The Army’s new eight-wheel drive vehicle appears to meet
the service’s overall expectations, but soldiers who participated
in recent exercises pointed out several shortcomings in the Stryker
that, they said, need to be fixed.
Some of problems the soldiers cited include discomfort caused by
intense heat inside the vehicle, the lack of full-color sensors
and the high rate of tire damage.
During the Millennium Challenge experiments in the Mojave Desert
this summer, soldiers oftentimes operated in temperatures of 100
degrees and above, without any kind of air conditioning system inside
“It is a lot hotter inside, because the metal retains all
that heat and it is 120-124 inside, so driving around the vehicle
it is pretty hot,” said Spc. Jeremy Blackwood, with the first
Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) at Fort Lewis, Wash.
The soldiers’ “first request is an environmental control
unit inside the Stryker,” said Lt. Col. Michael Gray, who
works in the Stryker fielding office at Fort Lewis. “That
is something we need to look at. I think that is their biggest concern
right now, moving from point A to point B in the desert.”
The vehicle not only gets hot, but it also has limited space for
the crew. “Space is one of the inconveniences that we have
to get used to and work on,” said Blackwood. “We have
a lot of guys and a lot of equipment to put in, lot of ammunition,
a lot of guns, and all these we have to confine in a very small
The remote weapons system (RWS) is a useful capability, but it
“needs some work,” said Staff Sgt. Mitchell Elwood,
from Fort Lewis.
“The thermal sensors need to be upgraded,” he told
National Defense. “It needs to have a cool thermal system
with a wide field of view and a narrow field of view where you can
scan an entire area and then zoom in and detect” various types
“I just feel that this generation thermal has isn’t
up to speed with what the Army could give us,” he noted. Also,
he added, the day-vision sensor images are in black and white. “It
has an excellent zoom-in capability, but I think it needs to be
in color, because sometimes it is hard to distinguish what kind
of enemy you have with just a white-and- black screen,” said
The RWS should be stabilized, he said, “like the weapons
system would be on a tank or a Bradley where you can scan and still
be moving at the same time, instead of having to stop, try to find
out what you have and then move again.
“It makes you more vulnerable if you have to stop, because
it gives the enemy a chance to also detect, recognize you and engage
Since the Fort Lewis brigades began training with the Canadian
LAV III (the baseline vehicle for the Stryker) two years ago, flat
tires have not been as issue, said Elwood, but the terrain in the
Mojave Desert created problems for the tires.
“We experienced a high volume of tire damage out here on
the Strykers, but I attribute that to the terrain and the fact that
the unit operating out in Washington State did not experience the
same lava rock terrain as they did down here,” said Gray.
“If you look at the Marines in Afghanistan right now, they
are experiencing the same higher damage [with the LAV] that we experienced
here in much larger volume.”
Massive tire damage was one of the main complaints about the LAV
from the Marines returning from Afghanistan. (National Defense,
“Flat tires don’t slow you down,” Elwood noted.
“We find ourselves surprising the enemy position through the
high ground we were able to crest with the vehicle.”
Stryker program officials will be studying the tire problem in
detail in the coming months, he added. “If there is, in fact,
a defect with that tire, they will get with Michelin, the producer,
to increase the strength of the side walls” or replace the
tires completely if it was a bad lot of tires, he said.
Gray also pointed out that part of the problem might have been
incorrect settings in the central tire inflation system on the Stryker.
“We need to make sure that the soldiers are operating the
Stryker in the proper setting,” he said. “If they are
in soft sand, it needs to be in what is called the snow/mud setting,
but once they get out of that and they don’t reset to the
cross country or highway setting,” the side walls would be
more exposed than they would under sand conditions, “so we
need to ensure that the soldiers remember to put it back.”
Because of the tire failure rate in the desert, Gray said, the
Army is going to suggest the Stryker carry a spare tire.
Although the Army demonstrated that the Stryker fits into the C-130,
the service had to work closely with the Air Force to make the vehicle
“The Air Force has been helpful and positive in their support
of our Millennium Challenge experiment,” said Gen. Robert
Dail, Army chief of transportation. “Today, we are working
with the Air Force. We are making sure that we are learning from
our techniques, we are learning some additional things that we may
have to do as far as procedures and preparing the airlift, the platforms
Dail said the Army received a waiver for the exercise because the
vehicle exceeded the height threshold specified for the C-130 cargo
bay. The Army had to ensure that soldiers had enough room to traverse
forwards and backwards after the vehicle has been tied down.
“We were able to lower some of the equipment, which provided
them a safety access to the rear and aft,” said Dail.
“Right now, all we do is remove two of the grenade launchers
off the top of the RWS, [and] we remove one of the water cannon
holders on the back of the vehicle,” said Gray. “That
is directed by the Air Force to gain access over the vehicle.”
Other than reducing the height of the vehicle to create the 25-inch
clearance above the top of the Stryker and the C-130 ceiling, soldiers
also had to remove some of their gear. “It’s their rucksacks
that have to come off,” said Gray.
Only the driver and the battle commander were able to fly with
the vehicle in a C-130. The Army would like to be able to fit four
Dail hinted at the possibility of the Army looking for some sort
of permanent waivers for the transport of the Stryker.
“We are going to take the lessons learned from here, see
where we can make some changes,” said Dail. “Then we’ll
see where we may go back to the Air Force and see if we can get
some more of a permanent established waiver or memorandum agreement,”
to load and transport the vehicle in combat operations.
The Army deployed 13 Stryker vehicles as part of its forced entry
package for Millennium Challenge. On July 26, General Dynamics,
the prime contractor for the Stryker, delivered the first of eight
pre-production vehicles to the Army. It is part of a $4 billion
order awarded in November 2000 to GM GDLS Defense Group to equip
the new brigade combat teams with 2,131 Strykers.