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After four months in Iraq, the Stryker brigade up in northern Iraq lost its first Stryker armored vehicle to an RPG attack on March 28th. Two RPGs were fired at the vehicle and one got past the Slat Armor. The vehicle caught fire and was destroyed. None of the crew were hurt. Only the driver was aboard, and he got out. The rest of the crew (an infantry squad) were on foot patrol at the time. About half a dozen RPG rounds have previously been fired at the brigades 309 Strykers so far, most only causing minor damage. Two Strykers were damaged when hit by a roadside bomb. Only one soldier was injured. Three Stryker crewmen were killed, back in December, when a Stryker rolled over when part of the dirt embankment underneath it collapsed.
The troops like the Stryker, mainly because it's faster than the M-2 Bradley tracked armored infantry vehicle that many of the troops had used earlier in their careers. The Stryker has a smoother ride and it is quiet. This has proved to be a significant advantage when going on raids, or just patrolling. The road wheels and metal pads of a tracked armored vehicle make a lot more noise. The Iraqis are unnerved by silent Strykers sneaking up on them.
Being a new combat vehicle, the Stryker has come under a lot of criticism. But so far, the troops using it are enthusiastic. That is also largely due to the fact that the Stryker is a new vehicle and has a lot of new stuff in it. The vehicle has a .50 caliber (12.7mm) machine-gun that can be fired from inside the vehicle via an automated mechanism and video cameras on the outside of the vehicle. The driver also has a video camera, which provides the driver with more protection (although a narrower view of what's up ahead) when the vehicle is under fire, or in hazardous country.
The Strykers are also equipped with the new FBCB2 "battlefield Internet." This means each vehicle has a computer, and is linked to all the other via satellite. This gives unit commanders a much better sense of where everyone is, especially at night. This stuff, in a less complete form, was used during the 2003 march on Baghdad, and worked well. The more complete FBCB2 has more bells and whistles and the troops seem to like it.
The Stryker brigade is near, a city that has a large Sunni Arab population, a lot of Saddam loyalists, but not as much violence as there is further south in the "Sunni Triangle." About a dozen Strykers have suffered serious damage so far, including several that were totaled. But casualties have not been high, and the troops still have that rush from being the first kids on the block with a new toy. The Stryker has not failed miserably as some critics predicted, and the Stryker troopers are constantly developing new ways to use vehicle. But a full assessment won't be possible until the Stryker brigade completes its one year tour in the Fall, and an after-action report is written.
Some 300 of the U.S. Army's Stryker LAV (wheeled Light Armored Vehicle) were sent to Iraq last Fall as part of the first "Stryker Brigade." The Stryker has proven durable (not wearing out it's tires, as the M-2 Bradley does its tracks, after 1300 kilometers on the road) and able to protect itself. The two times an RPG rocket has hit a Stryker, the damage was minor because of the additional "slat armor." Two Strykers were hit by roadside bombs, but only one soldier was wounded. Moreover, Iraqi attackers have learned to be wary when Strykers are about, because they accelerate faster than armored vehicles, and come at the source of the hostile fire with guns blazing. The army brass are pleased, so far, with Stryker's performance so far and are planning to continue buying them and forming Stryker brigades. The Stryker has had a 90 percent readiness rate (which is higher than tracked vehicles.) The height of the vehicle has caused some stability problems and there have been at least two roll overs. But the height also gives the crews a better view of their surroundings. The Stryker was rushed into production in the late 1990s to provide a lightweight armored vehicle
for peacekeeping operations. Six Stryker brigades will be formed by 2008, and the fourth Stryker is brigade is being formed this year. Each Stryker vehicle costs about two million dollars.
The Army’s new Interim Combat Vehicle is proving itself in Iraq. Encased in a cage of slat armor, a Stryker recently shrugged off a direct hit by a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG), with minor damage and no casualties. The incident reportedly happened in the Mosul district of Northern Iraq.
Slat armor was added to the Stryker after being deployed to the war zone in November 2003. The cage of armor that circles the vehicle is similar to anti-torpedo nets that used to protect battleships in port. When an RPG hits, it is defused between the main armor and the outer covering. The armor performed as expected with only one vehicle lost in combat since its debut with the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. This 19-ton Stryker became a total loss when hit by an improvised explosive device. All 4 crewmembers escaped with only minor injuries.
The recent unsuccessful attack seems to justify the faith military leaders are placing in the Army’s new combat vehicle. Critics in and out of the service have been highly vocal about supposed flaws in the design and concept of Stryker. They claim the vehicle to be too heavy, vulnerable to small arms fire, and a poor substitute for the main battle tank. Supporters say it is not a tank replacement but a highly mobile battle taxi, and with a new 105-millimeter cannon, an infantry support weapon.
Weight has been a problem with the Stryker. Off road the vehicle can bog down, and its built in winch is unable to rescue the vehicle in soft sand. To load the vehicle on a C-130 transport aircraft, a prime requirement in the design, much extra equipment and armor must be disassembled. After reaching a landing zone, the Army claims Stryker can be reassembled in 17 minutes.
The Interim Combat Vehicle, based on a Marine light armored vehicle, was ordered in November 2000 as part of an Army plan to deploy a combat brigade to a crisis zone within 96 hours. Six Stryker Brigades are being raised, each consisting of 366 vehicles. Stryker travels on 8 wheels at speeds of 60 miles per hour, and off road by deflating its tires. Range is 300 miles. Variants include a mobile gun system, an infantry carrier, mortar carrier, anti-tank vehicle, and NBC reconnaissance vehicle.
As the new brigades are forming, doubts persist about the design. Critics are supporting conventional track vehicles, such as the Vietnam era M-113 armored personnel carrier, which they claim can be easily upgraded to LAV standard at less cost than Stryker. The design is not without merit, as large numbers of the workhorses remain in service, and are better off-road vehicles. It is doubtful however, that a new generation of warriors will accept such a dated design unless forced to do so.
Tank advocates point to the LAVs vulnerability in a combat situation, though the recent attack in Mosul may blunt this argument somewhat. The Stryker’s original specification called for it to withstand hits from 50 caliber bullets and airburst shells. Tankers point to the great success of the M-1 Abrams in the recent invasion of Iraq, and the swift capture of Baghdad, without major loss.
It is also a fact that because of excessive cost, weight, and a growing vulnerability to new technologies, the tank’s day may be fading. Most of the world’s armies are equipping themselves with cheaper and more mobile LAVs, most recently Canada and Israel. For the first time in decades there are no new designs for main battle tanks underway in any army, other than updating older vehicles. Though armor is still a deciding factor in modern war, the conflict in Iraq, and a tank no one wanted, is proving light vehicles can be protected at less cost and near equal performance. --Mike Burleson
Originally posted by psteel
Well given the critism they might just be keeping the Stryker brigade in a place where it can't do too badly. Even two months ago people would have said it would be nuts to through Stryker into urban combat since its only for peacekeeping patrols with minimal combat.
[Edited on 26-4-2004 by psteel]