Stryker needs to go carb-free

GAO Calls Stryker Too Heavy for Transport

In a revelation that shocks no one, the Government Accountability Office told Congress that the Stryker is “just too Goddamn heavy”. They had to bleep C-SPAN.

Well, okay. That wasn’t the exact quote. But it was close enough. Here’s a legit quote from the WaPo story:

Indeed, the report said, a C-130 with an average-weight Stryker wouldn’t even be able to take off from higher elevations in Afghanistan, such as Bagram or Kabul, during daylight hours in summer.

The findings support the claims of critics that the eight-wheeled Stryker — now in use in Iraq — won’t be able to meet the original goal of being able to roll into a C-130, be flown 1,000 miles and leave the plane immediately able to engage in combat. When 2,000 pounds of associated equipment such as ammunition is loaded into the aircraft with the typical Stryker vehicle, the report said, the C-130’s range is about 500 miles — and if heavier equipment is loaded it’s much less. The report noted that the Army subsequently has dropped that 1,000-mile range requirement for the system. [emphasis mine]

This isn’t really anything new, though I wasn’t aware of the no-daylight restrictions in high altitudes. Sheesh.

Readers will know that I’m more or less a fan of the Stryker, and that I wrote long ago that we needed to send them to Iraq to see how they did in the real world. By all accounts, they’ve done fairly well. One was lost to an RPG in March, though it was a freak hit and not one that penetrated the armor. (Post on the official report here.) Another was lost in December to an IED. There have also been a number of others severely damaged in various accidents. But the performance apparently has been more or less what it was designed to bring.

Critics will cleverly point out that the Strykers have been held out of the hottest spots, but the Stryker was never designed to charge into the thick of the fight. It’s a high-tech truck that provides fair protection to its cargo of infantrymen while also bearing communication and other equipment for the squad and mounting light fire-support weaponry. It’s for the places where tanks and Bradleys are overkill. It’s to get the ground-pounders to the fight, not to enter the fray itself. It seems to be fulfilling that mission quite well.

The problem, of course, is that it’s too damn heavy. This has been known for quite some time, and adding the cage-like slat armor just makes it bigger and heavier.

A large part of the reasoning behind the Stryker was that it would be more-quickly deployable than current heavy forces. It doesn’t seem that it will be able to reach the front any more quickly than a Bradley. The Stryker basically performs the mission of an up-armored Humvee (albeit more capably) but it deploys basically like a M2 Infantry Fighting Vehicle. This is a problem. It doesn’t torpedo the entire Stryker concept, but it certainly invalidates a large part of the reasoning behind it.

The plan:

The reality:

Now, granted, the brigade’s deployment last year wasn’t an emergency situation, so going by ship was just fine. But if we HAVE to send them by plane, can we?

Something else I noticed a few weeks ago but never got around to posting on was the failure of every C-130J aircraft delivered so far to meet specifications. This stood out to me because the critics claim that the demonstration of Stryker deployability via C-130 was not only a carefully-staged operation that didn’t mimic the real world, but that it could only be performed by the newest J-model C-130s.

I believe that the Stryker is going to be a big part of how we conduct business over the next decade. I believe that it will perform well if used for the missions that it was designed for, and that it will often out-perform expectations when it finds itself in uncharted territory.

Still, the lack of air-deployability is very troubling and is going to cost us big at some point.

And I still am not sure that the switch by the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment from armored Humvees to Strykers is the best thing we could be doing. The 2nd ACR is sort of a “medium-light” unit that can actually deploy quickly via air if needed, while the Stryker brigades are “medium-heavy” units that are more powerful but will take much longer to get there. Armored Humvee units are going to have their niche, and I hope we don’t hamstring ourselves by putting all of our medium eggs into one basket.


  1. Bah! You can’t fight even a medium sized war with solely air-delivered and supplied troops. Sure it’s nice to get the initial elements in, but air transport is expensive as hell and all the air transport in the world can’t move or support a quarter million field force or 2000 armoured vehicles (even if you could air-transport the 2000 armoured vehicles, whatever they are). I can’t find the link at the moment, but someone worked all this out and pointed out that we’d be a dozen times better off with faster fast-sea-transports. What would they do with a 1000 mile air mobility range anyways? Refuel it in the air every 2 hours all the way across the world?

  2. Murdoc, correct me if wrong, but I’m guessing the Stryker with slating attached cannot even load on a C-130 (J or otherwise) and there’s no fast way to attach it after off-loading. Since the slating is needed to protect it from the ubiquitous RPG, we can basically forget the idea of transporting strykers for a quick airmobile ‘stryke.’ For that kind of operation, we must use the MANY tracked Gavins (M113s) which can be carried ready to roll off (or airdrop) and roll. And, we need to provide the airborne units with airmobile light tanks with firepower like they once had, and would have now if the M8 had not been killed (the 82nd does have the four that were built). The previous commenter is of course correct in saying it’s not feasible to transport a major fighting force into a remote theatre via air, but situations have and will arise in which we need to react within 2-3 days, and we need an armored fighting force which can get the job done. Currently, neither of our premier airborne units (the 82nd and 101st) can ‘rip and roll’ as I call it. The 82nd can drop in within 18 hours, but is limited to toward artillery (with the exception of the four M8s). The troops have no armored vehicles. So, the 82nd’s mission is basically limited to ‘seize and hold’ operations, pending the landing of support units on the seized airfield. If the defending force is well equipped, the 82nd can be overrun before that ever happends. The 101st is more geared to airmobile operations using choppers, but they have a short range so must have a base or carrier to fly from, which may not be the case. IMHO, we STILL need another wheeled vehicle which will provide what the Styrker was supposed to do: Provide an airdroppable or ramp unloadable vehicle, a number of which can be flown without range restrictions by a C-130 (J or otherwise) and hit the ground ready for the troops to hop in and get about the mission. I’d like to see a fast 4-man, 4-wheeled, AWD vehicle with armor sufficient to deflect small arms and RPG hits. To keep the weight down, this will require a clever design and the use of reactive armor. This vehicle would not be top heavy and be much less likely to sink in the sand or roll over into canals, and it could easily maneuver through narrow streets. The uparmored Humvee is a poor approximation for a vehicle designed from the ground up as an armored vehicle, like the DINGLE built by a German firm in New Orleans, but it probably costs more (given the initial cost plus the upgrading cost).

  3. One spelling correction: I should have typed ‘TOWED artillery’ not ‘TOWARD artillery.’ Sorry. I don’t normally worry too much about spelling, except where the meaning might not be clear. BTW, since I’m typing another comment, I’m not one who believes the M113 is the perfect answer. It has been dramatically improved (esp. moving the tanks to the outside back), but it still has a low, flat bottom which cannot deflect road charges. A thick, boat-shaped bottom can greatly increase the probability of surviving a road blast. I also can’t come down hard on one side or the other on the wheeled vs. tracked argument. It depends on the terrain around the objective. Perhaps we need both type of vehicles in the inventory, so we can select the one which is best for each mission. But, that would be a costly luxury. I’d like to see the development of very large diameter wheels with tires which act like tracks, as a compromise. Another way to go are rubberized tracks (something already developed). Another way to go with airborne troops is very fast, 2-man, unarmored vehicles — armored dune buggies, in effect. Special forces use such units. This is the ‘wilderbeast concept’ in which no one dune buggy offers a sufficiently enticing target for attack, and they are fast and numerous. Quite of few of these light vehicles could be airdropped on one large pallet, ready to be unstrapped and used.

  4. Sorry for yet another post, but I might another critical typo in the correction post, which anal-lytical types might not be able to figure out. ‘ARMORED dune buggies’ should of course be ‘ARMED dune buggies.’ These vehicles can be armed with .50 cals, 40mm’s, SAWs, and the like, giving them the capability to put a hurt on anyone firing upon them, as they continue to scoot out of range at high speed. They don’t provide a target the size of the side of a barn, they don’t cost nearly $2 mil each, it’s hard to hit enough of them to defeat the mission, and they can bite back. Also, re. ship vs. airborne delivery of troops, remember when the Falklands were invaded and the UK responded by saying they’d be there in about 10 weeks? They did kick butt once they finally got there, but they were the brunt of lots of jokes until then. The US should be able to do better, even when the theatre is the same distance (or more) from our shores. That said, fast delivery ships would help backup an airborne force with basically non-airborne-deliverable armored vehicles and large quantities of troops much sooner. C5s and C17s can fly in some vehicles to hold the line until the fast ships arrive. If we’d had a ‘rip and roll’ airborne and a Republican president when the Iranians took American hostages, we’d have resolved that problem in a matter of days, not over a year. Even better, they probably would not even have tried it. AIRBORNE! DEATH FROM THE SKIES. HOOAH! Have a pleasant and peaceful Sunday! Your Army (especially the Airborne), Navy (including Marines), Air Force, Coast Guard (thanks for your service, ‘W’), and Homeland Security are alert! Hope I didn’t make any serious typing errors this type. (I really should spell check.)

  5. Pls. forgive YET ANOTHER consecutive post, but I should have said the military dune buggies are 3-seaters (2 in the front and a gunner in the back). See this link for a photo and details of the ALSV built by Chenworth, which I did an ACE post on some time ago: Can you imagine the Airborne dropping in and a bunch of these things rolling out within minutes, guns ablazing as required? The very thought of it should strike fear in the hearts of anyone who dares to mess with the US. It would be very much like the sensation some Europeans felt when the panzers rolled in with sidecar motorcycles early in WWII. HOOAH!

  6. Excuse me, but where’s this idea that the Stryker Brigade is holed up in Presidential palaces outside Mosul sipping mint julips coming from? Falluja and Najaf are getting more press because of the killings and subsequent mutilations of four contractors/mercenaries (insert your own bias here) and a potentially tricky religious problem that could make our Shia ‘allies’ into enemies all over the country. Samarra, Mosul, the top half of the Syrian border and points in between are not vacation spots. Also, after April’s troubles that made supply convoys stop all over the country, it was TF Arrow (an ad hoc TF made up of infantry companies) and elements of the 14th Cavalry that got the eggs rolling again. Convoy escort is the most dangerous job in the country, thanks to IED’s and ambushes. The M113 POS could not have gotten the job done at the speeds the Styker can travel and the track damage done to bad roads in extremely hot weather could have screwed up the truck part of the convoy and greatly irritated the locals when they tried to use the roads torn up by tracks. (Don’t even get me started on track repair and maintenance!) Strykers were like sheep dogs on those convoys–zooming all around them, herding them along and attacking any hostile contacts. No convoy vehicles were lost (to my knowledge) by the time the 14th relieved TF Arrow and no attacks on convoys were even being made by the time the 14th left the job. Strykers are apparently a clam the enemy can’t yet open. Hmm. Maybe that’s why the United Defense Debate Team thinks the Stryker Brigade is being kept on the sidelines, because it works well enough to keep soldiers from dying and therefore making the news? Check out and read about the fights one infantryman has been in around Mosul. You don’t hear about the area because we aren’t losing many soldiers up there and all the press is holed up in Baghdad. The blogger’s opinion and the opinion of the soldiers I regularly correspond with (to include my son) is that the Styker works and they don’t care if the new baby weighs too much for the Air Force to pick up. As for the Air Force being able to move them in 96 hours, I’m not sure the Air Force has the lift capacity to move anything in 96 hours. And when are all the United Defense stockholders going to stop whining about the Strykers anyway? You lost, get over it. Geez, you guys ought to start crowing about the South rising again or something. And how about being happy our soldiers are being successful with them? Defeatists! 8)

  7. ST, I’m not sure to whom you comments were directed, but I’ve never worked for United Defense, nor owned any United Defense stock. Some of us just call it the way we see it, based on the info available.

  8. ACE: A ton of good comments. No, the Strykers cannot be airlifted aboard any C-130s with the slat armor attached. Not sure about C-17 or C-5, though. Pics I’ve seen of Strykers in a C-17 make me think that there’s probably physical clearance, but don’t know for sure. In any event, attaching the slat armor is a fairly quick job once on the ground. Any new word on those four M8s? I haven’t heard a peep since it was announced that they were going to be activated. As for the need to quickly deploy more than light foot-based infantry, we just have to think back to the August and September of 1990. Our guys on the Saudi border would have been little more than a speed bump if Iraq’s armored forces had made a move. The Stryker, of course, can’t stand and fight tank units toe-to-toe, but they would provide mobility and heavy weapons support to the grunts. That would make the difference between a delaying action and a sacrifice. And you are totally correct that the up-armored humvees aren’t the ideal solution to the light armored car problem. I’m not up on all the possibilities out there, but there has to be something that fits that bill. I like the ‘dune buggy’ approach for Rat Patrol raids and such, but I’m not sure how useful they’d be for moving troops and supplies. Thanks for the great comments.

  9. Steve: I agree completely with you in that everything I’ve heard indicates that the Stryker is performing quiet well and that the troops really like it. The Stryker-M113 comparisons often don’t seem to be an apples:apples comparison to me, though I do admit that there are certainly some advantages in some situations to having a tracked vehicle.

  10. That doesn’t change the fact that the Stryker was intended to be a C-130 deployable vehicle and that it’s quite a bit overweight. The deployability doesn’t seem to be much better than a Bradley. That doesn’t mean the Stryker is a waste, but it should raise a few eyebrows.

  11. The Strker seems to be good at what it has turned out to be, and we’ve recently ordered a lot more of them. All well and good. Now, we need to go out for bids on another contract for the vehicle it was supposed to be. Same thing for an airmobile, powered, armored weapon system for the Airborne, to replace the cancelled M8. (I’ll make some inquiries as to the deployment status of the four prototype M8s when I find time, Murdoc.)

  12. The Stryker was never intended to fly in a C130 with either slat armor or add-on-armor (reactive). Also, the M113 cannot fly with either slat or reactive armor, so it is a wash as far as protection goes.