A change to the design of the Army’s Stryker vehicle to make it more likely to withstand a blast from a roadside bomb should be coming soon, the service’s chief of staff told lawmakers Wednesday.
Gen. George Casey told the Senate defense appropriations subcommittee that it’s “probability more than a possibility” that Army will add a V-shaped hull to the bottom of the 20-ton vehicle. The shape of the hull would help deflect blasts from the Stryker’s underbelly and is modeled from a similar design in the Mine Resistant Ambushed Protected class of armored vehicles.
“I can’t take exactly how long it’s going to take, because we’re in the early design stages of it,” Casey said. “But we are moving rapidly to get it built, tested and into the hands of the forces.”
Army Times, citing unidentified sources, said 130 Strykers with the V-shaped hull can be delivered by July 2011. A full brigade has 332 vehicles.
The Army has six active-duty Stryker brigades, including three at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The Pennsylvania National Guard operates an additional Stryker brigade, and the Pentagon’s recently released Quadrennial Defense Review recommended one active-duty heavy brigade be transformed into a Stryker unit. Additional Stryker brigades are expected to be added in recent years.
Roadside bombs have become the signature weapon of the wars in Iraq and, more recently, Afghanistan. The type of explosive and the method of detonation varies, but many attacks follow a similar method: Insurgents wait for American military vehicles to drive past a spot where they have hidden a bomb, and then it is detonated underneath the vehicle in an attempt to kill everyone inside.
Casey told Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, that the Stryker was developed before the full threat of roadside bombs became apparent.
“We’ve been working very hard over time to increase the survivability of the Stryker,” he said. “I’ll tell you this: It is more survivable than the uparmored Humvee and less survivable than the MRAP.”
Secretary of the Army John McHugh said General Dynamics, who builds the vehicles, has “recognized this early on and has been working and studying this for some time.”
The introduction of MRAPs – with their layers of heavy armor and V-shaped hull – added protection that other military vehicles don’t have. MRAPs are ubiquitous at overseas American military bases, and Casey acknowledged during Wednesday’s hearing that the Army has made “a significant investment in those vehicles.”
But the vehicles are heavier and far less nimble than Strykers and Humvees, and some soldiers say the MRAP’s lone gunner hatch (the Stryker has four) automatically puts soldiers in a defensive position.
Although the violence in Iraq has ebbed, bombs – known to the military as improvised explosive devices, or IEDs – continue to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan. Each of the 31 hostile deaths from Lewis-McChord’s 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division have come from bomb blasts, though many happened during dismounted patrols.
“We were not nearly as challenged in (Iraq) than we are in Afghanistan,” Casey said.