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O’Reilly’s full Stryker critique

Post by Scott Fontaine on March 29, 2010 at 9:15 am |
March 29, 2010 11:24 am

I wrote the Sunday centerpiece about the Stryker vehicle. Most of the story quotes people who think the Stryker is the right platform for the military for today’s wars and future wars.

Of course, some disagree. One such person, Irish author Victor O’Reilly, was one of the system’s most vocal critics during the transformation a decade ago. He wrote a report for a congressman (he “measured my research material in yards and had sources from the CSA’s office to the Air Force”) before the first brigade went into Iraq that panned the system.

Years later, he’s still not convinced. I can to briefly summarize what he wrote me. But I hope it can spark conversation by posting his full critique here. It’s just below the jump:

The success of Stryker Brigades in Iraq demonstrates the fighting qualities, training and courage of American soldiers, and the quality of the onboard technology, rather than the qualities of the Stryker vehicle itself. These factors should not be confused. I was, and remain, a critic of the vehicle not because I thought it was hopeless – it started life as an entirely adequate armored car – but because I felt there were better and more cost effective alternatives; and because the evidence suggested the choice of the Stryker owed more to politics than performance. Recall that it was ordered after a mere demonstration and, prior to its selection, was never scientifically tested against competing vehicles. That is no way to procure military vehicles. Further, senior generals in the Army, who were involved in its selection, joined the supplier, General Dynamics, virtually concurrent with its selection. By any standards, that suggested a conflict of interest at best – and arguably corruption. It certainly did not imply professionalism and impartiality.

My specific objections to the Stryker were – much summarized – as follows: (1) It was entirely vulnerable to RPGs, the commonest Third World weapon after the AK47; (2) It was near entirely vulnerable to mines (now mainly called IDEs); (3) It had poor off road performance compared to tracked vehicles so would tend to become round-bound and predictable; (4) It was under armed and its gun was both inadequate and not stabilized; (5) It was being sold as being suitable for ‘full spectrum warfare’ which was manifestly untrue. (6) Though it technically fitted inside a C-130, it was too heavy to be transported any useful tactical distance so the original concept of transporting a Stryker Brigade anywhere in the world within 72 hours was manifestly false. (7) If up-armored, it would become even less air transportable, its engine and transmission would prove to be inadequate; and metal fatigue was a probable outcome. (8) It was far too expensive for what it was. (9) The valid Stryker concept – highly trained infantry transported in armored vehicles – would be better served by another choice.

As normally happens, fighting soldiers made the best of the limitations of the Stryker and relished its one advantage – that it is a comfortable ride – but recent results in Afghanistan have demonstrated some of the fundamental vulnerabilities of the vehicle despite the fact that it has been much improved.

Virtually all my criticisms have been validated both by the Stryker’s track record and by government agencies.

It is to the great credit of the Soldiers of the Stryker Brigades that they have learned to work with the limitations of their vehicle and to achieve the results they have. I salute them. To quote military thinker, John Boyd: “Machines don’t fight wars; people do.” I should add that we have some truly great people in the U.S. Army and they would be better served if equipment procurement was based upon performance and integrity, and not on the career paths of senior officers and the lobbying power of the Military Industrial Congressional Complex.

Soldiers, whose lives are on the line, deserve the best.

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