RAFAEL displayed its Aspro H hybrid reactive armor solution applied to a General Dynamics Land Systems upgraded Stryker vehicle, at the AUSA 2008 exhibition in Washington DC. Photo: Defense Update
One complaint heard about the 8×8 wheeled Stryker armored vehicles in Afghanistan was that they had difficulties with the rough, mountainous off-road terrain. The Canadian forces in particular found that their Strykers’ mobility limitations created unacceptable difficulties.
In particular, the upgraded Stryker base vehicle will have:
* 450-horsepower diesel engine;
* suspension system and driveline to carry a 60,000-lb payload;
* larger tires;
* new braking system; and
* digital architecture that connects the C4ISR system to situational awareness tools.
In an Oct 6/09 briefing, the PEO GCS identified a number of technology improvements that the Army is seeking in the Stryker modernization program:
* Improved lower hull survivability;
* 60,000-lb semi-active suspension;
* Increased electrical power generation;
* Gun shot detector;
* Data/video network link;
* 425-horsepower engine;
* Improved embedded training system;
* Larger cooling module for air conditioning;
* Lithium batteries;
* Improved remote weapons station
* Tire fire suppression system;
* Larger tires with axle spacing change; and
* 360-degree situational awareness system.
Stryker armour upgrades
In March 2005, United Defense (now BAE Systems Land and Armaments) was awarded a contract to provide 289 full-vehicle add-on reactive armour kits for the Stryker.
The US Army awarded a $30m contract in July 2010 to General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) for the production of a dual V-shaped hull for the Stryker infantry combat vehicle to be completed by February 2012.
Very early upon its arrival in the theater, the Stryker Brigade earned a reputation for its ability to move fast, to adapt, to respond to changing conditions. It became, in the course of its one-year deployment, Combined Joint Task Force 7 (CJTF-7)-well, the term used here is fire brigade-the unit of choice whenever anything changed within theater: "Where is the Stryker unit? What does it have available?"
For instance, immediately upon crossing into Iraq, rather than joining the 101st, it was attached to the 4th Infantry Division (ID) in Samarra. This was required by, of course, the problems that the 4th ID was encountering in Samarra at the time. After that situation was-certainly not rectified, but reduced in significance, the initial idea, initial tasking prevailed; the first SBCT went off to Mosul, replaced the 101st, as planned, and remained there as a brigade throughout most of its deployment, while the 5-20th Battalion, because of the deployment outside the city while the 1-23d Infantry and 2-3d Infantry were within Mosul itself, was the unit most readily detached for other assignments.
The 5-20th received a number of such assignments as CJTF-7 came to appreciate the capabilities of Stryker units. While the rest of the brigade conducted stability and support operations and trained Iraqi units around Mosul, the 5-20th saw action elsewhere. Its first assignment was 11-15 April, joining the1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division's strike into An Najaf. To accomplish this the battalion reconfigured as Task Force Arrow on 10 April, now containing three Stryker companies - one of its own, one from the 1-23d, and one from the 2-3d. The re-configured battalion immediately deployed on a 400km, 15 hour drive to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Warhorse, north of Baghdad.
This mission really demonstrated the speed and flexibility of the SBCT's components. At 0001 on 12 April, now attached to the 1st ID, the battalion set out on a 36 hour, 500km road march to An Najaf.
While it was conducting that march, it escorted some 103 vehicles that it had picked up on the fly and integrated into its own formation, using FBCB2equipped Strykers on either ends of, you know, chains of the 103 vehicles from the 201st FSB (Forward Support Battalion). En route, in addition to the counter- mobility efforts which included destruction of bridges, mining attempts, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), two actual ambushes were encountered, and the only losses in this march were one soldier from the 1st ID killed, and two wounded. The Stryker Brigade proved a very efficient transit security force, and it was detached and reassigned on a few occasions, to actually divide [sic, provide] route security, including a longstanding mission for the 5-20th in that role The SBCT proved extremely rapid, agile, lethal, survivable, and above all, sustainable in these missions.
One of the nice things about this brigade is that the Stryker uses the same engine as in the FMTV (Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles) family-again, reducing logistical needs. A careful eye to such logistical concerns in its construction resulted not only in a reduction of its physical logistical needs, but its personnel needs, sustainment needs-across the board, this is a lighter, faster organization.
In combating agents itself, the first notable one occurred on 13 December `04, when an IED made the first Stryker combat kill, lifting the front of the vehicle entirely off the ground. The vehicle burned, and the only casualty was the driver, in the most exposed position, immediately adjacent to the detonation, who suffered a fractured leg. The vehicle consistently proved remarkably resilient. The slat armor, although developed in only less than 90 days, proved very efficient and effective against RPG fire. The only other Stryker kill suffered by this brigade in the course of its deployment was by RPG, and that was simply because the RPG managed to set fire to some externally stored stores-the vehicle was lost through a secondary fire.
On 15 December, the insurgents encountered the same problem that the OPFOR at the NTC did, when they mistook Stryker for Bradley. The insurgents initially attacked B Company 1-23d, and the quick reaction force (QRF) from Company A of the 5-20th, responded to encounter its own preplanned ambush. The problem is, the insurgents had become very, very used to the 4th ID's Bradleys; they decided to stick around, in strength of about 15 to 20 insurgents, to combat Company A. Company A carried more than two times the total dismount strengths the insurgents were expecting-sufficient to secure the vehicles, use them as a firebase, flank the enemy-you can predict the outcome of that one.
Also during this engagement-again, underscoring the fact that this is not a Bradley-it is force ... B Company 1-23rd, one of the platoons involved became heavily engaged in built-up terrain, and a single member of that platoon made 7 of the 11 confirmed kills that day, using an M-4 rifle and all-purpose optics. I mention this because that man was a sniper. The brigade makes extremely heavy use of snipers and highly skilled marksmen. There is a sniper section in each battalion and a sniper team in each company, usually dispersed out to the squad level, for operations.
The snipers proved throughout the engagement and throughout the tour of duty to be an ideal precision weapon for use in mount terrain-again, General Scales' idea of being able to kill immediately, and with high precision-you can't ask for more precision or more immediate response than snipers, and snipers are throughout the brigade, a more heavy augmentation of a traditional capability, but again, addressing historical problems by using proven solutions, reducing the wait, reducing the lethality of this unit.
On 4 August, a mobile gun system platoon of Charlie Company 5-20th was ambushed in escort. Company B of the 1-23rd responded, and in a six-hour fight, the brigade received 12 US casualties, for an estimated 200 enemy KIA (killed in action).
One of the more interesting engagements of the entire tour occurred on 4 September, and in looking at this engagement, you have to cast your eyes back to the Mogadishu experience of 1993. In this incident, on 4 September, an OH-58 was down by RPG fire in urban terrain, in the midst of an enemy-held area, and of course, enemy insurgent forces began to gather around the downed OH-58. But, the brigade had a preplanned drill for exactly this event, and it was aided by the fact that FBCB2 survived on the Kiowa, provided an exact location. All units converged on the location. A running fight that lasted several hours engaged, but in the course of this fight, in a distinct contrast to the Mogadishu experience, not only were the two pilots recovered, Medevaced rapidly, but with the assistance of some casts and a several-hour engagement, the helicopter itself was withdrawn, no further significant US casualties were encountered, and the insurgents suffered heavy losses.
Again, 9 September, another significant event. The brigade itself executes a preplanned mission in urban terrain, driving enemy from the southwest corner of the city of Tal Afar. That proved the last significant combat action of their employment.
Total losses for the brigade throughout its deployment were 175 wounded, 13 KIA, another 125 soldiers injured and 13 killed as a result of nonhostile incidents, with a total estimated insurgent losses in the neighborhood of 600 KIA. Again, the loss of only two combat vehicles proved that the Stryker vehicle, despite the warnings of early critics, was an effective combat vehicle, when used as intended by doctrine and training, and when not used as a Bradley surrogate.
Since the Strykers have been in the current Iraqi conflict, many reports have come back on their performance.
An article by Defense Industry Daily addresses both a negative Washington Post article and the surprise of Project On Government Oversight (POGO) at the positive reviews Stryker got from soldiers who had used it in combat. It includes extensive additional quotes and experiences from soldiers and reporters who have served with Strykers in Iraq, and even a Russian analyst review. It concludes by discussing the broader lessons from these experiences that apply beyond the Stryker itself.
Soldiers and officers who use Strykers defend them as very effective vehicles; a 2005 Washington Post article states that "commanders, soldiers and mechanics who use the Stryker fleet daily in one of Iraq's most dangerous areas unanimously praised the vehicle. The defects outlined in the report were either wrong or relatively minor and did little to hamper the Stryker's effectiveness." In the same article, Col. Robert B. Brown, commander of the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), said that the Strykers saved the lives of at least 100 soldiers deployed in northern Iraq.
The article also states that the bolt-on slat armor is effective ballistic protection, which, at the time of the article, was the main flaw cited by critics. A 2003 GAO report to Congress acknowledges that the suspension is a mobility limitation in wet conditions, especially with the added weight of the slat armor.
Reports from military personnel and analysts indicate the Stryker is superior to other light military vehicles of US Army regarding survivability against IEDs (improvised explosive devices). Although soldiers have anecdotally referred to Strykers as "Kevlar Coffins," blogger James Hasik believes that this nickname does not reflect poorly on the vehicle's protection.
In 2013 media reports stated that the Stryker Project Management Office had ordered almost $900 million in unneeded or outdated parts due to a failure to control its inventory during the War on Terror.