Faced with a combination of threats from improvised explosive devices (IEDs), suicide bombers in cars and trucks loaded with explosives and ubiquitous rocket propelled grenades, it would be easy to conclude that the only safe way for U.S. soldiers to ride around Iraq would be in a 70-plus ton Abrams tank or the well armored Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle. But this is not the case. The safer place to be is inside one of the Army’s new 19-ton medium weight Stryker wheeled combat vehicles.
The Army has lost Abrams tanks in Iraq. According to Army sources, the crew of a Bradley was vaporized when it ran over a large IED; the armored bottom plate of the vehicle was found some 60 yards from the site of the explosion. Even the venerable
M-113 armored personnel carrier has been turned into a sieve by heavy machine gun fire or destroyed by RPG fire.
In contrast, the Stryker equipped brigade that has operated in northern Iraq for nearly six months has yet to have a catastrophic vehicle loss due to enemy action and no soldier has died in a Stryker as a result of hostile fire. This is not for lack of effort by the Iraqi insurgents. The Stryker brigade is averaging dozens of attacks a day.
The Stryker’s success is attributable to a number of factors. First, unlike the
M-113, it is armored to withstand 50 caliber bullets. Second, with a steel cage welded to its body, the Stryker can withstand attacks by RPGs. Third, with a maximum speed of more than 60 mph, the Stryker can dash past ambushes and roadside IEDs that might catch the slower moving Abrams and Bradley. Fourth, because it is wheeled rather than tracked, the Stryker is less prone to a “mobility kill” that would leave it a sitting duck for subsequent attacks.
The Stryker also provides commanders with operational advantages uniquely suited to the kind of war the United States is fighting in Iraq. As the fighting was heating up in southern Iraq, a Stryker battalion was ordered to reinforce U.S. forces confronting the insurgents in Najaf. That unit withdrew from combat, conducted a three hundred mile redeployment and went immediately back into combat. The combination of unprecedented situational awareness, tactical flexibility and operational agility make Stryker equipped units particularly effective in counterinsurgency operations.
U.S. commanders in Iraq are pursuing a number of avenues to enhance force protection, including armoring the thin-skinned Humvees and deploying more Abrams tanks to Iraq. But what the Army really needs in Iraq is more Strykers.
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