Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Stryker Brigades

I'm not comfortable with the organization of the Stryker Brigade Combat Teams (formerly Interim Brigade Combat Teams: IBCTs). Yes, we need something between walking infantry that is strategically mobile yet tactically immobile with little combat power and heavy armor that is strategically immobile but tactically mobile and highly lethal and survivable. The Stryker Brigades are the medium forces we are fielding that are supposed to bridge that gap.

Essentially a light mechanized brigade, a Stryker Brigade is more strategically mobile than a heavy brigade and has good tactical mobility. It has good firepower too, but lacks the survivability of heavy forces. It has lots of infantry for peace operations. Designed to be flown in after other forces have seized an airhead, the Stryker Brigades will provide significant firepower quickly; but will hand off the main battle to heavy forces when they finally arrive. How quickly is a question of debate since they are fairly heavy despite being lighter than a heavy brigade. And just how much Air Force airlift can the Army count on to get one overseas in a crisis? They will also be test beds for operating concepts for the Objective Force, the future army that will use light, lethal, and survivable combat platforms not even designed yet. I’ve already offered my thoughts at Military Review on this subject.

One problem is the different requirements for different operations foreseen for the brigades. Peace operations can be done at our leisure. We can basically ship over what we want on our time frame. The lightness of the Stryker Brigade is largely irrelevant to this mission. The wheeled vehicles and large infantry component are great for patrolling and will not stress the local roads and bridges, so this is one advantage. Yet the lightness is meant to allow the brigade to be rushed to a theater to deter or halt an invasion when paratroopers are the only alternative (which are just trip wires incapable of mounting serious resistance to an armored attack). Part of the problem of getting somewhere fast is sustainment. All that infantry has to be fed and provided with medical assistance, not to mention potable water, showers, ammunition, etc.

If we are trying to halt an armored assault with the Stryker Brigade, the high infantry component makes less sense. Why not add more of the 105mm-armed Strykers at the expense of the infantry carriers? Put TOWs on them too and now we're talking. Build the brigades with three battalion task forces each containing two 105mm companies and one infantry company. Or perhaps two smaller companies of each to allow each battalion to fight with two balanced task forces. Add the other recon and targeting, artillery, and support stuff already there, and we have a unit that can be airlifted fast yet better suited to stopping armor. I'd still rather have heavy armor but if we have to be there tomorrow, the heavy stuff just won't be there (unless we park it there well before the conflict).

The factors that make the brigades useful for peacekeeping could also be useful for urban combat. Lots of infantry, wheeled vehicles, superior communications and recon abilities, all are suited for city fighting. Indeed I’m wondering if one or two will debut in Iraq.

Still, long term we might want mix and match Stryker Brigades with anti-tank and infantry versions. I’m just not satisfied with the current unit.

[NOTE: This is from the former Defense Issues category from my original blog. Also, all the link from the original post is dead so I didn't try to enable it.]