Remember when the Stryker armored fighting vehicle was the Army’s red-headed stepchild? The brainchild of then Chief of Staff, General Eric Shinseki, Stryker was criticized for being wheeled instead of tracked, too light or too heavy, unable to sustain itself in combat absent heavy forces and requiring too much logistical support. The Stryker had to undergo multiple face-offs with tracked competitors before the Army was allowed to acquire it.
However, the Stryker has proven itself to be possibly the best acquisition decision by the Army in over a decade. Stryker brigades have performed very well in Iraq and will soon show their stuff in Afghanistan. According to a senior Army leader, “there are a lot of folks that believe that Stryker brigades are very useful in that environment. We are getting a lot of requests by commanders in Iraq, and now in Afghanistan.” Stryker brigades are the first truly IT-enabled units, employing unmanned aerial systems, satellite communications, advanced computer-based command and control systems such as the so-called Blue Force Tracker and the Land Warrior system. The combination of mobility, balanced capabilities and a modern IT infrastructure makes Stryker brigades a valued asset in an era of uncertain and shifting threats.
Stryker was conceived as an interim solution until the Future Combat System (FCS) was available. Now it is going to be a central pillar in the Army’s modernization program. Originally the plan was for six active and one National Guard Stryker brigades. The Army recently announced that two more active heavy brigades would be converting to Stryker brigades and this is unlikely to be the end. In addition, Stryker vehicles have been selected to replace many of the old M-113s in the remaining heavy formations.
Now that the manned vehicle portion of FCS is no more and the new Army ground combat vehicle is more than a decade away, look to Stryker to take up the slack. There is enough room for growth in the Stryker to provide the survivability, mobility and energy that the Army is seeking in its new vehicle program.
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