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.
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.