This MSNBC story reveals a potenially major issue with the ceramic armor tiles on the Army’s new Stryker light armored vehicle. It seems that the German manufacturer of the tiles, designed to stop machine gun fire and deflect rocket propelled grenades, altered the chemical mix in the tiles without permission.
Regular readers will know that I am in favor of deploying the units to Iraq, and they are scheduled to so this fall.
The armor protection of the Strykers, when compared to the M1 tank or even the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, is minimal. That is by design, as the 8-wheeled Strykers are intended for peacekeeping, patrol, and duty in rear areas, not front-line combat. We’ve been over this before. There are certain trade-offs and compromises neccessary when designing a combat vehicle. But while light armor is intentional, faulty armor is an entirely different matter.
Worse still: the Army has known it might have a problem since February, but has kept quiet about it. An Army memo sent yesterday to the head of the Stryker program, and obtained by NEWSWEEK, reports: “Evidently this issue was first raised in February 2003. Am unsure how this issue escaped public scrutiny for six months.”
This is pretty typical of new weapons systems, especially one in the spotlight like the Stryker. Also typical is how often the rumors turn out to be at least partially true.
This is a press release for the US licensee of the German ceramic tiles.
The armor team is led by IBD/Deisenroth Engineering, Lohmar, Germany. Simula is the exclusive U.S. licensee for IBD’s vehicle armor, which is sold under the Mexas® trade name. Simula’s initial minimum delivery order is valued at approximately $1.2 million and will be completed in 2002. Production plans between IBD and the Company call for substantially greater kit content beyond the minimum, for the first brigade to be produced at Simula’s armor facility. The Company has installed the infrastructure, tooling and equipment necessary to support the Stryker production rate for the current purchase order and for future additional content.
So it appears that the armor is manufactured in the US. Here’s a story about Simula reaching production rate goals last year. Maybe they cut corners to reach them?
In all fairness to Simula, keep in mind that there is a huge lobby of anti-Stryker folks out there. And when the M1 tank and the Bradley were introduced, they were subjected to the same types of criticism and doomsaying. There’s always a huge amount of resistance to change, especially in an institution like the US Army. That doesn’t discount these concerns, but possible motives behind the criticism can’t be discounted, either.