Monday, April 29, 2019

When You Start to Take Vienna, Take Vienna

The Stryker is a wheeled armored personnel carrier designed to bridge the gap between our leg infantry and mechanized infantry. As we find we need more mechanized infantry able to fight armored foes, the Stryker is being shoehorned into a role it was not built for.

On the one hand this is surely needed:

Great Power competition is back and with it the requirement that the U.S. Army be able to deter heavily armed peer adversaries. In Europe, the Army found itself outnumbered, outranged and outgunned. One of the few steps it could take immediately was to put a bigger gun on its thousands of Stryker Infantry Fighting Vehicles. As an experiment, it added a new gun and turret to a handful of vehicles in one brigade. This effort proved so successful both in speed and outcome that now the Army intends to up-gun the remaining eight brigades.

Why dick around? If we need heavier units able to go toe to toe with the Russkies (and Chinese), don't try to make medium vehicles into infantry fighting vehicles.

This is just BS:

Now the Army has decided to up-gun the rest of its Stryker brigades. This is an important initiative. Stryker brigades can be deployed more rapidly than armored brigade combat teams but are more mobile and lethal once on the ground than traditional infantry brigades.

I dare you to tell me that moving a Stryker brigade by sea is any faster than deploying a heavy brigade by sea. And don't you dare tell me that the Air Force will allocate the airlift to move a Stryker brigade by air in faster time than the entire unit can go by sea. A company could be airlifted quickly. Maybe a battalion if the Air Force is in a generous mood. But a brigade? No way.

And then you have to consider the supplies to keep the brigade fighting. Will that be airlifted in until sea lines of supply are established?

The article also says that up-gunning the Stryker is faster than designing a new vehicle. Sure. But we don't have to design a new vehicle! Equip the unit with existing Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Abrams tanks.

That misbegotten light tank mobile protected firepower vehicle that will reinforce the Strykers is a waste of money when we have Abrams to spare to reinforce our non-heavy brigades, as I argued we should do in Army magazine. Either add a tank battalion to the Stryker brigades or replace one of the Stryker battalions with a tank battalion to retain the three-battalion structure.

If we need armored cavalry regiments, form them and equip them. If we need more mechanized infantry in our force structure, rather than try to turn Stryker brigades into mechanized infantry with up-gunned Strykers take some of those 8 brigades (including a Guard brigade) and form actual mechanized infantry brigades with a couple Bradley-equipped mechanized infantry battalions and a tank battalion for their maneuver elements. We don't need many Stryker brigades. Even if the Air Force will airlift a brigade, they sure won't lift 8  faster than they can be shipped overseas by sea.

And convert some of our leg infantry units--which cannot survive in the open on a modern conventional battlefield--to mechanized status.

We have 31 active Army brigades including 11 heavy brigades (actually one is yet to convert to that, but it is planned), 7 Stryker brigades, and 13 leg infantry brigades (dropping from 14 current), including 3 air assault and 4 paratrooper.

I'd convert 4 Stryker brigades to mechanized infantry brigades or armored cavalry regiments and convert 2 of the leg infantry to mechanized infantry. Or if the Army doesn't want two types of heavy units, just make them heavy brigades. That would give us just under half of our brigades as leg infantry (including airborne units) or infantry-heavy Stryker brigades, which is close to our 50-50 split between heavy and light during the Cold War.

Just admit it, we need a lot more tank-killing power in our brigades.

As an interim program, up-gunning Strykers is fine. But in the long run why try to make Strykers something they are not and cannot be?