The Stryker is a family of eight-wheeled all-wheel-drive armored combat vehicles produced by General Dynamics Land Systems, in use by the United States Army. Based on the Canadian LAV III light-armored vehicle, which in turn is based on the Swiss Mowag Piranha, the Stryker is the U.S. Army's first new armored vehicle since the M2/M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle in the 1980s.
The Stryker was championed by General Eric Shinseki when he was U.S. Army Chief of Staff. The vehicle is employed in Stryker Brigade Combat Teams, light and mobile units based on the Brigade Combat Team Doctrine that relies on vehicles connected by military C4I networks.
Pneumatic or hydraulic systems drive almost all of the vehicle's mechanical features; for example, a pneumatic system switches between 8X4 and 8X8 drive.
The vehicle comes in several variants with a common engine, transmission, hydraulics, wheels, tires, differentials and transfer case. Two exceptions are the M1130 Command Vehicle and M1133 Medical Evacuation Vehicle, which have an air conditioning unit mounted on the pack. The medical vehicle also has a higher-capacity generator. A recent upgrade program provided a field retrofit kit to add air conditioning units to all variants.
Power pack and mechanical features
The Stryker uses a Caterpillar diesel engine common in U.S. Army medium-lift trucks, eliminating extensive retraining of maintenance crews and allowing the use of common parts.
Designers strove to ease the maintainer's job, equipping most cables, hoses, and mechanical systems with quick-disconnecting mechanisms. The engine and transmission can be removed and reinstalled in less than one hour, allowing repairs to the turbocharger and many other components to be done outside the vehicle.
Because of obsolescence concerns, the Caterpillar 3126 engine was recently replaced by a Caterpillar C7 engine. The C7 shares a common engine block with the 3126.
Command, Control, and Targeting
- Extensive computer support helps soldiers fight the enemy while reducing friendly fire incidents. Each vehicle can track friendly vehicles in the field as well as detected enemies.
- A day-night thermal imaging camera allows the vehicle commander to see what the driver sees.
- Soldiers can practice training with the vehicles from computer training modules inside the vehicle.
- The driver and the gunner have periscopes that allow them to see outside the vehicle without exposing themselves to outside dangers. The gunner has almost a 360-degree field of vision; the driver, a little more than 90 degrees.
- General Dynamics Land Systems is developing a new Power and Data Management Architecture to handle computer upgrades.
- The armor suite has been made thicker than the MOWAG design to stop 14.5mm armor-piercing machine-gun rounds and artillery fragments.
- The automatic fire extinguishing system has sensors in the engine and troop compartments that activate one or more halon fire bottles, which can also be activated by the driver.
- "Catchers' mask"-style deflectors known as slat armor which detonate the explosive round away from the vehicle. This type of armor is cheaper and lighter than spaced appliqué-plate or reactive armor.
- The fuel tanks are externally mounted and designed to blow away from the hull in the event of explosion.
- The CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear) Warfare system keeps the crew compartment airtight and positively pressurized.
- There are plans to add the Boomerang anti-sniper system and Raytheon Quick Kill anti-RPG system.
- The vehicle can alter the pressure in all eight tires to suit terrain conditions: highway, cross-country, mud/sand/snow, and emergency. The system warns the driver if the vehicle exceeds the recommended speed for its tire pressure, then automatically inflates the tires to the next higher pressure setting. The system can also warn the driver of a flat tire, although the Stryker is equipped with run-flat tire inserts that also serve as bead-locks, allowing the vehicle to move several miles before the tire completely deteriorates.
- Unlike many modern armored personnel carriers, the Stryker is not an amphibious vehicle, but watertight combat hatch seals allow it to ford water up to the tops of its wheels.
- In August 2004, the US Air Force successfully air dropped an up-weighted Stryker Engineering Support Vehicle from a C-17. This test to determine the feasibility of air dropping a Stryker MGS. Even though this test was a success, none of the Stryker variants have been certified for airdrop.
- The Stryker is too heavy (19 - 26 tons, depending on which variant and which add-on features) to be lifted by existing helicopters.
The unit cost to purchase the initial Stryker ICVs (without add-ons, including the cage armor) was US$3 million in April 2002. By May 2003, the regular production cost per vehicle was US$1.42 million.
LAV-H Stryker Upgrade
The US Army plans to improve its fleet of Stryker vehicles with the introduction of improved semi-active suspension
, modifications reshaping the hull into a shallow V-shaped structure
, additional armor for the sides, redesigned hatches to minimize gaps in the armor, blast absorbing mine resistant seats (or BENCHES), non-flammable tires, an upgrade to the remote weapon station that allows it to fire on the go, increased 500 amp power generation, a new solid state power distribution system and data bus, and the automotive and power plant systems will be upgraded to support a 25% Gross Vehicle Weight increase. The upgrade incorporating lessons learned from Afghanistan
is designated LAV-H and General Dynamics
had a technology demonstrator displayed at the 2007 Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Exposition.
The vehicle is named for two American servicemen who posthumously received the Medal of Honor: Pfc Stuart S. Stryker, who died in World War II and Spc Robert F. Stryker, who died in the Vietnam War.
The Stryker MGS moved into low-rate initial production in 2005 for evaluation, with plans for full production in 2007.
Currently the Stryker is in the research and development phase of being converted to a vehicle capable of Autonomous Navigation. TARDEC has also tested an active Magneto Rheological suspension, developed by MillenWorks for the Stryker, at the Yuma Proving Ground, which resulted in greater vehicle stability.
- The first Stryker brigades were deployed to Iraq in October 2003. 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division from Fort Lewis was the first to field and deploy the Stryker vehicle to combat in Iraq from Nov 2003 to Nov 2004.
- 3rd Brigade was relieved by 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (SBCT). 1st Brigade served in Iraq from October 2004 to October 2005. Units from this Brigade participated in the Battle of Mosul (2004) and were responsible for the first successful elections in January 2005. The Brigade was awarded the Valorous Unit Award for their tour in Iraq.
- The 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team from Fairbanks, Alaska's Fort Wainwright began its initial deployment in August 2005 to Summer 2006. Their stay was subsequently extended for up to four months and they were reassigned to Baghdad. The Brigade was awarded the Valorous Unit Award for their tour in Iraq.
- The 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division re-deployed to Iraq late Spring of 2006 and returned home in September 2007. Like its sister brigades it too was awarded the Valorous Unit Award for operations in Baqubah, Iraq.
- The 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division is stationed in Vilseck, Germany, after reflagging to the U.S. 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, to have a European presence and be able to deploy quickly to that part of the world. In this process, the existing 2nd Cavalry Regiment was reflagged to 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. The 172nd SBCT has returned from Iraq, and has been reflagged as the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division.
- In May 2007, the 4th Brigade 2nd Infantry Division deployed as part of the "surge" in Iraq. This deployment marked the first time the Stryker Mobile Gun System was deployed in Iraq. Also, the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment (MANCHU), deployed Land Warrior for the first time in combat.
- In August 2007 the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment deployed to Baghdad for a 15-month tour, relieving 3rd BDE, 2ID.
- In December 2007 the 2nd Brigade 25th Infantry division deployed to Iraq.
The Stryker chassis' modular design supports a wide range of variants. The main chassis is the Infantry Carrier Vehicle
(ICV). Additionally, there is the Mobile Gun System (MGS)
, a heavier chassis to support a variant of the 105 mm M68A1 rifled cannon
(M68A1E4), a lightweight version of the gun system used on the original M1 Abrams
main battle tanks and the M60 Patton
main battle tank. The M68A1E4 also features a muzzle brake
to assist with recoil and an autoloader
, a rare feature on US tank guns.
The Stryker has the following configurations with more planned:
- U.S. Army - Seven Stryker Brigades will be formed -
- 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division; - first Stryker Brigade formed
- 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division;- fourth Brigade formed, ex 2 CR
- 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division - to be reflagged 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division in 2007. - Final Stryker Brigade formed
- 2nd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division;
- 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment - ex 1st Bde, 25th Div, second Stryker Brigade formed
- 172d Infantry Brigade; - third Stryker Brigade formed, reflagged 1st Bde, 25th ID (L)
- 56th Stryker Brigade of the 28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania National Guard (the only National Guard unit to get them).
- Canadian Forces originally purchased 66 Stryker Mobile Gun System vehicles in 2003, which were expected to arrive in 2010. However, in 2006 the Canadian Forces asked its government to cancel the MGS acquisition. The MGS was originally intended to be used in the "Direct Fire Unit" which will include Tow Under Armour (LAV III) and MMEV (ADATS on LAVIII). The MGS was originally intended to provide the direct gun fire capabilities of the retiring Leopard I tanks however with the recent usefulness of tanks in Iraq and hurried deployment of Canadian Leopard I tanks to Afghanistan combined with political changes in Canada and the Canadian Military - the purchase of more modern tanks occurred with the announcement of the purchase of surplus Leopard 2s from the Netherlands.
The Stryker family of vehicles fill a role in the United States Army that is neither heavy nor light, but rather an attempt to create a force that can move infantry to the battlefield quickly and in relative security. Brigades that have been converted to Strykers have been light, or, in the case of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, unarmored HMMWV-based cavalry scouts. For these units, the addition of Strykers has increased combat power by providing armor protection, a vehicle-borne weapon system to support each dismounted squad (a PROTECTOR M151 Remote Weapon Station with .50-cal or Mk-19), and the speed and range to conduct missions far from the operating base.
Stryker units seem to be especially effective in urban areas, where vehicles can establish initial security positions near a building and dismount squads on a doorstep.
Similar to a UH-60 Black Hawk, the Stryker relies on its speed for the majority of its defense against heavy weapon systems. It is not capable of engaging heavily armored units and relies on other units to control threats outside of its classification.
However, at the National Training Center (Fort Irwin California) 3rd Brigade 2nd ID proved that through the use of unconventional tactics and small dismounted teams armed with anti-armor weaponry, a Stryker unit could hold its own against a conventional armored unit should the need arise. This situation is something that commanders would most likely avoid due to a higher casualty rate.
Brigades equipped with the Stryker are intended to be strategically mobile (i.e. capable of being rapidly deployed over long distances). As such the Stryker was intentionally designed with a lower level of protection compared to tracked vehicles like the M2 Bradley, but with much lower logistic requirements.
The Stryker had come under intense scrutiny from the civilian media since its introduction in the US Army. A report written by Victor O'reilly and submitted to New Jersey Republican Representative Jim Saxton initially blasted various points concerning the vehicle, only to have soldiers in the field seemingly exonerate its performance in a report by the US Army. Some criticism of the Stryker continues a decades-long ongoing debate issues concerning whether tracked or wheeled vehicles are more effective. Other criticism is specific to the Stryker, with complaints concerning various Stryker features.
Much of the controversy centers around the Stryker's not being an Infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) in the mode of the M2 Bradley. The Stryker lacks heavy armor protection and its wheels provide less off-road mobility than tracks. The U.S. Army argues that the comparison with IFVs is inappropriate, since Strykers have been primarily deployed in foot infantry units which had previously relied on unarmored trucks and Humvees for mobility. Proponents of this view argue that Strykers are an enhancement to the protection of unarmored formations.
Other criticism arises from comparison to the proven, lighter and less expensive M113 Armored Personnel Carriers, and the M8 Armored Gun System. The Government Accountability Office reviewed the original purchase decision and found no reason to go against the US Army’s choice of the Stryker. After the Stryker ICV was fielded, Congress ordered the GAO to perform tests to compare an M113A3 to a M1126 Stryker ICV. While they found both vehicles were adequate, the Stryker was found to be a superior infantry carrier.
Documented testimony of the officers and men using the Stryker have been supportive of the vehicle and its protection. The level of protection provided is superior to up armored Humvees.
Weight creep and heavy-lift transport also come up as issues. The ability of the Stryker to be air transportable by C-130 transport aircraft is one of the problems cited.
Rollover is a greater risk with the Stryker relative to other transport vehicles, due to the Stryker's higher center of gravity. The high center of gravity was a deliberate design choice as an anti-mine/IED measure. This issue is aggravated on the Canadian LAV III due to its turret. In the book My War, Colby Buzzell states that the first three fatalities of his Stryker brigade on its deployment to Iraq were from a rollover incident where a Stryker rolled over into a ditch of water. This was the only mention of a Stryker rollover in the book. However, the book fails to mention the roll over was due to an eroded trail that gave way under the combined weight of two Strykers on the night of December 8, 2003 in Al Daluyia, Iraq. The pair of vehicles rolled into the adjacent body of water around 2200 hours. Inside the inverted Strykers, eighteen men struggled to survive in the frigid neck deep water before being rescued by their fellow soldiers. The vehicles were later refitted and soon patrolled the streets of Mosul, Iraq in early 2004.
Reports from military personnel and analysts indicate the Stryker is superior to other military vehicles (including Abrams tanks, Bradley IFV's and Humvees) regarding survivability against IEDs (improvised explosive devices). One colonel said that the Strykers saved the lives of at least a hundred soldiers deployed in northern Iraq.
Soldiers and officers who use Strykers defend them as very effective vehicles; an article in the Washington Post states:
- "But in more than a dozen interviews, 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, they said."
Official U.S. Army websites