Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words. I am looking at a black and white photograph of what appears, at first glance, to be a pile of junk metal. On closer examination, it is an armored combat vehicle. Pieces of metal dangle from the vehicle’s sides. The four tires on the right side are damaged. The rear of the vehicle sits on the ground. It looks like it is completely destroyed. I am left wondering what happened to the vehicle’s crew and any passengers.
The picture to which I am referring is of a Stryker wheeled combat vehicle in Iraq that was next to a 500-pound car bomb when it detonated. When the bomb exploded, the vehicle rolled over one and a half times, ending up back on its wheels. The slat armor, welded to the Stryker’s body to protect it against rocket-propelled grenades, was torn away. The gear on the top, including the turret-mounted machine gun, was blown off.
What is remarkable is that the crew survived with only minor injuries. Moreover, the vehicle was still operational and could have maneuvered under its own power even with its tires flattened. No fragments of the car bomb had penetrated the Stryker’s protective armor.
This single picture says more about the capabilities of the Stryker than all the words that have been written since the program began. Surviving a 500-pound bomb is positive proof that the Stryker has adequate protection for the modern battlefield. The fact that the vehicle was still operational is a testament to its sturdiness but also to the wisdom of the choice of wheels over tracks. Since it was deployed to Iraq last December, Strykers have successfully withstood 56 attacks by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and 24 of 26 Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) attacks. Even when vehicles were rendered inoperable, there was no loss of life.
When not surviving insurgent attacks, the first Stryker-equipped unit, the 3rd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division, is proving its worth in a wide variety of combat situations in Iraq. This brigade now controls an area of Northern Iraq that was previously the responsibility of an entire infantry division. The Stryker’s speed, up to 60 miles per hour, and its reduced noise in comparison to tracked vehicles, have allowed Stryker formations to maneuver in both open and urban terrain in ways to achieve tactical surprise in numerous combat engagements. The Stryker’s speed and maneuverability also have proven a real asset in convoy escort duty.
For years, the Army has had to defend itself against the criticism that it made the wrong choice when it selected the Stryker as its medium-weight armored vehicle. Clearly, assertions that the 19-ton Stryker would not be survivable have been proven false. The Stryker is the right vehicle at the right place at the right time.
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