A double V-shaped hull could be added to the U.S. Army's Stryker vehicle quickly, the service's top uniformed official told lawmakers who voiced concerns about its survivability.
"I can't tell you exactly how long it's going to take, because we're in the early design stages of that, but we are moving rapidly to get it built, tested and into the hands of the forces as quickly as we can," Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey told the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee on March 3.
In January, Stryker manufacturer General Dynamics presented the Army a plan to accelerate the introduction of a double V-shaped hull to the flat-bottomed Stryker, increasing the vehicle's protection against improvised explosive devices.
One source said the Army currently plans to reduce monthly Stryker production from 35 to 20 by January, which could delay the improvements. The source said that if the vehicle's production rate is held steady, the company could deliver 130 vehicles in the infantry carrier configuration in time for the next Stryker brigade's deployment to Afghanistan in July 2011.
In late February, Lt. Gen. Robert Lennox, deputy chief of staff for Army programs, said service officials intended to make a decision soon.
At the March 3 hearing, Army Secretary John McHugh said he's optimistic the Army will be able to field the V-shaped hull quickly.
"I think it's worth noting that the manufacturer recognized this early on and has been working on this and studying it for some time. That's a great compliment to them," said McHugh.
Casey said that the Strykers had received survivability improvements before they were deployed to Afghanistan.
"We are in the process of evaluating whether those are enough to operate in an IED environment," he told lawmakers.
Asked by Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., whether deploying Strykers with a double V-shaped hull was "a probability more than a possibility," Casey responded, "Absolutely."
Subcommittee chairman Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, asked the Army leaders whether the vehicle was too heavy for some operations.
"I'm less concerned about the weight and the decrease in mobility," said Casey.
He said the Strykers in Afghanistan have been shifted "to a mission of road security that actually takes advantage of the mobility they provide."
The hearing was cut short for a memorial for Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., but Inouye said he would submit further questions to the Army regarding brigade combat team modernization, the future role of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle, the Aerial Scout Helicopter and the Joint Cargo Aircraft.