Monday, September 23, 2013

Big War Strykers

I was skeptical of the Stryker wheeled armored vehicle when it came out. While I accepted we needed units between leg-mobile infantry and heavy mechanized forces, the Strykers lacked the protection and firepower to put them up against conventional foes. The Army wants to fix the problem of facing mechanized enemies rather than insurgents.

I will say that the Army has proven the Stryker to be an effective weapon in counter-insurgencies despite my worries. Of course, they did that by addressing my main worry about lack of protection against simple anti-tank rockets by deploying Strykers with anti-rocket metal screens--thus admitting my major worry.

Firepower was another worry I had in relation to using these brigades against heavier opponents. I noted that 105mm-gun versions of the Styrker. I also suggested variants carrying anti-tank missiles, noting that we could even tailor the Stryker brigades away from the infantry-heavy brigades that have proven very effective in counter-insurgency to anti-tank capable brigades:

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 (Mobile gun System, or MGS) 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).

Given enough time, we could even add tank companies to the brigades for some heft.

The Army is looking at our Stryker brigade combat teams post-Iraq and Afghanistan, and worrying about their ability to slug it out with heavier enemies. So the Army wants to add 30mm auto-cannons to the Strykers which just have heavy machine guns or grenade launchers now:

Stryker Brigade Combat Teams first saw combat in Iraq in late 2003. The highly-mobile infantry force is equipped with potent variants such as the 105mm Mobile Gun System and anti-tank guided missile.

But most Stryker vehicles are infantry carriers armed with .50 caliber machine guns or MK19 automatic grenade launchers.

This has to change, argues MCOE Command Sgt. Major James Carabello.

"The Stryker needs to get up-gunned; a World War II weapon system on a Stryker? It needs a bigger gun," Carabello said. "It needs something that is a better platform than a MK 19 or a .50 caliber machine gun."

The need is now greater, officials maintain, since the Army is cutting the number of MGS Strykers from 27 to 10 per SBCT.

Currently, Training and Doctrine Command is working with Stryker program officials on a plan that could mean mounting a 30mm cannon on to the remote weapons stations on Stryker infantry carriers.

This capability is especially important since the Army is reducing the planned complement of MGS in each brigade from 27 to 10.

How many 30mm systems should be put in place is still in question. Should all get them or just one per company? I lean to all of them, even headquarters vehicles (so enemies can't easily tell which ones are headquarters vehicles).

I'd still consider reducing the infantry component in some of the Stryker brigades if one mission is to support light infantry like paratroopers. Attaching a combined arms Stryker battalion of an MGS company and two 30mm-armed Stryker infantry carriers (or better, reverse the ratio) as their maneuver element (or a team of 2 MGS platoons and a single infantry carrier platoon) would add some mobile, protected punch to light infantry units at the leading edge of an intervention.

But by all means, arm-up the Stryker. As we reduce our combat brigades, the Stryker brigades will likely be a larger portion of the force and we can't afford to have it be a COIN-only component.

UPDATE: Then there's the M-8 Armored Gun System as a light tank that can fly with the Strykers.