By: Warren Gray
Copyright © 2022
“The Stryker’s fantastic. It has incredible mobility, incredible
speed…It’s absolutely amazing. If I were in any other
type of vehicle, I would’ve had huge problems.”
— Colonel Robert B. Brown, commander, 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry
Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), October 2005.
The General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada (GDLS-C) Stryker infantry carrier vehicle (ICV) is an eight-wheeled, modular, armored fighting vehicle designed for speed, mobility, and rapid deployment of infantry troops to the battlefield in relative security. It’s named for two unrelated American soldiers who posthumously earned the Medal of Honor: Private First Class, Stuart S. Stryker, killed in action during World War Two, and Specialist Four Robert F. Stryker, who died in the Vietnam War.
The Stryker is produced in London, Ontario, Canada, derived from the Canadian Army’s Light Armored Vehicle-III (LAV-III), and it’s manufactured in 12 different variants, 11 of which are employed in a standard, U.S. Army Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT). The 12th variant is a highly-specialized, short-range, air defense (SHORAD) model operated separately by air defense artillery regiments. The Stryker series bridges the gap between heavier and less-deployable vehicles, such as the M2 Bradley, and lightweight, easily-deployable vehicles, such as the Humvee. It’s been in active service since 2002. It has seen significant combat action in Iraq from 2003 to 2011, in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2012, where it maintained a 96-percent readiness rate, and in Iraq (again) and Syria from 2014 to the present day.
As a result of poor performance against improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Afghanistan and Iraq, eight of the 11 versions were upgraded with a more-survivable, double-v hull (DVH) design. All variants currently use the Caterpillar C9 six-cylinder, turbodiesel, 450-horsepower engine, an improved, semi-active suspension, stronger power generator, wider tires, blast-attenuating seats, thermal-imaging cameras (capable out to 1.5 miles). Improved ceramic armor plating, and an in-vehicle network of computers to improve communications. These upgraded vehicles are designated the Stryker-A1. Unfortunately, all of the upgrades increase vehicle weight to the point that it is no longer deployable aboard C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, and cannot be airlifted by helicopters.
The Stryker series is typically 23 feet long by nine feet wide and nine feet tall, weighing in at a hefty 19 to 26 tons, depending upon the variant, with at least 330 vehicles assigned to each of eight different units, including the 1st (“Ghost Brigade”) and 2nd (“Lancer Brigade”) SBCTs at Fort Lewis, Washington (part of the 2nd Infantry Division), the 1st (“Raiders”) and 2nd (“War Horse”) SBCTs at Fort Carson, Colorado (part of the 4th Infantry Division), the 2nd Cavalry Regiment at Vilseck, Germany, the 3rd Cavalry Regiment at Fort Hood, Texas, and two National Guard units, the 56th SBCT, from Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, and the 81st SBCT, from Seattle, Washington. A total of 4,466 Stryker vehicles were delivered to the U.S. Army between 2002 and 2014, when production ended.
Inside the vehicles, Stryker crews wear standard, U.S. Army Operational Camouflage Pattern (OCP, also known as Scorpion W2) utility uniforms since 2014, with suede, Coyote-Brown boots and 3M N49 ultra-lightweight, ballistic bump helmets (ULW-BBH.) Their self-defense weapons in case of a disabled vehicle in combat situations are primarily the Colt M4A1 carbine in 5.56mm for enlisted troops or the SIG M17/M18 (probably the M18) service pistol in 9mm for officers.
A standard Stryker brigade possesses the following vehicles:
130 x M1126/M1256 Infantry Carrier Vehicles (ICVs): The basic, armored personnel carrier version, with a two-man crew and nine infantry passengers in back, is usually armed with a Browning M2HB heavy machine gun. Unit cost in 2012 was $4.9 million. There’s also a Scout/Recon version, equipped with a Long-Range, Advance Scout (LRAS) surveillance system.
56 x M1127 Reconnaissance Vehicles (RVs): Used by recon squadrons and battalion scouts to gather and transmit real-time, intelligence/surveillance data.
32 x M1130/M1255 Commander’s Vehicles (CVs): Provides commanders with communication, data, and control functions. Has air conditioner.
13 x M1131/M1251 Fire Support Vehicles (FSVs): Provides surveillance and secure communications, with target acquisition/identification/tracking/designation.
12 x M1132/M1257 Engineer Squad Vehicles (ESVs): Provides mobility support, with obstacle neutralization, lane-marking systems, and mine-detection devices.
36 x M1129/M1252 Mortar Carriers (MCs): Armed with Soltam 120 mm Recoil Mortar System (RMS) and precision-guided, mortar munitions (PGMMs.)
27 x M1133/M1254 Medical Evacuation Vehicles (MEVs): Used for enroute care of wounded soldiers, providing treatment for serious injury and advanced trauma.
9 x M1134/M1253 Anti-Tank Guided Missile Vehicles (ATGMs): Armed with the BGM-71E/F TOW-2 missile to reinforce the brigade’s infantry and reconnaissance.
3 x M1135 Nuclear, Biological, Chemical, Reconnaissance Vehicles (NBC RVs): With on-board, integrated, NBC sensor suite and integrated meteorological system.
12 x M1128 Mobile Gun Systems (MGSs): Armed with a 105 mm M68A1E4 rifled cannon, an M2HB commander’s heavy machine gun, and a coaxial, 7.62mm M240 machine gun, for direct fire support. The cannon can fire six rounds per minute.
Since August 2018, many lightly-armed Strikers ICVs have been retrofitted with the Raytheon Common Remotely-Operated Weapon System-Javelin (CROWS-J), mounting a single FGM-148F Javelin anti-tank missile, with an effective range of nearly three miles. This is exactly the same missile employed with devastating effect by the Ukrainian army against thousands of invading Russian tanks and armored personnel carriers. The Army plans to outfit half of its ICV vehicles with the CROWS-J system.
The other half of the Army will receive the Oshkosh Defense Medium-Caliber, Remote Weapons Station (MCRWS), featuring a powerful, Northrop Grumman XM813 (Mk. 44 Bushmaster II) 30x173mm autocannon. The first 81 examples were delivered in October 2016 to the 2nd Cavalry Regiment at Vilseck, Germany. Upgraded Strykers are designated the M1296 Dragoon (ICVD), with a further 174 to be modified through 2022, equipping at least three more Stryker brigades, with an option for six brigades. The XM813 cannon can engage targets nearly two miles away, with an 80-percent hit probability at one mile. It can also fire airburst rounds to defend against enemy drones or engage troops on the ground, and is loaded with 156 rounds ready to fire and another 264 rounds in reserve.
The Stryker currently relies primarily upon its speed (60 mph) and advanced communications capabilities for defense against enemy armored formations. However, the Javelin missile and XM813 upgrades will even the odds in battle. A pneumatic system switches the vehicles from 8×4-wheel drive to 8×8-wheel drive when required, and the engine and transmission can be removed and reinstalled in only two hours if necessary. The vehicle hull is constructed of high-hardness steel, which protects against 14.5mm bullets or shell fragments from 155mm artillery rounds.
The newest operational variant of the Stryker-A1 is the M-SHORAD (Maneuver-Short-Range Air Defense) version, pictured at the top of this article. First fielded in November 2020, with 28 examples going to the 4th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Regiment in Ansbach, Germany, by April 2021. One hundred and forty-four systems will be produced by 2023 to equip four U.S. Army battalions in Europe, since the M-SHORAD concept is specifically based on the threat of intruding Russian drones over NATO airspace.
The air defense system is configured with Moog’s Reconfigurable Integrated-weapons Platform (RIwP) turret, which allows for different weapons to be mounted. The system and includes a RADA Electronic Industries (of Germantown, Maryland) pulse-Doppler, Multi-mission, Hemispheric Radar (MHR) with an active, electronically-scanned array (AESA) antenna for aerial surveillance (it can detect an enemy fighter at nearly 22 miles, or a light mortar round at three miles), Leonardo DRS mission equipment package, identification, friend or foe (IFF) antenna, electronic warfare (EW) package, and a Wescam MX-GCS electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sighting system, with 360-degree detection and targeting capability.
M-SHORAD armament includes an XM914 (a derivative of the M230LF) 30x113mm Chain-gun cannon, an M240C 7.62x51mm NATO coaxial machine gun, four pod-mounted FIM-92H/J Stinger heat-seeking, anti-aircraft missiles, and a pair of AGM-114L Hellfire Longbow anti-tank missiles with fire-and-forget, millimeter-wave (MMW) radar guidance for defeating aerial or ground targets. The M-SHORAD system offers protection against enemy aircraft, drones, artillery, rockets, mortars, and ballistic missiles.
“The Stinger was amazing!” said Army Specialist Lily Allen, an M-SHORAD gunner, in October 2021, during the recent, live-fire demonstrations shown above. “I think the Stryker platform overall is one of the best things we could have added to ADA (air defense artillery.) The maneuverability, the capabilities, everything about it definitely gives our branch an upper hand.”
Meanwhile, General Dynamics and Boeing have teamed up since August 2017 to produce prototypes of an all-new, Stryker-A1 Mobile SHORAD Launcher (MSL) platform, using an existing TWQ-1 Avenger Air Defense System turret atop a Stryker vehicle, operated by a three-man crew. It can still utilize Stinger missile pods, but the primary armament, as shown below, is a mix of two AIM-9X-2 Super Sidewinder heat-seeking, antiaircraft missiles and four multi-role, AGM-114L Hellfire Longbow missiles for engaging either air or ground targets. The XM914 cannon is deleted on this model, but it’s still in the prototype stages, and various options may include a 30mm Chain gun, 70mm Hydra-70 unguided rockets, and multiple machine guns.
In May 2017, the 2nd Cavalry Regiment at Vilseck, Germany, tested and evaluated the highly-innovative Saab Barracuda mobile camouflage system (MCS), which effectively changes the vehicle’s physical appearance to better blend into the environment, and incorporates properties to improve signature management against infrared/thermal sensors and radar, reducing enemy visual and sensor detection by up to 90 percent.
Scott Caldwell, director of marketing and sales at Saab’s Barracuda business unit, noted that, “Saab has been the leading provider of state-of-the-art camouflage to the U.S. Army for over 20 years…with world-leading and technologically-advanced systems.” Each MCS system is engineered to fit like a second skin to the vehicle and not interfere with operations, vehicle performance, or maintenance. “The MCS successfully reduced the overall signature of their vehicles, was very durable, and easy to use…to increase survivability.”
Most recently, according to Jared Keller of Task and Purpose on December 6, 2022, “The Army will finally stand up a platoon of four Stryker fighting vehicles outfitted with prototype, laser weapons…The first prototype platoon, which will consist of Directed Energy, Maneuver, Short-Range, Air Defense (DE M-SHORAD) Stryker vehicles outfitted with 50-kilowatt, laser weapons dubbed the ‘Guardian,’ is ‘set to arrive’ at Fort Sill, Oklahoma in January (2023)…(for) ‘New Equipment Training (pNET) and New Equipment Fielding (pNEF) for the first DE M-SHORAD prototype platoon.’
The DE M-SHORAD Stryker has “‘successfully demonstrated a high degree of technical readiness against a threat set’ during a March (2022) test at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico…(where) the laser prototype ‘acquired, tracked, targeted, and defeated multiple mortars, and successfully accomplished multiple tests simulating real-world scenarios’…Offering lethality against unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and rockets, artillery, and mortars (RAM), laser weapons now increase Army air-and-missile defense capability…The eventual arrival of America’s very first laser platoon will likely mark a historic moment for the proliferation of futuristic, laser weapons…in…the U.S. military as a whole.”
As we have seen, the U.S. Army’s Stryker armored vehicles continue to evolve, especially in terms of increased armament, particularly in the European theater, with the ever-looming threat of Russian aggression against NATO nations for supporting Ukraine since the unprovoked Russian invasion began there on February 24, 2022. These 30mm cannon and Javelin anti-tank missiles are clearly necessary to defeat the growing menace of peer-adversary, armored warfare in Europe, providing effective defense for the Strykers and their soldier passengers in an increasingly destabilized world.
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Warren Gray is a retired, U.S. Air Force intelligence officer with experience in joint special operations and counterterrorism. He served in Europe and the Middle East, earned Air Force and Navy parachutist wings, four college degrees, and was a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Intelligence Operations Specialist Course, and the USAF Combat Targeting School. He is currently a published author, historian, and hunter. You may visit his web site at: warrengray54.vistaprintdigital.com.