There’s a great discussion going on in the comments section of a recent post on the Stryker LAV. Here’s the most recent entry, by Shek in response to a series of questions and comments by Random Bulldog. I’m simply going to post the whole thing here for everyone to see:
Here’s my reply to the loads of questions that you have presented.
1. Shek, you asking for the Army to provide actual criticism of its golden cow is a non sequiter.
James claimed that the Army has said that it is undergunned. I’ve never heard that and so all I am asking for is something in writing that shows this statement is true. As far the Army criticizing the Stryker, if it didn’t take improving the Stryker serious and providing a capable vehicle, then it would conduct Initial Impression Reports and assign responsibility to various agencies to follow up that you can find on the CALL website (SIPR version now that classified material has been released from the AKO accessible site), conduct extensive testing at APG in order to approve material releases, or delay fielding of vehicles (MGS) that don’t meet operational specifications.
2. I have worked besides Strykers from 2nd ID for over a month and I have had friends endure the misfortune of being PCS’d to Stryker units. The answer I have unanimously heard is “They have problems” – serious ones. How about these questions?
What are these “serious problems” that your friends are telling you. If you are worried about OPSEC, then I can contact you via AKO and address them. I fielded the first battalion set of Strykers as the BN S-4 and spent 18 months commanding Strykers, to include 3 of those months in Iraq, so I I’ll be happy to address them as fact, fiction, or myth (don’t get me wrong here, I thought that the CALL report was generally on target and concured with most of the problems, but the context and general knowledge of the follow on reporting was atrocious and inflammatory in nature).
3. If the current Stryker is the IFV version of it, what’s the rationale in bringing down main armament from 25mm to .50?
The Stryker is an ICV, not IFV. If the Army wanted another IFV, it would have fielded an IFV and not an ICV, and you would find a 25mm cannon on it.
4. Where is the Mobile Gun System variant and why is it 3000lbs overweight to begin with?
Since I never owned a MGS for obvious reasons, I can’t account for all the weight of the vehicle. However, the ATGM has been fielded in its place and is performing its role very capably using the TOW BB as its primary round. Also, since you asked for some information on it’s use (or more correctly, where are the TOWs?), here’s some information on the ATGM and three examples of its performance in my old battalion (I provided links when the article was still available online or else I cut and paste the text version that was available on www.strykernews.com).
There are 36 ATGMs operating in each SBCT (27 are filling as interim vehicles until the MGS is fielded, using TOW BB rounds as surrogates for 105mm rounds). My former MGS section sergeant fired a TOW missile at an insurgent vehicle between the Mosul City Hall and what was Strike Main on 10 April last year, destroying the vehicle, killing all 12 insurgents and ending their attempted assault on the city hall (MOSUL, Iraq (Reuters) – “A patrol from 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment was engaged by 12 assailants in a truck with a rocket-propelled grenade near Al Thubat,” a U.S. statement said. “The patrol returned fire with a missile, destroying the truck and killing all 12 assailants.”)
Two months later in June, my sister company used several TOW BB fired from their ATGM Strykers during their assault to retake a police station that had been captured by insurgents (http://www.strykernews.com/archives/2004/06/25/isf_and_first_responders_perform_well.html).
These are two examples of the work being performed by the ATGMs. Additionally, the thermals on the MITAS are an incredible observation asset (same ITAS system that would be in your Delta Company gun jeeps) and helped to identify a terrorist safe house just outside of Samarra that had AQ materials, ready made IEDs, and other weapons in a huge cache (http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/meast/12/30/sprj.irq.alqaeda.weapons/index.html)
5. If the platform is so survivable, why the add-on birdcage armor and the problems with rollovers and tires blasting out?
The slat armor is an interim solution. I provide more details in a later question. As far as the rollovers, there has not be a correlation established between the birdcage and an increased amount of rollovers (http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/local/story/4617218p-4288984c.html). Also, the rate of tires being replaced is not that high. 11 tires a day for the brigade averages to about a tire being replaced once every 200 days. Was there a reason that your division’s SOP was to carry an additional tire on all of your wheeled vehicles? Of course, the extreme heat of the pavement during the summer, having to drive over curbs, and overall harsh environment means that you’re going to eat up tires much faster than in the back forty at your home post.
6. IFVs should have the capability to engage other light-skinned vehicles in conjunction with MBTs; that was the rationale for replacing M113s with Bradleys. Where are the TOWs on the Strykers? Where is the anti-tank capability? And if Strykers were such a hot deal, why weren’t they used during March-May 2003 in the real invasion of Iraq, and in the subsequent fights for Fallujah, Ar Ramadi, Najaf?
Once again, ICV, not IFV. TOWs on Strykers addressed above. TOWs = dead tank. I’ve addressed the initial phase of OIF below. As far as the Stryker being used during subsequent full spectrum operations, a Stryker battalion was assigned to the April 2004 Najaf task force and had the main effort mission until it was pulled to reopen the theater’s main supply route. As Murdoc mentioned already, it was part of the November 2004 Fallujah mission until it was pulled back to Mosul to stomp the insurgent uprising there. You didn’t mention Tal Afar in September 2004, where the Strykers stomped the insurgents that seized the town.
7. You’re talking about how the Stryker Brigades have Javelins, TOWs, 105s, 120s, and 155s on call? So where are the Strykers with the 105s? Where are the Strykers with the TOWs? 19Ks with HMMVVs can pack Javelins and engage targets faster than a Stryker unit by virtue of speed and mobility. And 120 and 155s? Please. You were there when it took Corps level release for us to use indirect in late 2003 perhaps, rendering our 60s and 81s immaterial?
Shek’s first post — “(105mm once the MGS is fielded)”
Shek’s second post — “105mm assault gun (when fielded)”
I will state this a third time. The 105mm assault gun will be available when the MGS is fielded.
In Samarra in December 2003, the BDE CDR had release authority for lethal indirect fires and the BN CDR had release authority for non-lethal (illum) indirect fires. That would put the release authority at the DIV CDR level (which had been further released in 4ID), which is where it was at when we first arrived in Mosul in your division’s AO. Of course, if you were conducting high-intensity operations, then the commander that owned the asset would have the release authority for indirect assets except against protected buildings such as mosques. Also, the 155mm has a GPS guided round now that will make it’s use increase in a low-intensity environment since you can guarantee its accuracy with high precision, and the 120mm GPS guided round is around the corner as well.
8. If the Stryker was never meant to be effective against the most common antiarmor weapon out there, what’s the point of fielding it?
The only vehicle in the Army inventory whose standard design that is protected from RPG fire is the M1 Abrams, and even it has some vulnerable points where upgraded protection will be installed using a combination of ERA panels and slat armor through the TUSK upgrade. The Bradley Fighting Vehicle requires additional protection in the form of ERA panels. The Stryker also requires additional protection, and there has always been plans to field ERA panels for the Stryker, whose performance just recently met testing specifications and will be fielded by October ’06 according to the contract. Thus, the decision was made that an interim RPG solution was required to allow the Stryker Brigade deploy to Iraq, and that is why the Strykers are currently using slat armor, which has proven to be effective in either defeating RPG warheads or preventing catastrophic damage to the Strykers and minimizing casualties.
9. What’s the point of having TOW-equipped Strykers when one with a 25mm gun can punch through the mud huts we see out in Iraq and the Third World with greater efficiency and less collateral damage? Where’s the enemy armor threat?
First you argue that the Stryker Brigade should have the capability to destroy MBTs in an early post and then now you state here why do they have TOWs? I’m not following your argument. If you want to punch through mud huts, .50 cal will do just fine. If you want to limit risk from ricochets or rounds that pass through, MK-19 will do just fine on a mud hut. Want a little more bang, a TOW BB will definitely do the trick and minimize collateral damage (hint, precision guided munition). Worried about missing the hut — the RWS system provides first round/burst accuracy from a stationary position, with the moving capability being added by next summer.
10. I know there were no Stryker units ready at kickoff in March 2003; my question was more rhetorical: Why wasn’t the program accelerated in the wake of the opening shots in OEF to meet deployment in OIF?
The program was accelerated after September 11, and there were several courses of action proposed at the senior levels of the Army leadership that included deployment of the Brigade without some of the variants and deployment by asking the SecDef to waive the Congressional certification requirement. The CSA decided on a compressed fielding and certification timeline after weighing the risks and requirements. Even after certification, our deployment was based on meeting some material requirements and retrofits. However, the major reason that the first SBCT wasn’t ready for the opening phase of OIF I was the long halt to the production schedule as the GAO waded through UDLP’s (M113) protest of the decision of the IBCT contract being awarded to GM-GDLS to produce the Stryker. A final decision, which denied UDLP’s protest, wasn’t awarded until 9 April 2001. However, as Murdoc stated already, there were other forces available and if the SecDef really wanted us, he could have waived the certification requirement.
10. Considering the majority of our engagements are MOUT scenarios, what’s the point of having a light-skinned vehicle you yourself wouldn’t use in an urban assault being in place? What’s an IFV that can’t follow its dismounts because it has anemic armament and is too thin-skinned to survive?
Once again, you can continue to call the Stryker an IFV, even though it is an ICV (“carrier”, not “fighting”). Are you trying to confuse that issue? However, I wouldn’t call the Stryker a light-skinned vehicle. It is a medium armored vehicle (MAV) that can withstand any small arms put up against it up to 14.5mm and has proven itself very survivable in urban combat during operations in Tal Afar, Samarra, and Mosul against IEDs and VBIEDs. That isn’t saying that there haven’t been some destroyed, but you can also point to Bradleys and Abrams that have been destroyed by IEDs and VBIEDs as well, and the fact is that only a tiny fraction of IEDs and VBIEDs have been big enough to seriously damage a Stryker and the soldiers inside.
11. If the Strykers aren’t capable of engaging a reasonable spectrum of threats even in concert with aviation and artillery assets, how do you expect them to accomplish their missions when such supporting assets are unavailable?
The SBCT has an organic 155mm battalion, not attached, organic. With the current fielding of the Excalibur GPS PGM 155mm round, it has become even more lethal (and more likely to be used even in restrictive urban environments). As far as aviation assets, SBCT 5 will be fielded with an aviation squadron and the lessons learned from that will be used to field the AV SQDN for SBCT 6 and retrofit the design of SBCTs 1-4. In the interim, aviation units will be assigned for deployments IAW the IBCT O&O and demonstrated by the 3/2 ID (SBCT)’s and 1/25 ID (SBCT)’s deployments to Iraq. If it is a follow-on mission to forced entry forces, then I’m pretty sure that an aviation attachment will be available since the SBCT would be the first large force in the country. However, you could be correct that an aviation force might not be available if the entire active and reserve components were all deployed and the theater commander(s) decided that the SBCT mission was lower priority.
12. If the Stryker was never meant to replace the Bradley, why are units like 2nd ACR kicking theirs to the curb in their Transformation?
Murdoc already covered this earlier, but here’s the rollup of SBCTs:
3/2 ID — downsize from Bradleys to Strykers
1/25 ID — go large from light to Strykers
172nd BDE– go large from light Strykers
2 ACR — upsize from light vehicles to Strykers
2/25 ID — go large from light to Strykers
56th BDE (PA ARNG) — downsize from Bradleys to Strykers
Overall, the SBCT transformations have actually made the Army heavier. As far as having two mechanized units turn in their Bradleys, I can’t answer specifically why the Army leadership didn’t choose all light battalions, but choosing a National Guard Brigade and an Active Duty Brigade that had never deployed on a real world mission while assigned Bradleys and were separate brigades that wouldn’t upset divisional structures probably had a lot to do with it. Also, choosing an active duty brigade that had a major C17 hub 5 miles down the road and a major sea port 15 miles down the road probably factored into the equation as well.
13. If a given platform is able to accomplish the mission better and has greater survivability, why replace it with a thin-skinned sardine can that has bits and pieces of the Land Warrior program and nothing more really to talk about?
What vehicle is the Stryker replacing? We have already established that it doesn’t replace the Bradley or the Abrams. You’re knocking down a strawman here, again.
14. For me to say that I won’t be on the boat until Strykers are proven in offensive ops is merely a deliberately sarcastic comment. You already know these things won’t survive in a serious MOUT scenario like an Ar Ramadi or an An Najaf thick with RPG-7s; so what are they good for? Screening actions? Interdiction of roads? Holding up soda pop stands alongside Route Tampa? Where’s the MGS and all the firepower that’s supposed to be on the table to compensate? I really want to ride into an engagement in this thing only to be dropped off ten clicks from the objective because it doesn’t have the firepower or the armor to follow me in? I might as well be riding on a deuce-and-a-half then. I know there’s a .50 or a MK19 on that. Equivalency to Stryker IFV armament? 100%. How pathetic is that?
Look at the facts — the Stryker has performed very well and has participated in the majority of major combat operations since the fall of the regime. The survivability of the vehicle has exceeded expectations and for the record, the furthest I ever had to walk to an OBJ was 50m, maybe 100m. Duece-and-a-half protection equivalency to Stryker ICV (not IFV)? 0%
15. However, the Stryker is intended to fill far more roles than it is adequate for, in anticipation of the FCS. We’re paying for Clinton-era peacekeeping doctrine and procurement with a platform that can’t slug it out with traditional militaries like the PLA, and with our totally inadequate manpower we’re stripping away heavy armor when we need it the most to keep it alive for a slugfest in Korea or someplace else.
The Stryker is intended to fill the gap between the capability of light forces and heavy forces. It is a medium weight force that was designed to excel in mid- to low-intensity scenarios and have the capability to fight and win in a high-intensity scenario as well. However, it is not the optimal force for a high-intensity battle and was never billed as such, so your PLA example is another strawman.
16. Digitization of the battlefield is only a force multiplier to a certain extent. There’s not much point in being “the firstest with the mostest” when what we can drag to the fight is a lot of a weak fighting platform. We can’t always depend on attack aviation and indirect to save our asses either. Tomorrow, DIVARTY for the 101st gets officially inactivated as part of the “Transformation” … there goes part of the proven formula that won us Gulf One, OEF, and OIF.
Artillery didn’t play during in OEF through at least Operation Anaconda, so it wasn’t part of the formula there. Also, while artillery will continue to be important, higher level divisional assets won’t be as necessary as PGMs and UCAVs continue to proliferate, and BDEs will continue to have their own organic artillery battalions to support their maneuver. Mass is being replaced by precision. Also, digitization is a great thing and does provide an incredible advantage, especially now that UAVs are finding their way down to the company level so that the soldiers that will act on UAV intel are the ones flying the UAV. However, I am with you that it will never eliminate having to react to contact at the company level and below, although the Stryker is not the weak platform you like to claim.
17. As for what does not make “sense” to you? If I see a Stryker Brigade, fully equipped, with the MGS and everything else take on an entrenched enemy like in An Najaf or take out a Syrian Division? Then I’m a believer. All I see is something running around getting blasted by RPGs and IEDs/VBIEDs over and over again like a mere guntruck. Strykers haven’t bled the enemy enough to tell me they are a viable future.
Hundreds of insurgents have been killed by Stryker forces in Tal Afar, Mosul, Samarra, along MSR Tampa throughout Iraq, and elsewhere. However, that is only one metric to measure success. And yes, you are correct that the Strykers have been attacked frequently, and just as frequently, they drive through the ambush, dismount and kill or capture enemy personnel that are still presented, and then continue on with their mission.