A U.S. Army Stryker infantry combat vehicle is seen taking part in a drill in Pocheon, South Korea, near the border with North Korea in March 2011. (Jung Yeon-Je / AFP via Getty Images)
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - The U.S. Army has more than 4,000 Stryker infantry combat vehicles, and with combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down, the service is considering how to prioritize resources across the fleet.
Now the Army is focused on deploying hundreds of new Stryker vehicles with a hull designed to better protect against roadside bombs in Afghanistan.
The Army is buying a total of 742 of the double-V-hulled Strykers, built by General Dynamics.
Out of the 37 hits the vehicles have taken in Afghanistan, only a handful have resulted in serious casualties, according to Scott Davis, program executive officer for Army ground combat systems.
Its improved survivability has exceeded the Army’s expectations, Davis told reporters at the Association of the U.S. Army winter symposium in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
Although the more survivable vehicles are in high demand, the vast majority of the Army’s Stryker fleet is made up of the original flat-bottomed variant.
One of the strategic choices the Army has to make is how to distribute the double-V-hulled vehicles across the brigades after deployments to Afghanistan are completed, said David Dopp, program manager of the Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT).
“Do we use the flat bottoms to train on the double Vs?” Dopp said. “That long-term strategy — there are some strategic issues that have to be determined.”
With current budget constraints, the Army also has to prioritize which vehicles in its Stryker fleet should get upgrades first.
“It’s kind of a complex problem, because I think we know what improvements we could do to make the vehicles better, but we have this huge fleet of over 4,000 vehicles,” Dopp said. “Given the limited resources that we have, what’s the best approach to make these improvements?”
The Army could concentrate on its “go-to-war” double-V-hulled vehicles first, but it also wants to keep the nine brigades of flat bottoms from becoming obsolete, Dopp said.
‘There is a third course that says, if you look at the whole Stryker brigade, there are 60 or so vehicles that are really, really taxed in power, space and weight. So maybe you just focus on those – both flat bottomed and double V,” Davis said.
There are 10 original Stryker variants. Of those, nine have moved into full-rate production.
On Dec. 8, a full-rate production decision was approved for the latest variant — the Stryker Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Reconnaissance Vehicle (NBCRV).
The Army has approval to build a total of 158 NBCRVs, Dopp said.
In the meantime, the Army has indefinitely deferred a full-rate production decision for the 10th variant, the Stryker Mobile Gun System.
Dopp cited cost, design maturity and possible new requirement needs as reasons why the Army has decided not to ramp up production on the Mobile Gun System.
If the Army decides it is definitely not buying the Mobile Gun System, it will have to look at reorganizing the Stryker brigade, which has been designed to accommodate the 10th vehicle, Dopp said.
The Army is in the process of standing up the ninth and final Stryker Brigade Combat Team in Ft. Hood, Texas.