The criticism of the Stryker Light Armored Vehicle is heating up as the vehicle’s first deployment approaches. Defense Tech points out the most recent example. Most of the latest gripes refer to the fact that the Stryker’s armor may not be strong enough to protect troops from rocket propelled grenades (RPGs), but I haven’t see anyone point out that the the M113A3, the tracked vehicle that most opponents of the Stryker favor, wouldn’t fare any better against them.
Readers of MO will know that I am in favor of the Stryker, and wholeheartedly in favor of deploying it to Iraq. However, there are quite a few things that need to be worked out. (That’s why I want it deployed.)
The biggest concern that I have is that the plan to deploy Stryker via C-130 cargo planes seems to be in jeopardy. The Strykers need to let some air out of their tires to fit within the cargo bay of the planes, they cannot carry a full load of gear and consumables (although this wasn’t an original requirement), and the entire crew won’t always be able to travel in the same plane as the vehicle. Although these are major problems with C-130 mobility, which was a big selling point of the Stryker, they aren’t show stoppers.
The major test for the Stryker will be how it performs in Iraq. The wheels should allow for far greater speed and range, especially on roads, compared to tanks and tracked infantry fighting vehicles, and the armor and weaponry should provide far greater firepower than the humvees that many US units are now using for missions that the Stryker will perform.
And therein is the crux of the matter. The Stryker is not a replacement for a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. It is not a front-line combatant in major setpiece battles. It also isn’t a jeep or a truck to simply move troops around. It’s somewhere in between.
Every combat vehicle is a compromise between mobility, protection, and firepower. The M1 tank rates about a 9 or 10 in both firepower and protection, but its mobility, both on the ground and when being transported, is closer to a 1 or 2. The M2 Bradley, on the other hand is lower in both protection and firepower, and higher in mobility. The Stryker is designed with mobility the first priority, but with priority still given to both firepower and protection.
Will enemy tank rounds simply bounce off the Stryker’s armor, as they do against an M1? Absolutely not. Can the Styker dish out as much destruction as an M2? No. But it’s not designed to engage the kinds of targets that the top-notch armor is. The idea is that the Stryker, when fighting enemies armed like our current enemies in Iraq are armed, can get to the battle more quickly and still take the opposing force down. I think that, despite problems like all new combat systems have, the Stryker will perform well in Iraq.
Here are some links to some stories and articles regarding the Styker that I’ve come across:
The Army’s New Car is a Lemon
Lonnie T. Shoultz, an outspoken critic of the Stryker, weighs in on the possibility of scandal behind every single decision ever made regarding the Stryker. Among his points
The only occassions on which the Stryker has even been able to get into the air in C-130s, was when the Air Force could send them one of the newest, highest-powered ‘J’ model C-130s. However, the C-130J comprises less than 10% of all 500 Air Force C-130s, and there is no money or plans to upgrade the rest of the transport plane fleet.
Army’s new wheeled armored vehicle criticized
Among the major points against the Styker is
“People don’t realize that in the heavy divisions even today, there are more M-113s than there are Abrams or Bradleys,” [retired Army Col. John Barnes] said. “There are parts in the system to fix the M-113, and mechanics who know how to maintain it. The Stryker will require a whole new logistics stream.”
Gingrich Tells Top DOD Officials Army’s Stryker Shouldn’t Be Fielded
Actually, the fact that Newt Gingrich opposes the Stryker might actually increase the ammunition of Stryker supporters. Newt thinks the Stryker
“should either be canceled or limited to one test brigade that will never be air-transported but that could be used” to evaluate new electronics.
Stryker Strikes Gold in Iraq
The Marines don’t use the Stryker, but they do use the LAV III, the basis for the Styker. They apparently were generally pleased with it during the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath.
But the marines have been using wheeled armored vehicles for decades and found them quite useful in Iraq. The marines used their LAVs (Light Armored Vehicles) battalions to perform of variety of tasks that were only possible because of the high road speed of the wheeled LAVs. The LAV battalions screened the division flanks, dashed ahead to quickly seize distant objectives and were readily available as a blocking force.
(No permalinks on Strategy Page, so go to the August 25 story in “Armor.”)
If the Styker is used for the types of missions it was designed for, I think we’ll get good results. The current situation in Iraq is perfect for a “trial by fire” for the vehicle and its crews. Let’s hope they perform like they’re capable of and that our billions have been well-spent. Stryker might be the harbinger of the Army’s transformation that so many have called for. We’ll see this fall.