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:
- Army has found major flaws in Stryker vehicles, paper reports
- Army reports multiple flaws in its Stryker troop transport
- Army’s new combat vehicle proves a headache on wheels
- Study Faults Army Vehicle
- Report cites problems with Stryker vehicles
- Iraq duty highlights weaknesses of Stryker transport
- Litany of problems reported with Army’s Stryker vehicle
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 www.protectcovers.com.
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.