August 26, 2003

Future Combat Systems Could Be Worse Than Present Combat Systems

The Army wants to get lighter and more lethal at the same time. It's solution has been the formation of Stryker brigades--about 5,000 men equipped in a variety of wheeled vehicles that can deploy aboard C-130 transport planes anywhere in the world in less than 4 days. But already there's a question about whether the Stryker's have enough armor and whether or not they can be as easily transported as the Army says. Take a look at this quote from an article in today's Washington Times "As part of an accelerated development, the Army did not require Strykers to immediately feature anti-RPG armor. The brigade going to Iraq is now being fitted with slat armor. It works like a big catcher's mask, stopping a grenade before it reaches the Stryker's main body, thus keeping the explosion at a distance. Eventually, the Strykers will be fitted with more permanent armor now being tested." The Army says "The Stryker has successfully passed live-fire tests against rifle and machine-gun fire. The slat armor system has also shown in tests that it protects against grenade blasts." But a report circulating on Capitol Hill by consultant Victor O'Reilly makes competing conclusions. Here are three: •Poorly armored and entirely vulnerable to RPGs. •Wheels & wells extremely vulnerable to small arms. •Bought to be C-130 deployable but too heavy. We'll find out soon enough. The trouble in the "Sunni Triangle" of Iraq is exactly the stype the Stryker Brigades we're conceived to handle. They'll be operating in hunt and chase mode, finding the enemy, closing with him in combat, or "fixing" him for targeting from artillery and air strikes. But if the Stryker is as vulnerable as critics suggest, it's going to make things in Iraq worse, not better. Here's what the Russian's were using in Chechnya. It's faster. It's also more vulnerable, especially in close quarters: And here's a Styker unloading in close-quarters from a C-130, courtesy of the Air Force: By the way, if you want to reach an interesting account of Russian operations in Chechnya, which depended heavily on the use of wheeled personnel carriers with similar armaments like the Strykers', look at this Rand Corporation report: . It contains some amazing details about Russian operational planning for the Russian's first invasion of Chechyna, including one where an entire Russian column was blocked from getting to Chechyna by a local automarket in Russia where some 8,000 people gathered regularly on Saturday's to buy and sell cars. It's not really a laughing matter, of course. Presuambly, the Army knows the dangers of using even fast moving armored columns in hostile areas. For one they've just had a lot of experience doing it. And second, one of their own, Major Ricky J. Nussio, in a monograph titled "Tanks in the Street, Lessons Learned Through Bytes Not Blood," quotes a book about the war in Chechnya which offers the following stark image about an armored relief column: "According to the participants in the battle, a grenade launcher antitank shell then knocked out the column's command vehicle and the column lost any effective command. The tank immediately lit up like a torch...Each of the group's armored personnel carriers were pierced by at least five anttank grenades..." So which will it be? The Next Generation U.S. Army? Or the Last Generation Russian Army?


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