produce a most impressive inferno once hit.

It's obviously the better the more closely you can (relatively) safely store at least the fuels, and this requires some resilience to damage. It might be possible to protect some fuel reservoirs by storing them below ground level (quickly done with engineers' earthmovers IF there are enough of both engineers and earthmovers). You wouldn't afford the resources and time to build Hesco barrier-styled  fortresses as on occupation camps at the end of the world, after all.
Storage slightly below ground level would still not fully protect them from whatever threat comes from above, and to cover the fuel tanks (typically bladder tanks, but there are also collapsible cylindrical fuel tanks) with much soil to protect against burning debris would make it much harder to leap frog quickly while a single small bomblet could still penetrate and set afire the supplies.

flexible fuel tanks that serve as their own trailer are most fascinating
Provisions that control the manage damage (countering leaks and extinguishing fires) without much human intervention would be great to have. Supply storage areas could be much more compact, and still withstand at least merely occasional attacks (or they could be much safer while still being huge).

Two rather obvious options for this are self-sealing rubber tank walls

and automated fire extinguisher solutions.

(principle of operation; it doesn't seem to be as efficient for bladder tanks)

Now let's play a guessing game!

What do you think, how very close to heart is a sufficient stock of such things (from self-sealing fuel bladders to piping and fire extinguishing systems) to the leadership of an army say, in competition with 200 more officer job slots or maybe ten to twenty new main battle tanks?
Do you think the four star generals would passionately argue to the minister of defence in favour of thousands of empty rubber sacks with protection features and equipment at the expense of some headquarters where 200 officers work?

This, ladies and gentlemen, is why I keep insisting on civilian control of the armed services and on reigning in against the pursuit of self-interest by the armed services. It's also why I am so concerned about the bias created by career paths (an infantry officer would have a different bias about bladder tanks than a logistics officer). The civilian leadership needs to be advised by or include non-insiders with sufficient knowledge, of course.

More on this problem in general (in a more abstract way again) later.



Mystery Chinese seaskimmer missile

There are news about a weird Chinese missile that prompted me to check if the news were from April, 1st.





this is supposed to be the mystery missile

First a bit of a physics correction; radars operate mostly line of sight, but radio physics are MUCH more tricky than a check of line of sight. A missile that flies at 10 m altitude may evade detection by a radar that detects a missile flying at 4 m altitude. It's very, very tricky. The topic of a missile that flies at 50 cm altitude hasn't come up in any publication I read till yesterday and I'm no physicist myself, so I can't tell how much more advantageous such a 50 m flight profile may be over the 4-6 m altitude sea skimming figures published about typical subsonic seaskimmer missiles. I strongly suspect that it's still much more complicated than a simple horizon calculation.

Second, the safest way to "fly" THAT low would be to use ground effect very much for an 'air cushion' that keeps you from crashing at a gust.

The missile photo looks nothing like typical ground effect vehicles. They tend to have big wings, whereas that missile photo shows tiny wings and an at most widened fuselage.

Third, this would be a very, very rare example of the PR Chinese trying an innovative own way to address military challenges. Most of their military hardware are copies of the concept (if not specific types) of foreign designs, including the ballistic anti-ship missile (which the Soviets pioneered in the 1970's, but then gave up on in favour of ordinary nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles).

So right now I wonder if the May 4th article may be based on a Chinese April 1st article. The photo looks more like a target drone to me.



The ideal minister of defence

The current minister of defence in Germany (party: CDU) is under political pressure because of a scandal that exposes at the very least poor judgment of officers who could have been expected to handle a bad apple very differently. I don't see any farther-ranging systemic issues in this particular case in the information available.

Even the (many) comments in the most CDU-friendly real newspaper's website on an article about the minister's suitability for the job are very critical of the minister, but this may have many causes (among them a certain butthurt because the minister has criticised the military).

The reasons given by commenters on why the minister is unsuitable for the job vary very much - some are about the lack of knowledge about the military before taking this office, some complain about a primacy of political career and election success over getting the military right and others about performance on the job.

I myself consider Zensursula unsuitable for every public office based on the earlier policies and politics as office as minister of family, seniors, women and youth. Yes, this is specifically about the attempt to establish an unconstitutional internet censorship. Those policies did fit very well to the generally rather anti-liberal* and undemocratic nature of the CDU.

- - - - -

I like to address one particular notion that keeps resurfacing; the expectation that a minister of defence should have the background of an officer who served for years and learned to know the bureaucracy from the inside and at least some military-specific skills.

This is a rather naive idea in my opinion. The idea that such military competence enables a competent leadership is simple, enticing - and in utter disregard of the topic of preferences.

A competent leader who is good at leading doesn't necessarily produce a good outcome with his leadership.  
The question is; where does such a competent leader lead the organisation toward?

I repeatedly wrote about the principal-agent and Niskanen's budget-maximising bureaucrat. The long story short is that any military is an armed bureaucracy. An armed bureaucracy may look different from a civilian bureaucracy, but has some of the same inherent and systemic flaws. It's pursuing its self-interest and thus ends up pursuing something different than a most cost-effective delivery of the public good of security (deterrence and defence against external threats, in this case in a context of collective deterrence & defence, i.e. the NATO alliance). The pursuit of self-interests is described by the model of Niskanen's budget-maximising bureaucrat, though many more interests than budget size are in effect. The principal agent model describes that a principal (the sovereign) may task an agent (the armed bureaucracy) to act in the sovereign's place and interests, but the agent will pursue the agent's interests and needs to be controlled by the sovereign.

Now this is the very key of civilian control of the military: The sovereign (in Germany: the people) hires an agent (the minister) to do the job of controlling another of the sovereign's agents (the armed bureaucracy).

The idea that an officer who served many years inside the armed bureaucracy could do this well is naive because such an officer was indoctrinated to become part of the armed bureaucracy. Such a minister would know the bureaucracy and many of its flaws, but largely lack the motivation to reign in. To have such a minister is almost the same as giving up on the idea to hire an agent to control the other agent for the supposedly controlling agent is part of the controlled agent at least in the mindset.

An admiral as minister of defence would want to christen new warships even if there was no need for them whatsoever. A former fighter pilot as minister of defence would want new (or at least modernised) combat aircraft, even if the most pressing gap were obsolete air defences or tiny stock of munitions.

- - - - -

The ideal minister of defence has tasted the military life (lieutenant of the reserves would be nice, more military background is typically disadvantageous than advantageous).

There are two ideal archetypes of ministers of defence in my opinion:

(1) The reformer
This is a captain of the ship "military bureaucracy" who changes course away from "towards bureaucratic self-interest" to "towards sovereign's interests". A majority of senior NCOs and officers above level captain or at least above level colonel will hate his policies.

(2) The administrator
This is a captain of the ship "military bureaucracy" keeps the course, convinced that the ship is on the correct course already. This kind of minister doesn't force the bureaucracy to change much (which they hate), but has to defend the course against those who want to pursue the bureaucracy's self-interest.

The other archetypes are

(III) The typical colonel or general as minister of defence keeps or sets the ship on a steady course towards pursuit of bureaucratic self-interest. It's a cold comfort that such a minister of defence may be rather good at setting and steadying the course.

(IV) The typical career politician as minister of defence controls the ship with a priority on protecting (or furthering) his career, installs other career politicians and especially some long-time loyalists in high ranking positions. Such a minister of defence may also pursue some ideological goal, be this regime change on another continent, eliminating the risk of a coup d'état, reaching a quota of 50% women and gays in the officer corps or whatever.

I understand this was a highly abstract, kind of academic style blog post that may not be to many readers' tastes. The point is that to not look at the topic from this angle does lead to a wrong conclusion. A superb general may be a terrible minister of defence just as a superb colonel may be a terrible general. The requirements for the jobs are very different. In fact, minister of defence (commander n chief in peacetime in Germany) is no extension of the military hierarchy. It needs to be first and foremost an outside office that pursues a different course than the senior officers would on their own. That's the point of having a military under civilian control.


P.S.: Yes, I know I wrote about this before, sometimes I write on the same topic a new with a different angle, different example and so on if I think the earlier attempt wasn't fully satisfactory.

*: For Americans; this is "liberal" in the original and European meaning.


Non-nuclear escalation risks

I am biased towards reading German sources and secondarily English sources when it comes to history, military affairs, politics et cetera - simply because I am German. I can read French, Spanish, Dutch and Swedish a little, but it's tiresome and I don't understand most details in such texts. 

This means I am somewhat above global average under impression of the phenomenon that pre-war allies or early wartime allies switch sides. Sometimes I do some side blows on Italy for this reason. No German should consider Italy as allied if history was a reliable predictor of the future.

Well, this topic is finally a bit in fashion these days, because (suspected) Russian subversion efforts are perceived as more successful than (perceived, and in part real) Soviet subversion efforts of the Cold War era. The idea that certain countries would not want to honour their article 5 North Atlantic Treaty obligations* has entered the realm of debatable topics.

The practical consequences of this are very messy. Plans would need to be drawn up for collective defence that treat all unreliable allies' armed forces as uncertain luxury.

It gets even worse if one country was under suspicion of switching sides in the event of war, kind of what Italy did in 1914/15. This is a most unreliable case, but also a terrible one. Potentially hostile mobilised armed forces worth 150,000 personnel could not be tolerated in NATO's rear. To properly keep them in check would require more than 150,000 personnel for the entire duration of the conflict - an unacceptable diversion of military strength for a weakened alliance. A coup de main (quick invasion and disarmament, from multiple directions) with or without a later occupation by non-frontline forces would be thinkable**. This would require maybe twice as many forces, but only so for few weeks. It could be a prelude to a counteroffensive to liberate territory occupied by Russia.

To eliminate the armed forces of an ally that's perceived as a threat is a ridiculous idea in our time, and would be highly illegal. Still, I have little doubt it would be considered as a scenario once the clouds darkened enough to make the now still ridiculous idea of a NATO-Russia war reality.

It gets even more messy if one thinks of the potential for subversion inside Russia. Russia is still a multi-ethnic country and could face sponsored insurgencies in many places once its armed forces are busy elsewhere. This could hugely add to the misery caused by a NATO-Russia war.

Another diversion effort against Russia could happen at secondary fronts. The Caucasus region as a whole could descend into war with Georgia taking Abchasia and South Ossetia and Armenia fighting against Azerbaijan again.

I like to think that a conflict between great powers would either be fought through proxies with little direct involvement of the great powers' forces or as a short & quick limited war designed to prevent escalation beyond a region.

Sadly, there's much potential for escalation. An unlikely nuclear escalation isn't the only terrible scenario.


P.S.: I know it would have been more politically correct to talk of red country, blue alliance, orange country et cetera. I wasn't in the mood for such chiffres.

*: Like the U.S. routinely doesn't honour its article 1 North Atlantic Treaty obligations
**: The most intelligent reaction by the government under attack would be to stand down its forces, agree to disarmament in return for a withdrawal of all invaders' forces within a few weeks. To surrender one's arms can sometimes serve the own nation's sovereignty and security better than to fight with them.



I do play videogames for recreation, and in this well-defined environment one strain of character became more obvious than anywhere else: Self-restraint. Often times I make use of less than I could to keep a videogame that became easy more interesting. I assume that I tend towards self-restraint, and apply it in much of my life and thinking.

Examples are plentiful even on this blog. There's the "elegance in warfare" thing, the railing against extremist war goals.

Then there's the intense interest in 'economy of force' and the railing about power fantasies that drive demands for more military spending well beyond what's evidently enough to deter aggression against us.

I'm also frequently outspoken about a distrust in problem solving approaches that mostly involve throwing additional resources at a problem. Finally, there's my aversion against excess safety, such as airspace deconfliction that goes so far that it accepts poorly linked casualties and failures in order to eliminate a tiny quantity of directly linked accidents.
Unlike some others, my kind of self-restraint hasn't led me to a fanatic preference for 'small & lightweight' as the answer to everything, maybe seeing a repelling example of such a bias early on warded me against it.
_ _ _ _ _

Naturally I am convinced that a good dosage of additional self-restraint would greatly benefit our nations, particularly if applied to foreign policy of great powers and to military affairs/spending.
It would be interesting to learn what psychologists would uncover if they were to profile the personalities and groups that coin actual policies or public opinion on military affairs.
Would they find that rather basic motives like greed, playfulness and fear drive the outcomes? What educational and professional background correlates with which preferences and approaches?

In the end, people should understand a very, very important and very, very fundamental truth:

Military power is an expensive means to an end (security). Once that end is achieved any more military power would be a waste of resources, since military power does not yield profit. 

We're not fighting wars for arable land in a subsistence economy any more. You cannot really conquer natural resources any more in Europe (or Northern America), that concept has died in its last stand in 1945. The sole exception - Israel's attempt to hold on to occupied territories since 1967 in spite of repeated UN resolutions demanding its withdrawal - is in my opinion bound to fail, and it has already proved to be excessively expensive.

Self-restraint is necessary to stop at the point where peace is maintained or the nation defended. Those who lack this self-restraint will favour more extreme military power and more applications thereof - and may cause more economic damage to their own country and lead to more deaths than all of their country's criminals combined. The most important virtue in regard to military policy is thus self-restraint.



Thoughts on years lost

I watched a music video compilation of 'best' pop songs of the year 2000 recently, and I have to say unlike some early 90's songs the pop songs of 2000 did age rather well. It certainly was a fine summer.

What struck me was a comment on the video, though:
"best thing about this year is that it was before 9/11"

So true.
It's difficult to find anything that changed to the better for Europeans since (save for internet connection speed), but it's very easy to compile a long list of things that turned to the worse. This is due to both the allergic overreaction to 9/11 and the bursting of several economic bubbles in the Western world.

So basically what happened is that the people of the Western world failed to keep what they had; peace, prosperity, calmness, confidence. 

The failure wasn't exogenous, it was not some natural disaster. It was man-made, and thus should trigger learning to avoid a repetition under similar circumstances.

There are developed countries with little if any bubbles in their economy for decades, so it's possible to get this under control. The allergic overreaction on the other hand - that's a difficult one. I suppose this requires to elevate the right people into positions of prominence in politics and media.


P.S.: This was originally written in 2016, I just held it back for months. Now I am additionally concerned about what consequences these years will have in the long term. The direction the Western World is heading to may seem promising to some, but I have rather mixed expectations. Another lost decade isn't unlikely. That would be two lost decades for some countries, others had earlier problems and may experience a third lost decade in a row. There's much more potential for the advance of societies.


German military expansion till 2032?

Just so foreign readers take notice; there are kinda official rumours about an enlargement of the German military with planning horizon 2032 or so. These rumours follow a change in long term federal budget plans that points at growing military spending. A reorientation towards collective deterrence is obviously the current fashion, though I doubt that this is instead of the great power games like the Mali mission. Judging by the current minister I and what remarks and attitudes have become known I would rather expect the serious collective deterrence thing to be an addition rather than mostly a change of direction. Such a military expansion would also have the ugly side effect that we'd be better equipped for participation in bollocks like the invasion of Iraq in 2003.*

The info is unspecific and not definitive (all of those plans may become meaningless this autumn because of elections) and what few details have been given don't sound particularly realistic (for example way too many artillery battalions planned).

This is no news blog, so I won't write much about these rumours at this early stage. 

Those who can read German may want to read the "Augen geradeaus!" blog's posts on the topic if they didn't do so yet:




*: That,'s also an ugly side effect of my proposals, of course.
What matters more in this context is the minister's attitude to such great power games. The minister did not yet learn the lesson that Chancellor Merkel learnt in the wake of the invasion of Iraq and thus should be considered a chickenhawk.


War doesn't work THAT well for Trump

I saw a seemingly viral picture claiming that Trump's bombing in Syria pushed his job approval ratings greatly, and the picture claimed that war works.

Well, I didn't jump on this and checked the supposed source and see - no, it didn't work, at least not like that. The job approval rating was not impressed by martial stunts. The people in the U.S. are not THAT stupid.

(The cruise missile strike happened on April 7.
The MOAB stunt happened on the last day of the shown graph only.)


P.S.: I won't show you the pic with the fake claims. The mere exposure to a visualised lie already stands a chance of leaving an imprint in memories.

The Syria ‘Chemical Attack’: Cui Bono?

Cui bono – "who benefits" – is the first question an experienced detective asks when investigating a crime. (...)
The civilian population in a rebel-held town called Idlib was hit with poison gas. Dozens of civilians, including children, died a miserable death. Who could do such a thing? The answer was obvious: that terrible dictator, Bashar al-Assad. Who else?
And so, within a few minutes (literally) the New York Times and a host of excellent newspapers throughout the West proclaimed without hesitation: Assad did it!
No need for proof. No investigation. It was just self-evident. Of course Assad. Within minutes, everybody knew it.
 The Syria ‘Chemical Attack’: Cui Bono? by Uri Avnery, April 15, 2017 


Planning and plans

"In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable."
"I tell this story to illustrate the truth of the statement I heard long ago in the Army: Plans are worthless, but planning is everything. There is a very great distinction because when you are planning for an emergency you must start with this one thing: the very definition of "emergency" is that it is unexpected, therefore it is not going to happen the way you are planning."
These are two Eisenhower quotes, and they point at one of the most important things in the conduct of military operations and they preparation for warfare by the officer corps.

It is of great importance to have red teaming (trying to figure pout possible hostile actions) and to understand the terrain, forces and especially the possible routes and their characteristics. It's very useful to calculate in advance whether something may possibly work out well.
This is essential about planning.

What's not essential is the detailed plan, for

"The tactical result of an engagement forms the base for new strategic decisions because victory or defeat in a battle changes the situation to such a degree that no human acumen is able to see beyond the first battle. In this sense one should understand Napoleon's saying: "I have never had a plan of operations." Therefore no plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force."
That was Moltke the Elder speaking.

I think these insights should guide what to expect from campaigns, how to design staffs from (manoeuvre) battalion to theatre level, doctrine and training of staff officers and COs in general.

The biggest challenge is probably not how to say or write a sufficiently concise order, but how to transfer the insights gained from meticulous planning to the actual leaders. 

Imagine officers looking at three possible routes. They learn there's swampy terrain left and right of the road, another route has Central European noise emissions walls left and right and the third one has woodland left and right - visible on a map and seemingly indicating an obstacle there, but actually the woodland allows even heavy lorries to pass. A quick look might have made the 3rd route look worst, when in reality it's the one that's ceteris paribus the best one. That insight is a result of the planning, but how to communicate it best among hundreds of other things is not trivial at all, particularly if there's only 30 minutes for a briefing about 50 different insights.

Planning should also include a coordination of callsigns, map updates, radio frequencies et cetera - things that commanding officers don't necessarily need to know about and thus I suppose they shouldn't be so much part of an order to the CO as simply included in orders directly given to his staff. No CO reads stuff that's not relevant to him when he or she is in a hurry. 

I've read doctrines of several countries' land forces on how to do staff work and orders* and I've never seen any such doctrine guided by the insight that planning is important, while plans don't last long and thus don't mean much. Nor have I seen much emphasis on letting manoeuvre forces commanders react to developments quickly and by being on the spot themselves.** It was often written in old (1920's to 1950's) German writings on the subject, but the attitude seems to have shifted hugely after decades of peace in Europe and bombardment of infantry-centric or otherwise low quality Third World ground forces.

There seems to be an exaggerated belief in plans - maybe because real warfare didn't quite challenge this belief. It might do so in the future, though.


*:  Honestly; I read none from page one to last page. 
**: I have seen much lip service that was crowded out by undue emphasis on the topic of plans.


No link between cause and effect required

Over at MilPub FDChief wrote
"The possibility that the idiot Trumpkins think they can "solve" [the North Korea issue] makes my blood run cold..."

And my reply grew so long and fundamental that I decided to write it here instead:

I don't think they want to solve anything. Some people aren't in the business of solving problems. They are in the business of rearranging things so they please them.

That's not necessarily a solution, nor necessarily for a better life in objective terms.

More like a cat thinks that this cup really doesn't belong on the table - bam on the floor it is. Trump et al (including many of his voters) may be the kind of people that think governments such as the one in Iran, the one in NK, or the one in Germany for that matter should be treated with a certain attitude and disrespect - kinda like dogs think that tree really needs to have their own smell of piss now.

The idea that everyone is seeking solutions to better life, "to form a more perfect union" or any other strictly objective, measurable improvement. Some people are really not about the end, but all about the means.

I see this in military affairs very often. People dream up fantasy navies and when I ask them to justify the expenses for this or that they have no clue what utility their fantasy navy would offer for all of its increased costs whatsoever. They simply don't require a link between cause and favourable effect - they just prefer the cause by innate preference.

Scientists and science pundits despair over the utter link between proven unsuitability of policy proposals and their longevity. "Zombie economics" etc. Proved to be a horrible idea again and again, still brought up as a proposal if not even as a supposed necessity again and again.

MilPub is one of the very, very few (moderate) pacifistic MilBlogs, so worth a visit.



'Crazy, erratic leader' deterrence and Syria

After a while of thinking about what Trump did in Syria I gave his team (not him) the benefit of a doubt and came to a possible explanation.

He did not tweet much about the strike, which makes it look a bit deliberate (though deliberation was likely a mere hours long).
He may play the 'crazy, erratic leader' deterrence play that the Kims of North Korea have been playing since the end of the Cold War.

The military strike makes Trump and his staff incalculable for future conflict, and thus creates some deterrence effect in itself. This is, unless it was agreed-on in advance with Putin*; in this case at the very least Putin would not be deterred from anything by the bombing.

I don't think Trump even only understands the concept of deterrence in its variations and details. He would only create 'crazy, erratic leader" deterrence by accident (or rather nature), but someone on his staff may have come up with it through actual thinking (though I don't think it was McMaster).


*: Which by now is a conspiracy theory or rumour only, though somewhat plausible considering the marginal destructiveness of the strike. The use of gas may have been unauthorised by Assad and the bombing an agreed-on scheme to save face and score points with the hawkish U.S. media plus it distracts from ongoing scandals and domestic failures.


Gerrymandering in the U.S.


reporting made sufferable by comedy


"NATO Draht"

Something small and simple for a change.

I leave this here because every now and then I mention this privately and it's handy to have the stuff compiled in one link:

Military 'barbed wire' isn't barbed wire any more, and hasn't been in decades. It's rather a stamped steel sheet. The exact shapes vary (multiple types can be seen here), but they have in common that
  • they're much more difficult to cut than actual barbed wire
  • they're usually stored and applied in coils
  • sometimes even a single deployed coil can stop a light AFV while 10 coils can be considered a convincing obstacle to all kinds of AFVs*
  • you rather don't try to jump over it with all of the weight of your individual infantry equipment
  • nobody likes to handle this stuff, it's a mess even with special gloves and tools
  • to deploy such obstacles is rather slow
  • its difficult to cut these obstacles silently, even with appropriate tools
- - - - -

I've heard different claims about how well such obstacles resist explosive charges. My personal guess is that 120 and 125 mm HE-frag shells should be satisfactory at clearing, while small charges such as hand grenades may not be.
A promising clearing method would likely be small continuous rod charges or linear explosive formed penetrator charges (there are linear shaped charges, so I suppose at >110° cone angle linear EFP would work as well, but maybe the linear shaped charges themselves suffice already).** I have never heard of either in service, so I suppose I'm either poorly informed on post-1980's engineer demolitions equipment or nobody really bothered to go much past 1940's solutions in this area.

I tried to check this, and the U.S. Army knows linear shaped charges, but doesn't seem to use them itself. Military engineer demolitions equipment really doesn't seem to have experienced much improvement after the 1940's, safe for plastic explosive sheets and the 1950's invention of explosive foxhole excavators.

Well, the least messy method of making a S-Draht obstacle trafficable may be to simply lay a bridge or carpet over it. Blowing stuff up may merely be the male-typical approach. ;-)


*: There's a rule of thumb in a German field manual, but I am not sure I memorised it correctly. A standard obstacle would be 3 coils, two on the ground and one on top of them - all linked. Nobody even thinks of trying to jump over or crawl below that without tools.
**: Bangalore torpedoes are more bulky, and about 2 kg of bundled or  stacked hand grenades seem inefficient and are no good answer to some other obstacles and structures that might be in need of explosive problem solving.


Europe's defence in the long term in light of events in Turkey and the USA

The evidence for Turkey being a dictatorship since the failed coup d'état attempt has become overwhelming. The evidence is also suggesting that Turkey's economy will crash or stagnate over the next decade (as a whole, not every year) unless the AKP loses power.

Yes, I did write that Turkey is in an extremely important geostrategic location (repeatedly) and I also did write that the Greek's Little Cold War with Turkey was silly and that Greece should greatly reduce its military spending.

Still, we might find ourselves in a position where Europe does NOT stay allied with Turkey (maybe not even with the U.S., for similar reasons), and Turkey instead allies with Russia (autocrats seek comfort by and cooperation with other autocrats when facing democracies).

Greece, Bulgaria and Cyprus would not be capable of bearing the deterrence and defence against Turkey on their own, stagnant or not. Serbia, Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia and the still fractured Bosnia Herzegovina would not be huge factors either due to the small size of their economies.

I usually suppose that Poland and Germany should focus on defending the Baltic and Polish frontier of NATO/EU, and will stick to this; Germany should not reorient its military for Balkan/Greek defence, even if Turkey would turn into a threat. We might help with intelligence efforts (I expect many Turks and Kurds to seek asylum from the AKP regime in Germany in the future), but even a worst case Turkey would not be a military problem to the EU on its own. It would be so only if allied with Russia - and German military strength would still be needed in NE Europe if that's the case.

So I see multiple rather self-evident, successive strategies:
  1. Try to tolerate Erdogan's more or less dictatorial rule in NATO
  2. If this fails, try to keep Turkey neutral (if need be by tolerating them doing regional great power nonsense on their own as a bloc-free great power)
  3. If this fails, move on to deter if not defend against Turkey
The geography is most troublesome in this regard. It might be necessary for the UK to permanently garrison Cyprus with relatively strong forces (~ two brigades that fit the terrain) including area air defences and subsidising Cypriotic armed services (focus on wartime strength, not peacetime strength) through the EU might make sense as well. Cyprus is terribly isolated once you don't consider Turkey an ally any more.

It might also be most cost-efficient to subsidise the military budgets of Greece and Bulgaria. This could even be done through forgiving public debt of Greece instead of through direct military subsidies from the EU budget. Such subsidies would only be sensible if the fiscal freedom of action generated thereby would be used well, of course. Huge pay rises for officers, growth in staff sizes, amphibious warfare ships, purchase and operation of obsolete ships as toys and other expenses that contribute nothing to deterrence and defence should not be supported by a direct or indirect subsidy scheme.

Italy might orient its armed services (air force and corps-sized peacetime army) at the Balkans, which means that Central and West Europe would need to suffice for both first week and total reinforcement of the Baltic countries & Poland without support from Italy. This is most relevant regarding the air war, where Italy contributes good area air defences and Typhoon fighters.

Maybe a EU or NATO land combat training centre in Bulgaria with permanent presence of 2 allied brigades (rotation of personnel, maybe a total of 6-8 prepositioned mechanised brigade sets could be present*) would be a cost-efficient and welcome reinforcement.

I suppose a plan to invite the Ukraine and protect it immediately through deployment of  (invited) forces worth at least an army corps to the Ukraine might be a geostrategic counterweight plan in case that Turkey turns anti-NATO/pro-Russia. It couldn't be used to deter such an outcome because this would be too escalating, risking an all-out Russian invasion of (all of) the Ukraine.
Armenia and Georgia might want Western protection when stuck between Russia and Turkey, though their involvement in a hot conflict would put them in a terrible place. They might still judge this worth it if they perceive puppet status or annexation by Russia as the alternative.

Turkey's geographical location enables it to cut off both Suez Canal shipping and (together with Egypt) Israel's maritime trade. This would - in case of Turkey as threat to rather than reliable member of NATO - create a case for powerful convoy security capabilities, primarily against air threats.
Israel's air force might - even in the long term - be able to secure Israel's maritime trade in about 1,000 km radius against all but powerful saturation attacks, but only so if the USA keep subsidising Israel's military with several billion dollars per year.
Cyprus would be an unreliable air base for operations in such a case, so there wouldn't be enough fighter support to secure such convoys, and aircraft carriers would be a terribly expensive means to change this. This creates one of the best cases for dedicated naval AAW. AAW warships like Type 45 (UK, 6 ships), F124 (GER, 3 ships), HORIZON (ITA, 2 ships), F100 (ESP, 5 ships) and FREMM (FRA, 2 AAW version ships planned) would get a critical job after all**, though I suppose their numbers wouldn't suffice to protect more than one convoy per month. The Type 45 destroyers would not all be sent to East Med, particularly not if the British carriers operate in the North Atlantic. The same would be true of the French AAW destroyers.

EH 101 Merlin with Crowsnest AEW radar (UK)
We would also need AEW helicopters to complement whatever AAW sensors and firepower are in such a convoy. AEW aircraft would be too endangered; they couldn't even try an emergency landing/ditching to escape missiles unless one of the extremely expensive (cost inefficient) carriers was part of the convoy.

A Russia-friendly if not Russia-allied Turkey would make Russian Black Sea submarines a likely factor in the Mediterranean Sea rather than having them largely locked into the Black Sea. The Europeans might feel compelled to invest more in ASW capabilities in the Med to counter this, albeit it would require a much larger Russian (and Turkish) submarine fleet to justify this.

The land defence topic is much simpler; the terrain doesn't lend itself much to rapid advances of armoured troops and the relatively short land border (only about 200 km depending on where you draw lines) allows for using overwhelming artillery firepower as the backbone of the tactical defence. Islands taken by an aggressor wouldn't need to be taken back; an Istanbul in range of howitzer HE shells would be the bargaining chip of greater value than any Mediterranean island short of (Italian) Sicily. That's not a nice statement, but it's nice that expenses in amphibious warfare capabilities are unnecessary for deterrence & defence.

- - - - -

Maybe you noticed that I didn't count the USA as a reliable asset in Europe's deterrence and defence here. That's because under this president it's simply no such thing, and nobody knows the duration or long term effect of this presidency. I think of the alliance with the USA not so much as of an alliance with a military power that helps to deter attack on Europe or to defend Europe as of a treaty that keeps Europe and the USA from becoming adversaries. The USA haven't been interested in the defence of Europe and are largely irrelevant to it, with army forces in Europe being of little value and most of the U.S. armed forces geared towards cruise missile diplomacy and occupation warfare on distant continents. The USAF would be of much value, but only after 1-3 weeks of deploying and then 1-3 weeks of intel preparation & attrition of opposing air defences before air power would take full effect on land warfare.

- - - - -

Anyway; Turkey's armed forces are 2nd rate in equipment and apparently also in skill (at best, and this might have become worse due to political purges), and 1st rate only in size (about 2/3 of Russia's military and paramilitary personnel strength). They would need a thorough modernisation and improvement over 5-10 years to become a threat. To sell them arms that we produce (and thus understand) to avoid them buying Russian (or Chinese, Pakistani) arms might be a good strategy, even though they keep using their land and air forces in questionable ways, particularly against the Kurds.
This would help step 1 and 2
  1. Try to tolerate Erdogan's more or less dictatorial rule in NATO
  2. If this fails, try to keep Turkey neutral (if need be by tolerating them doing regional great power nonsense on their own as a bloc-free great power.
and wouldn't hurt step 3 either, particularly if we sell them monkey model software for electronic warfare components and put backdoors in IFF and datalink subsystem chips.***


*: Ideally all exercise deployments would be surprise deployments with the troops involved not knowing in advance; this would train the rapid reaction deployment (in 48 hrs, by air into Romania and by road to the depots) in addition to the skill in employing the hardware.
**: I still think that all functions of AAW destroyers could be substituted for by a distributed containerised air defence system based on the container transports that are the convoy themselves; armed merchantmen. AAW destroyers need to beat this alternative in cost efficiency to justify their existence. 
***: It is much harder to investigate algorithms in chips than to investigate software code.