Armor: Win One, Lose One Stryker Brigade


March 27, 2014:   The U.S. Army is disbanding one of its nine Stryker brigades. This is part of a post-war reduction that will see ten combat brigades eliminated and army strength reduced by 80,000 personnel. The disbanded unit is the 4th Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division. The brigade was formed in 2005 from the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, a unit that has been in service since 1836. During its nine years the 4th Brigade served in Iraq and Afghanistan and suffered some 600 casualties, including 58 dead during 39 months of combat. Most of the casualties were suffered during the 2007 tour (of 15 months) in Iraq.

Another Stryker brigade is being formed in 2014, from the 1st Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division. Not only does the army want to hang onto nine Stryker Brigades but it also wants to buy enough of the new Double-V Hull (DVH) wheeled armored vehicles to equip all nine of the brigades with the new vehicle. But because of budget problems it looks like there will only be enough money to equip three brigades with the DVH model.

Stryker acquired a good reputation in Iraq and there has been a lot of foreign interest in that, and wheeled armored vehicles in general. But money is short and likely to continue to be tight for a decade or more.  So the 600 older Strykers replaced by DVH models in the DVH brigades will be put into storage along with the specialized production equipment for Stryker in the hope that eventually the money will be available. Before that some older Strykers were converted to DVH models to provide enough DVH Strykers for the third DVH brigade.

Stryker production is supposed to end in 2014, with 4,466 vehicles delivered since 2002. Most (96 percent) were actually delivered by 2012.

The DVH design is intended to improve resistance to mines (more common in Afghanistan than Iraq) by adding a V shaped bottom. This is one of the key elements of the MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) design, but the DVH is cheaper to operate and better suited to a wider array of missions. Some of the DVH prototypes were run (via remote control), over mines and roadside bombs. These tests demonstrated that the V shaped hull made the vehicles much safer. Developing the new prototype design cost about $58 million. There are 762 DVH Strykers in service with the last of them delivered in 2013. The DVH models cost about $2.1 million each and first experienced combat in 2011. They performed as expected.

The army initially bought enough DVH models to equip two Stryker brigades. Each Stryker brigade has 332 Stryker vehicles. There are ten different models, but most are the infantry carrier version. The original Stryker cost about a million dollars each, plus the costs of weapons and equipment. The DVH version is 6.95 meters (22.92 feet) long, 2.72 meters (8.97 feet) high, and 2.64 meters (8.72 feet) wide. Weighing 17 tons, it has a top speed of 100 kilometers per hour and a range (on roads) of 500 kilometers. Stryker has a crew of two, a turret with a remotely controlled 12.7mm machine-gun, and can carry nine troops. A 7.62mm machine-gun is also carried and often another 12.7mm one as well.

The army is planning on incorporating the V shaped hull into the new Stryker 2.0 design, which makes DVH models Stryker 1.5 (unofficially). The Stryker 2 will weigh about a ton more than current models and have a more powerful engine (450 horsepower versus the current 350), plus a suspension system and other mechanical components upgraded to support up to 27 tons, larger tires, improved brakes, and improved sensors (so that troops inside the vehicle will have better awareness of what's outside). These are the major modifications, there will be several more minor ones (better air conditioning, a sniper detector, more electricity generation, and so on). Outwards appearance won't change much, other than the V shape hull.

Stryker 2 provides for "growth" (more armor and equipment) as well as making the vehicle more agile and reliable. The changes are based on user feedback and are considered a modernization project, not, strictly speaking, a new version of Stryker. Most of the 3,300 Strykers the army has in service have been in combat, and units headed for Afghanistan were the first to get the modernized ones. With all the budget cuts Stryker 2.0 may never see service.





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