The American 8×8 Stryker Fighting Vehicle Introduction
The American 8×8 Stryker Armoured Fighting Vehicle is a 3rd Generation, 8 wheel based family of Armoured Fighting Vehicles, employed by the US Army. it’s short service life after being deployed during the occupation of Iraq has seen it being criticised as a poor substitute or replacement of the Bradley as it lacks the offensive weaponry of IFV’s to support its deployed troops as well as lacking the armour found on tracked IFV’s.
But the Stryker is not a replacement to the traditional more powerful, slower and more heavily armoured AFV’s, like the M1A1 Abram’s Tank & Bradley’s. Since the Cold War ended Armies around the world including the US, have been looking at their future requirments and realised that the need for a large heavily armoured force that would have been needed to fight the former USSR is no longer needed (which has been met with the same scepticism as was the transition of the Calvary from horses to AFV’s during WW2) into smaller lighter faster moving and quickly deployable units with their own AFV’s, known as reaction forces. This is what the Stryker family was developed for, with the formation of seven new Stryker Brigades within the US Army.
The Stryker has also received great support from US troops deployed in Iraq, who have found it to be a great replacement/substitute to the M998 (AKA Humvee) which was becoming increasingly vulnerable to IED attacks, as the number deployed and their explosive power has increased in recent years with a growing number of losses of life. The Stryker has proved less susceptible too these attacks and prevented the loss of life of US soldiers who would have been using the M998’s. By 2008 Stryker had clocked up 25 million miles of combat experience and 2550 Strykers had been delivered to the US Army. A contract for production and maintenance of 615 Stryker vehicles was also placed in the same year.
The Army has seven Stryker Brigade Combat Teams, three of which are deployed in combat zones: two in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. To date (2009), General Dynamics has delivered nearly 3,000 vehicles and trained more than 19,000 soldiers in their use.
The American 8×8 Stryker Armoured Fighting Vehicle Development
During the 1970’s, the Swiss vehicle manufacturer MOWAG had developed and manufactured a successful 8×8 Light Armoured Vehicle known as the Piranha. This vehicle went on to be licensed built during the late 80’s by GM Defence Canada for the USMC & US Army, designated the LAV-25, but the Army pulled out of the project in 1984. But the US Army still required a new Light Armoured Vehicle. GM Defence Canada went on to develop and licence manufacturer the MOWAG design over several years in different models for the Canadian Army, the most recent being the LAV-III. The LAV-III design was further developed and designated the Stryker and entered service with the US Army in 2002. General Dynamics Land Systems then bought GM Defence Canada in 2003 and are the current manufacturer.
Stryker Armoured Fighting Mobility
The Stryker on average weights 16.47 tons (the MGS is 18.77tons). Its physical dimensions are 2.64m in height, width is 2.72m and is 6.95m in length. It is equipped with a 350HP Caterpillar 3126 diesel engine, providing 62.5 mph top speed (governed) providing a 330mile cruising range (53 gallon fuel capacity). It uses a run-flat/central tire inflation system and has a 78 inch trench crossing, 23 inch vertical climb and 60% gradient capabilities.
Stryker Armoured Fighting Vehicle Protection
The structure of the Stryker is built from a ballisitic steel, with a light/basic ceramic mix fixed to that, which was designed by IBD / Deisenroth Engineering of Germany (who also make the MEXAS armour on the Leopard 2 Improved) and provides protection up to 14.5mm armour-piercing MG rounds and 152mm artillery fragments. The vehicle is also fitted with spall liners, which collect fragmentations of the hull should it be penetrated and are lethal to the crew.
On operational service in Iraq, Stryker has been fitted with Cage armour AKA “Bar”, which are forms of stand off armour. RPG-7’s detonate on the bar’s releasing their copper jet pay load, instead of detonating on and penetrating the ceramic armour. However the extra weight of the cage armour was not included in the weight calculation of the vehicle and has had a detremental effect on the suspension.
The fuel tanks are mounted on the outside of the vehicle and designed to blow outwards if struck and a HALON fire supression system is installed in the vehicle, which can be operated by the driver.
GDLS have developed the Stryker DVH
It is fitted with a double-V hull, which was developed on an accelerated timeline to provide Stryker-borne soldiers increased protection from the effects of roadside mines and improvised explosive devices. Recent Army reports indicate that deployed vehicles with the new double-V-hull design are providing significantly increased protection and survivability to soldiers.
The first contract was awarded in July 2010 for 450 Stryker DVH. Over 320 vehicles had been produced as of October 2011 from that order. Two further orders were received totalling a further 232 Stryker DVH’s, which are built in all variants of the Stryker family.
These awards combined for double-V-hulled Stryker vehicles, will provide the Army with the equivalent of two Stryker DVH brigade combat teams.
FBCB2 is a digital communication platform designed for commanders to track friendly forces (via GPS tracking installed in friendly vehicles) and displaying them graphically on a computer animated battlefield monitor in the commanders station, instead of him collecting this information verbally over a radio and relying on visual confirmation. Integrated with the BFT it can also receive data such as enemy forces located by other units/vehicles equipped with FBCB2/BFT or Ground Surveillance Radar’s & UAV’s, which is also graphically displayed on the commanders computer animated battlefield monitor. This allows the commander to be aware of what is happening around his vehicle and others in real time.
It also allows command operation centre’s either behind the lines or even in the US, to monitor the location of its and the enemies forces, so they can be co-ordinated in a joint effort to defeat those enemy forces. Changes to orders can be made instantly to all vehicles as the FBCB2 can also receive e-mail. It also considerably reduces accidental friendly fire AKA blue on blue (hence the word blue in BFT) as commanders are aware of friendly units rather than relying on visual confirmation which is difficult through a thermal sight! These systems have been developed since the mid to late 90’s in a previous reshaping plan called Force XXI AKA Task Force 21 and is gradually being integrated in to US vehicles through its current modernization program.
Stryker Armoured Fighting Vehicle Variants
The Stryker is a family of vehicles to fulfil the varying roles and requirements of the Stryker Brigade other than just infantry vehicle carrier and mobile gun system.
M1126 Infantry Carrier Vehicle – equipped with the PROTECTOR M151 Remote Weapon Station, which can be equipped with either the MK19 40mm grenade launcher, a .50cal M2 machine gun or MK240 7.62mm machine gun. It is also armed with four M6 smoke grenade launchers. The vehicle has a crew of 2 and carries 9 infantry men. It’s role is to deliver soliders to the battlefield under armoured protection and provide fire supression. The driver has three M-17 periscopes and a DRS Technologies AN/VAS-5 driver’s vision enhancer (DVE). The vehicle commander has seven M45 periscopes and a thermal imager display with video camera. Both this vehicle and the mobile gun system form the back bone of the Stryker family.
M1127 Reconnaissance Vehicle – The vehicles role is to scout ahead of the primary force and to locate and conduct surveillance of the enemy. Using its Raytheon long-range advanced scout surveillance system (LRAS3) it carries out target location & acquisition using thermal imaging and laser range finder. This information is then relayed via the FBCB2 digital communication platform to rear fire support vehicles. It carries a squad of six cavalry men and a crew of 2. It is equipped with a 50 cal. MG for close encounters.
M1128 Mobile Gun System – The vehicle is the basic Stryker hull with a crewless turret which is mounted with the 105mm M68A1E4 rifled cannon and M240C 7.62mm coax MG. The commander has a .50cal MG. The vehicle is operated by 3 crewmen thanks to the autoloader which is supplied by Curtiss-Wright Corp. The vehicle can fire 18 rounds of 105mm munitions, 3400 7.62mm rounds and 400 .50 rounds. The gunner has three periscopes and a compact modular sight with day and thermal channels.
It’s believed that 142 vehicles have been ordered for the US Army. It entered service in May 2007 and has been deployed in Iraq with the 4th brigade, 2nd Division.
M1129 Mortar Carrier – The vehicle is equipped with a 120mm mortar which is fired from within the vehicle on a turntable. Battalion level M1129 have a second mortar which is 81mm and Company level M1129 carry a second mortar which is 60mm. Secondary mortars are used externally of the vehicle. The 5 man crewed vehicle entered service in 2005 and has been used in anger in Iraq. It’s also equipped with a 7.62mm MG.
M1130 Commander Vehicle – equipped with the PROTECTOR M151 Remote Weapon Station, this vehicle is further up the SBCT chain and is home to the Brigade Commander. He is able to monitor and implement command decisions over the Brigade from the vehicle. It has a crew of 2 plus 9 passengers.
M1131 Fire Support Vehicle – equipped with a 50 cal. MG The FSV provides enhanced surveillance, target acquisition, target identification, target designation, and communications supporting the SBCT with ”first round“ fire-for-effect capability. In essence its a communications hub, monitoring the information of the various Battalions within the SBCT. It integrates the current M707 Striker Mission Equipment Package. The FSV provides the Fire Support Teams (FIST) with the capability to automate command and control functions, to perform fire support planning, directing, controlling and cross-functional area coordination, and execution through the FBCB2 digital communication platform. It has a crew of 2 plus 9 passengers.
M1132 Engineer Support Vehicle – Clears obstacles with a front mounted bulldozer blade. It also has lane marking systems and mine detection equipment. It has a crew of 2 and 9 passangers. It is also equipped with the PROTECTOR M151 Remote Weapon Station.
M1133 Medical Evacuation Vehicle – This variant is the ambulance for the Stryker family and can accommodate up to 6 patients with a medical team. The US Army has 33 in service.
M1134 Anti-Tank Guided Missile – Despite the presense of the MGS, the role of tank killer falls with the M1134. It’s equipped with a twin tube TOW launcher. It fires the wire guided TOW 2B missile.
TOW 2B, operates in a ‘flyover shoot down’ top attack mode, unlike other versions which are direct attack. It features a dual-mode target sensor designed by Thales (formerly Thomson-Thorn) Missile Electronics, which includes laser profilometer and magnetic sensor, and new warhead section, produced by Aerojet. It resembles the TOW 2A but without the extendible probe, and is armed with two explosively formed tantalum penetrator (EFP) warheads. The EFP warheads detonate simultaneously, one pointing downwards, the other slightly offset to give an increased hit probability. The warhead material is designed to generate pyrophoric effects within the damaged target.
M1135 Nuclear, Biological, Chemical, Reconnaissance Vehicle – The system can collect and automatically integrate contamination information with vehicle navigation and meteorological sensor data and then transmit digital warning messages to other forces. The US Army has 17 in service.
The GDLS Stryker Upgrade Program
The Stryker concept is about rapid deployment and as such mobility is very important as to the success of the series. GDLS have been running the reset program, which returns the Stryker to 0 hour’s condition. It also allows GDLS to install upgrades at the same time.
On the 3rd of December 2009, GDLS announced that under a new contract, the US Army and General Dynamics will develop designs and build a demonstrator to assess options for continuing to enhance survivability, power, suspension, mobility and lethality, and the integration of new technologies – core enabling capabilities – for the Stryker. Mobility enablers include analysis of adding a 450 horse power diesel engine, upgrading the suspension system and driveline to carry a 60,000-lb. payload, larger tires and a new braking system. Work also includes design of a digital architecture system that connects new command, control, communication, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance technologies, to ensure soldiers continue to have access to the best available situational-awareness and mission systems. GDLS have not released any further press releases covering this demonstrator.
Confirmed upgrades –
The new add-on kit, known as the StrykShield™, is comprised of front and side transparent armor windows that are mounted in a framework built with ATI 500-MIL high-hard armor steel. Produced by Carapace Armor Technology, the StrykShield kit provides increased visibility and situational awareness for Stryker crews, while providing full ballistic and blast protection. The StrykShield kit has been successfully fielded and battle tested in Iraq for two years. The U.S. Army’s Rapid Equipping Force has ordered 690 StrykShield kits for deployment on Stryker vehicles.
In February 2009, BAE Systems was awarded a production contract for the Check-6 thermal imaging driver’s rear-view camera (DRVC) system for the Stryker ICV. The system is fitted to the vehicle’s taillight housing. Deliveries began in April 2009.
In March 2009, a contract worth $4.8m to produce 805 Stryker driver enhancement kits was awarded to JWF Defense Systems by General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada. The deliveries were completed between April and June 2009.
On 9 October 2009, the US Army TACOM signed a contract worth $647m with General Dynamics Land Systems for the supply of 352 Stryker vehicles. The deliveries are expected in July 2010.
Stryker Brigade Combat Team
The Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) is designed entirely around the Stryker series. The Stryker Brigade is organized differently than the Infantry or Heavy Brigade Combat Teams. The Stryker Brigade Combat Team consist of 3 Infantry Battalions, 1 Reconnaissance (Cavalry) Squadron, 1 Fires (Artillery) Battalion, 1 Brigade Support Battalion, 1 Brigade Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1 Network Support Company, 1 Military Intelligence Company, 1 Engineer Company, and 1 Anti-Tank Company. Unlike the Infantry and Heavy BCT’s there is not a Brigade Special Troops Battalion nor Forward Support Companies in the Brigade Support Battalion for the five maneuver elements.
Stryker Armoured Fighting Vehicle Combat History
Operation Iraqi Freedom
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.
As part of a three way move, upon redeployment from Iraq, the 1st Stryker Brigade, 25th Infantry Division and the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment both cased their colors. The former 1st SBCT, 25th ID was redesignated as the new 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment in Vilseck, Germany and the former 2nd ACR was redesignated as the new 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Lewis, Washington. During the same period of time, upon redeployment from Iraq, the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team was deactivated and reactivated as the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, in Fort Wainwright, Alaska.
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.
In September 2008, 1-25th Infantry based in Fort Wainwright, Alaska was deployed to Iraq.
In January 2009, the 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division, from the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, was deployed to Iraq. The 56th SBCT is the only National Guard unit in the U.S. Army to field Strykers.
War in Afghanistan
The 5th Brigade 2nd Infantry Division was the first Stryker unit sent to Afghanistan, deployed in summer 2009 as part of a troop level increase. The brigade’s 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment has suffered the heaviest losses of any Stryker battalion to date.