Stryker:The Future is Now
We have been an advocate for the Stryker combat vehicle since its inception. Repeated attempts by the Army to get some type of light anti-insurgent tank in service previous to 2000 failed, notably with the Armored Gun System. So, with the Iraq experience wheeled vehicles rule, and are now headed to Afghanistan to try their proven tactics against some of the world’s toughest fighters.
Some would say that we now need to modernize our Army with a very costly Future Combat System. Let me say to these that THE ARMY HAS BEEN MODERNIZED, thanks to the crash programs of wheeled vehicles ongoing such as MRAP and armored Humvee conversions, but especially thanks to the Stryker.
Small Wars Journal reports on plans to keep the proven off-the-shelf Stryker going into the future:
“We are looking at the future of the force mix, examining what it is going to look like in the years ahead, and it’s possible at the end of this process the decision will be made that some of the heavy brigades will become Stryker brigades.” [Secretary of the Army Pete] Geren said, adding that the Stryker concept “has been an extraordinarily successful program.”
The article mainly concerns former Army Chief of Staff and current Secretary of the Veteran Affairs Eric Shinseki, but also includes some interesting history on the wildly popular Stryker:
Immediately after becoming the Army’s chief in 1999, General Shinseki sought to take advantage of the “opportunity in terms of peace and economic capability… to transform” the Army. General Shinseki’s transformation of the Army called for decentralizing command and control and logistic capabilities from a division level down to the brigade combat team. This decentralization of resources has enabled the military to better handle the fluid battlefield known as counterinsurgency.
Gen. Shinseki then developed a fighting force which bridged the firepower inherent in heavy mechanized forces with the mobility of light infantry forces. He immersed himself in the Army Science Board in researching cutting edge technologies in order to develop a vehicle platform best suited for America’s future wars. The end result of Shinseki’s studies was the Stryker vehicle, which incorporated the latest technologies in communication, weaponry, survivability, and maneuverability.
Shinseki’s bold plan to restructure an Army comfortably enjoying the Cold War peace dividend was met by fierce opposition within Washington and even within the halls of the Pentagon. Many critics derided his efforts as too costly, and insulted him professionally by lampooning him as a Clinton general. Newt Gingrich and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld were among the most adamant opponents to the creation of the Stryker brigade. They disparaged Shinseki’s plan as outdated and one only suitable for Bosnia like peacekeeping operations.
Big shock! It looks like our future will mainly consist of “Bosnia like peacekeeping operations”, except perhaps a bit more bloody. A while back, we wrote this in praise of the Stryker:
What pundits failed to foresee is the Stryker’s speed and maneuverability is an asset over heavy armor and tracks in an urban conflict. Whereas the noise emanating from helicopters or heavy tanks often give the enemy time to prepare an ambush or flee, the new vehicle’s wheels make it deadly silent. In the Brigade’s first operation at Samarra, the Iraqi’s dubbed them the “ghost soldiers” for their ability to strike quickly and undetected.
To combat the enemies deadly RPGs, the Stryker Brigade devised an ingenious system called slat armor. This is a steel cage fitted on the vehicle’s outer hull causing rockets to explode harmlessly before contact. Also at Samarra, the Stryker revealed the protection given to its passengers. The first loss of the new vehicle was to a mine, which totally destroyed it, but left only one crewman slightly injured.The wheels also proved a plus in combat situations. The Stryker can suffer loss of several of its six tires while still rolling. In contrast, the loss of a single track on the mighty M-1 Abrams effectively immobilizes the tank for hours.
The major selling point for yours truly, however, is the troops love it! Taking into account that the weapon has come through some of the most dangerous environments for vehicles probably in history. With roads laced with IEDs powerful enough to destroy an M-1 tank, the Strykers have suffered as well and lived to fight again. So we think these would do equally well against a more conventional tank army, as we hinted at in this article from 2004:
With a bridgehead now established, the landing troops will spread out into the countryside like swift Mongol cavalry in LAV’s, similar to the recent assault on Baghdad. Major cities and whole armies will be bypassed. Any force that mobilizes against it will be destroyed with long-range artillery armed with guided rockets, as well as air strikes. As each regiment is equipped with advanced communications and GPS, the entire process will be well coordinated despite the extreme distances involved.
We just don’t see an old-style tank army being able to react against such a swift and agile mobile force in a future war. And recent history bears this out from the Angola Wars of the last century. The same nation from which we based the proven MRAP vehicle on, South Africa” also used armored cars to combat Soviet tanks. While we wouldn’t suggest the Stryker go one on one with a tank, not even the upgunned Mobile Gun System with a 105mm cannon, but in conjugation with infantry, artillery, and aerial resources, we think she is more than capable of tackling these threats.