Stryker Initial Impression Report

Here’s a quick take by Murdoc Online of the Army report that’s generating so much noise in Legacy Media. Here are a smattering of stories on this topic from today:

If you think I’m cherry-picking negative headlines, go google for yourself. Not a single one like this:

  • Army Report Uncovers Opportunities to Improve Stryker

Sure, that’s a little extreme. But so are the real headlines.

The first two chapters of the report cover “Command and Control” and “Digital Systems”. I’ll review them tonight. Chapters 3 and 4 are “Non-Lethal Operations” and “Stryker ICV Performance and Survivability” and I’ll cover them this weekend. Chapters 5 and 6 are “Intelligence” and “Operations” and I’ll probably do them on Monday.

Unlike what the Legacy Media may write, there isn’t a “Why this thing sucks so terribly bad” chapter, though that topic may be covered in Chapters 1-6 already.

A team of nine deployed to Mosul for a month last September and joined the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (the 1st Stryker Brigade) to learn what they could about the brigade’s first year in Iraq. Included in that team was representation from the 172nd Infantry Brigade, the third Stryker Brigade. As Murdoc has noted previously, many lessons learned from the first brigade’s deployment are being incorporated into the third brigade’s training. The third brigade will deploy from Alaska to Iraq this fall, and there’s no doubt that things learned on this fact-finding mission will help make them more capable and more safe.

The summary notes that the brigade took over for the 101st Airborne Division in the Mosul area, and that their area of operations was 38,000 square km. The subject of a brigade, even a highly-mobile and digitally-enabled one like a Stryker brigade, taking over the AOR of a division was covered here and here. I also note that I called the day that first one was published “Bash on Stryker Thursday”. Must be another one today.

Here’s a note in the summary:

By nature or training, when observing training exercises or actual operations, military leaders usually acknowledge the things going right, but tend to focus more on what needs improvement so units can learn and improve their combat readiness; the insights and sound TTPs can be passed on to others. Although advised to also “look for the good,” the preponderance of the insights and observations by CALL’s CAAT fall into the category of what needs to be improved (although the unit did many things right).

Apparently, Legacy Media missed that last part.

See the extended entry for rundowns of chapters 1 and 2.

CHAPTER 1 – Command and Control

The first sentence of chapter 1:

The brigade’s primary communications system was Frequency Modulation (FM) for voice. The brigade’s primary data systems were Microsoft outlook, the Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below (FBCB2) and the Maneuver Control System (MCS).

Numerous software and integration problems resulted in basic FM being the main voice communications mode and attachments in Outlook emails a major method of transferring slides and data.

FBCB2 was used from vehicle to vehicle or from vehicle to the Tactical Operations Center (TOC). When passing information from TOC to TOC, the unit used Microsoft Outlook with attachments. The attachments could be anything from an excel spreadsheet, a power point presentation or an overlay created on the MCS. The staffs would send an email with an attachment or more commonly post the attachment to a website through the intranet.

This latter method was also used quite a bit when a large number of people needed access to the info. Maybe there should be a Stryker Brigade Blog.

Prior to deployment, the Air Defense and Airspace Management cell in the brigade attempted to acquire Sentinel radars because their means of providing a digital air Common Operation Picture doesn’t work for a variety of reasons. They didn’t get it.

Blue Force Tracker, a shining star in the Army’s digital revolution, isn’t used much by the Stryker brigade since other systems, especially the FBCB2, do the same thing only better. There were times, though, when the BFT came in handy. One such case is when non-digital units interact with the Stryker brigade and when some units were deployed far from the rest of the brigade and FBCB2 was out of range without stopping to put up a satellite antenna. One unit tied BFT to a mobile antenna and maintained communications from up to 400km away. The report recommends getting mobile satellite antennas for the FBCB2 system.

A common complaint throughout both of the first two chapters is bandwidth limitations. Which is basically what the entire world is suffering from. The soldiers came up with some clever solutions and work-arounds, including using commercial satellites communications (Iridium phones and other methods).

CHAPTER 2 – Digital Systems

Secure Mobile Anti-Jamming Reliable Tactical Terminal (SMART-T) is the backbone of the digital communications network for the Stryker Brigade. However,

The SMART-T is a Ku-band satellite system capable of low data rate (LDR)/medium data rate (MDR) links via the military strategic, tactical and relay (MILSTAR)satellite constellation, supporting data rates up to 1544kbs typically operating 512 and 1024Kbs). The brigade utilizes the SMART-T and the network operations center vehicle (NOC-V) in a communications package to support the brigade commander’s tactical (TAC) CP. The SMART-T has consistently provided reliable connectivity to the brigade. Once deployed the brigade experienced limited available satellite links in theater. This resulted in only two of three terminals being in system at any one time. The saturation of SMART-T assets in Iraq (4th Infantry Division and 1st Armored Division) resulted in the brigade being limited to two satellite
links with data rates limited to 512 kbs and 1024 kbs.

And I’m mad when it takes more than three seconds to download all my email. But things weren’t as bad as some were expecting:

Prior to deployment, after action review (AAR) comments from the 4th Infantry Division (4ID)
and the 1st Armored Division (1AD) indicated severe equipment reliability issues with the SMART-T primarily related to the medium power transmitter (MPT) and cooling fans on the transmitter. To date the brigade has not experienced similar equipment issues though the cooler weather, during the initial deployment, may have been a factor.

Still, there’s no doubt that all-digital, all-the-time takes a big pipe. And businesses have trouble keeping LANs up and running in an office building. Ask your IT department to put all it’s equipment in the back of 300 pick-up trucks and communicate using wireless cards in laptop computers.

One of the things pointed out in many of today’s critical articles is the radio, specifically the Near Term Digital Radio (NTDR). I think the main reason this was pointed out so often is that it totally sucks. The problems with this unit aren’t anything new, either. There have been reports of problems with the radios from before day one. The Insights/Lessons Learned list for this section includes

+ Limited utility with this radio with current capabilities.
+ No beyond line of sight (BLOS) capability.
+ Is not compatible with any joint systems that use the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) Wideband Network Waveform (WNW).

See? Even the Army knows it sucks.

I have trouble keeping my computers running in my house. I wonder if it would be better or worse if I lived in a tent out in the desert.

It appears that Compaq and Dell are used quite a bit. And

One item that significantly aided against damage, by dust and sand, was the keyboard dustcovers that were purchased from Pro-Tect, and issued, by brigade S6. The Pro-Tect website is


During the deployment six computers, beyond the section’s capability for repairs, were evacuated back to the states however as of August, only one computer was returned to the squadron.

They recommend stocking additional spare parts and dedicating more effort to repairing the machines themselves rather than sending them out. Murdoc heartily agrees.

I think it should be clear that, while this report does indeed point out shortcomings and problems, it’s not a knock on the Stryker. Especially these first two chapters.

As far as I know, everything listed here would also be a problem for upgraded M113s, which is what the anti-Stryker folks claim is the superior platform.

One of their arguments has long been that any reference to the digital capabilities of the Stryker weren’t allowed as the exact same equipment could be installed in the M113s. Well, if it was, it would be having the exact same problems. Maybe even more, as the ride in a tracked vehicle is far rougher than the ride on wheels.

This really looks like a constructive report to me, and evidence that the Army is set on getting it right.


  1. I saw the FNC segment again this AM, on the Styker report. What struck me on my second viewing of this story is something you address in your post above. The news media (not just FNC) tends to concentrate on the negative aspects of stories, frequently to the detriment of the positive aspects (so much for ‘fair and balanced’ FNC). There may be a couple reasons for this. 1. There’s only so much time in a news broadcast; the the noisiest and smelliest ‘portions’ of a story get preeminence as that’s what generates viewer interest and response the media can measure (and the sponsors are willing to pay for). Or, 2. The reporters and their editors just don’t know much about the topic they’re reporting on. If you don’t have a sufficient base of knowledge on a topic, it’s hard to ask good follow up questions to information presented. The Stryker Report in this case; especially the issue of the weapon system missing targets while moving (other aspects of the report also). Any reporter with good base of military/weapons technology would have known to ask ‘why the weapons system is missing targets while the Styker is moving. Or, at least wondered if the problem was because the weapon was non stabilised. As you note in your story……there just isnt much truly ‘in depth’ reporting on many topics, not just the Styker. You know reporters………you can train ’em, and train ’em, and train ’em………..but you just can’t take them out in public! LOL!

  2. An interesting point to note is that there are no real issues with the vehicle apart from those that concern the new technology implemented on it (obviously the armor issue will always be there in a light vehicle). R+D is always expensive and always has its shortcomings, so I guess this is the reasoning behind the early deployment. I just hope they can get a team of nerds to work away at the problem as fast as possible. It has always been risky to deploy new vehicles in the field, and some ‘what we thought good’ weapons systems are often overcome by a new threat (in the case of the M1 abrams). I think we just need to learn to adapt and have more such reports in every new conflict we encounter- which is exactly what the army is doing and I am happy to see it.

  3. Strykers are barely able to fit in a C-130 even after tire pressure is reduced and external accessories removed. They cannot swim, and have limited ability to surmount obstacles tracked vehicles handle with ease. In contrast, M-113s were used with great success in MOUT combat against an enemy armed with AKs, RPGs, and IEDs in Viet Nam, fought well in Gulf War Parts I and II, and are doing superbly in Iraq right now. The problems with Stryker were known for years before their deployment to Iraq. Unlike the aborted York AAA gun of yore, the Stryker made it nto production. Follow the money and be enlightened…

  4. For almost 3 years all we did was bitch about the strykers as we developed them ( 3rd BDE). I mean ALL we did was complain about how they were RPG magnets, how bradleys were better, etc. I got to Iraq and was never so thankful in my life to be in a styrker( with the birdcage on it mindyou) I dont care if it didn’t have a single piece of electronic equpitment in it. The survivability of strykers in urban terrain is outstanding. Now against a REAL army such as the soviets or north korea?? who knows..might be a different story. But against the P.O.S insurrgents like the ones in Mosul, I give it a go.

  5. Gavin Appreciator has some erroneous facts in addition to his bogus email. The eight Strykers variants currently fielded all can fit and fly inside a C-130H along with their crew (although at shorter ranges than the M113 because of the Stryker’s greater weight). The two main variants, the ICV and RV, as well as the FSV and CV, do not require the removal of any equipment from the vehicle minus antennae. Upon exiting a C130, these four variants can shoot, move, and communicate within two minutes, and can be fully combat configured within 5-10 minutes. These vehicles account for 2/3 of a SBCT’s Strykers. The other variants can also shoot, move, and communicate within two minutes of exiting the aircraft, but their external racks make their full combat load reconfiguration take anywhere from 10-45 minutes (but this reconfiguration doesn’t need to be done immediately). Additionally, the Stryker has the same forward slope climbing capability and a larger ditch crossing capability than the M113A3. During the platform evaluations that led to the selection of the MAV for the then named IBCT, the M113A3 got stuck on the cross-country mobility course while the LAV-III did not. It is true that the M113 family of vehicles has served proudly for decades; however, it has taken its share of lumps. IDF soldiers refused to ride in the M113 after several weeks in Lebanon after numerous M113s had been destroyed by RPG and AT fires – they had no confidence to fight mounted from the vehicle. Since that time, the IDF has greatly increased the level of armored protection on its M113s to the point that they are easily distinguishable from American M113s. Follow the facts of the Stryker’s service in Iraq and I think you’ll be proud of the job it has done in transporting and protecting our soldiers along Highway 1, in Babil province, Samarra, Tal Afar, Mosul, and on the outskirts of Fallujah and Najaf. That isn’t to say that the Stryker is perfect – there are certaintly improvements that can be made, but the M113 vs. Stryker should be a dead issue so that energies can be focused on future improvements instead of on a decision made five years ago.