Strykers in the Sand Box

Strategy Page (again, no permalink so I’m pasting in the whole post) has a piece on the Strykers going to Iraq.

One of the U.S. Army’s new Stryker brigades are headed for Iraq this Fall and many are wondering how it will do there. It’s good to remember that it’s not the machine, it’s the men, that make the difference. The Stryker brigades are pumped, for they know they are the new kid on the block and realize that they will be watched closely. So they will probably do well. The only issue with Stryker is its vulnerability to RPGs. Without the additional armor that the M-2 Bradley’s have, the the 19 ton, wheeled Stryker armored vehicles are as vulnerable as the marine AAVs. That said, the AAVs and Strykers do provide more protection than hummers, which is why almost all the RPG attacks since May have been on trucks. Iraq service will also provide more statistics on the advantages of the wheeled Stryker vehicles versus tracked ones like the M-113 and M-2. Iraq is a harsh environment for vehicles because of the heat and sand. It’s not for nothing that the place is called the “sand box.” However, in the end, Iraq is not a combat test for Stryker, but a peacekeeping one. And that’s what Stryker was designed for. So there will be no embarrassing encounters with heavier mechanized units. But dealing with peacekeeping well depends more on imagination than weapons. This fact tends to get lost in all the speculation over what the Stryker vehicle can, or cannot, do.

Yes, the Stryker isn’t as well armored as the M-2 Bradley. That’s the whole point. They are a compromise on the mobility/protection/firepower equation, leaning far (but not overly far) to the mobility side. Their lighter weight (mostly due to wheels instead of tracks and less armor instead of more) allows them to be deployed via plane much more easily and gives them far greater speed and mobility once they’re in theatre. I think the biggest questions are going to be the actual results of air deployment (if they utilize it, which I think they should) and the tires. Blow-outs were an on and off problem during trials of the vehicle, and some changes have been made, but the harsh Iraqi environment, the probable hard pace of operations, and the fact that bad guys will probably be taking pot shots at the tires with all sorts of weapons will take everything to a much higher level.

That being said, I’m expecting the Strykers to perform well. If they do, and if the problems that do crop up are addressed, I think the Stryker could quickly become one of the most valuable armored vehicles in the Army. We’ll see.