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The Stryker Mothership

January 10, 2010

New Wars is an unashamed fan of the Stryker brigades and their premier “interim” combat vehicle of the same name. Recently Armed Forces Journal sent Major General Robert Scales to visit with the troops where he learned some interesting things about the future of land warfare and the failure of the FCS:

The high point of my visit to Iraq was the day I spent with the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry “Manchus” at Taji. These soldiers were the first to be equipped both with the Army’s newest mounted vehicle, the Stryker, and with Land Warrior, the Army’s first attempt to equip the individual soldier with a networking device connecting him to his buddies, his leaders and the outside world. I discovered that it was the synergies that came from combining these two cutting-edge systems that empowered the Manchus to fight in a different way.

My visit happened on a very hot day. Two soldiers waited to greet me as they stood alongside their Stryker, bent over by the crushing burden of more than 100 pounds of gear. I walked around the vehicle followed by one of the soldiers. As I peered into the crew compartment, he leaned over and whispered:

“Hey, sir, know what we call this thing?”

“No, what?” I asked.

We call it the Mothership.” He said as he glanced at his buddy with a knowing grin.

We use the naval analogy of mothership often enough here, it is interesting to see it viewed in the context of land warfare. The principle is the same, allowing the warships to cast off unnecessary impediments like excessive fuel, armament, and cargo, so they can concentrate on what warships do best, which is fight. And as we often contend hulls in the water for the navy is boots on the ground for the Army, so we see here the opposite is also true:

Today’s soldiers walk into battle with more than they can carry. Studies have shown that the practical limit of what a soldier can carry into sustained combat is a third of his body weight, or about 40 pounds. Body armor alone today approaches this limit. Other essential accoutrements such as weapons, ammunition, food and water push the soldier’s load above half his weight. A Manchu soldier equipped with Land Warrior is burdened by about 120 pounds. The Manchus’ experience with Land Warrior shows that to gain a significant advantage over the enemy, tomorrow’s soldier will be required to add the weight of many technological devices, to include access to the network and the ability to carry and control sensors. The bottom line is that overburdened ground forces fighting in a country as inhospitable and vast as Afghanistan, whether heavy or light, Army, Marine or SOF, must ride to war. They are all to one degree or another tied to a mounted tether.

It has been a concern about the excessive weights our soldiers are forced to lug into combat these days. I have even considered proposing a return of pack mules to bring some relief to our beleaguered warriors! Appears the troops themselves may have found a way.

13 Comments leave one →
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  2. Chuck Hill permalink
    January 11, 2010 5:45 pm

    There is apparently a market for military bikes:

  3. Chuck Hill permalink
    January 11, 2010 5:41 pm

    There used to be a very simple little 4 wheel drive vehicle called the mule, (M274) that was a sort of handy carry all. Apparently someone is still selling them surplus:

    One of the interesting things about it was that you could tilt the steering column all the way forward and drive from behind the vehicle using it for cover.

  4. Chuck Hill permalink
    January 11, 2010 5:30 pm


    Love the last one.

    I know we furnished so light off road motorcycles to the Mujaheddin when they were fighting the Soviets.

  5. January 11, 2010 2:19 am


    I wonder how these guys patch their tyres?:

    This must be how they do it:


  6. Sarcastic ShockwaveLover permalink
    January 10, 2010 11:50 pm

    Chuck, I’m all for ‘simple is better’, but I think you’ve gone too far to the left of the scale…how does once go patching a flat bike tyre in the middle of Afghanistan? Carrying 130 pounds of kit? It’s hot enough over there while you;re running around in combat, without asking soldiers to cycle to battle. And it’s a lot easier to steal a bike than a Stryker…

  7. Chuck Hill permalink
    January 10, 2010 9:50 pm

    Silly as it may sound, we might try bicycles. They were the secret of the Japanese success in Malaya, and they were used by the Viet Cong.

  8. Sarcastic ShockwaveLover permalink
    January 10, 2010 4:06 pm

    Once, just once, I’d like to see a ‘Fathership’.

  9. Mike Burleson permalink*
    January 10, 2010 2:44 pm

    D.E. Thanks for reminding about the robotic mule:

  10. D. E. Reddick permalink
    January 10, 2010 1:40 pm

    Don’t forget that US Forces are evaluating robotic mules to use as munitions & supplies carriers for troops in the field. Such innovations (if they prove to be successful) would greatly free patroling troops from the heavy loads that they now must carry.

  11. Mike Burleson permalink*
    January 10, 2010 12:51 pm

    Smitty, you’re right. Still, I imagine it a start and sounds like much appreciated by the troops. It’s a new way of thinking about armor.

  12. Anonymous permalink
    January 10, 2010 11:53 am

    Could HULC help these guys ?

  13. B.Smitty permalink
    January 10, 2010 9:51 am

    Even with Strykers, the soldiers are still overburdened. As your article says, their body armor alone weighs close to 40 lbs. No vehicle or mule will help with that. We need lighter body armor (or the option to forego it as the situation warrants).

    They are expirimenting with a lighter, non-ballistic, plate carrier vest, which only uses ESAPI plates for protection.

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