Q: You have mentioned that your Stryker formation is better equipped than heavy or light forces for COIN (do they still call it that?) ops in Iraq — why?
A: I stated that the Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) is in my opinion better suited for Contemporary Operations in Iraq for a few reasons. It is the largest brigade formation currently in the Army with four maneuver battalions (3 Infantry Battalions each over 770 authorized and a Cavalry Squadron), a DS Artillery Battalion and a Support Battalion.
The SBCT is equipped with the various variants of the Stryker vehicle which is an eight wheeled light armored vehicle that offers good protection (level of protection is classified) and great mobility. There is a large lobby of anti-stryker people in think tanks and defense trade publications most of which haven’t a true understanding of the operating environment in Iraq or the true capability of the vehicles.
I have been in my Stryker when I was attacked with multiple Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and not only survived unscratched (as did my crew) but was able to not only roll off the “X” (attack zone) under our own power but were able to catch the insurgents responsible for the attack. Having served in mechanized and armor units I can safely say that the same explosion would have either blown the track off the vehicle or at least made it throw track, both scenarios making the vehicle a “mobility kill”.
The Stryker being wheeled also can travel of speeds over 65 MPH which in itself is a force protection measure. The SBCT also has most of the latest technological advancements fielded in the Army to help with reconnaissance and surveillance but also force protection. Lastly the SBCT is a tailorable, fast reacting unit that can be redirected and moved in quick order providing the higher headquarters a truly flexible, adaptive, large scale (5,000 soldiers) force.
A: Since the Stryker is a troop carrier and not a fighting vehicle by design I will only compare and contrast it to the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. (Most people incorrectly label a Stryker as a tank).
The biggest difference is the distinction between a “fighting vehicle” and a “troop carrier”. The Bradley has an integrated Anti-Tank capability and has developed into pretty good fighting platform although it was originally designed as troop carrier.
The Stryker has ten variants (Infantry Carrier, Recce, Command, Engineer, Fire Support, ATGM, Mortar, Medical Evacuation, NBC & Mobile Gun System — note the NBC and MGS are still in production) but the basis of each with the exception of the ATGM and MGS is as a troop carrier. All variants (except the medical evacuation) have a mounted weapon system that is designed for self protection but not to fight other armored vehicles.
The second difference obviously is track versus wheels. The Stryker as a eight wheeled vehicle received a lot of criticism because most studies show that a track combat vehicle is more versatile across the full spectrum of operating environments. With a wheeled vehicle you gain speed but usually lose cross country mobility. I would have to say that I am fairly impressed with the Stryker’s performance during OIF.
I think for that threat scenario it is the best suited vehicle in the current inventory. On more than one occasion a Stryker that was attacked by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) sustained flat tires but due to a Run Flat tire inflation system was able to roll either continuing with its mission or move to a safe location to repair damage. In most cases the blast from the same IED would have rendered a track vehicle immobile because its track would have been blown off, damaged or at the very least thrown.
The speed obtained by a Stryker is outstanding and in the Iraqi theatre of operations speed saves lives, typically slower vehicles are targeted for IEDs or ambush. The speed also allows commanders to quickly reposition units resulting in more flexibility and agility. The last feature that I would highlight is the quiet operation of a Stryker. Unlike any track vehicle and even a HMMWV the Stryker is remarkably quiet allowing forces to move relatively undetected from audio sensors. As far where the Stryker fits in with the Army’s overall goal I believe it is fulfilling its designed role of an interim vehicle for the Future Combat System.