WASHINGTON — The Army has entered the final stages of hashing out requirements for ramping up Stryker combat vehicle lethality and will make a decision in January on what it wants in order to increase its battlefield effectiveness.
The service in January will hold an Army Requirements Oversight Council meeting, with Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, to cement requirements on how it will improve the Stryker fleet’s lethality, according to Lt. Gen. James Pasquarette, the service’s new G-8 lead, in charge of program development and justification.
The AROC will produce a “kind of ‘Y in the road’ of what we think we are going to want to look at,” when it comes to making the Stryker more lethal, Pasquarette told Defense News in an interview ahead of the Association of the United States Army’s annual meeting.
The Army conducted a test fire of one of its 30mm cannon solutions on Stryker at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, as recently as last month, he noted.
“We know we believe the Stryker has to have capability to defeat light armor,” Pasquarette said. “We are developing the concept more to validate that on the front-end.”
The Army is looking at roughly three different caliber weapons systems, he said. They include a couple of Common Remotely Operated Weapon Stations with different caliber weapons, as well as a 30mm cannon like what was outfitted on Strykers that went to the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Germany earlier this year.
“We want to make sure the concept is tight, about what we think we need based on threat and capability we want to have, then we will have to see what direction we go,” which could include competitions to upgun the fleet — or parts of the fleet — in the future, Pasquarette said.
“We are still determining balance. Does everyone need to have this, or is it just parts of the fleet?” Pasquarette asked. “How do we want to fight Stryker units, if we have this capability in there?”
Based on an urgent operational need out of Europe, the Army was provided emergency funding from Congress in 2015 — a little over $300 million — to rapidly develop and field a Stryker with a 30mm cannon specifically for the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, which is permanently stationed in Germany. The funding covered development, eight prototypes and upgrades to 83 production vehicles, as well as spares.
The need for the capability was directly attributed to Russian aggression, and the move would provide the Strykers overmatch to Russian weapons systems.
The Army developed and then sent to Europe earlier this year the new Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle Dragoon, not only to respond to the urgent need but to help the service assess how it might shape its future lethality upgrades within medium-weight, infantry-centric brigade combat team formations.
The Army also outfitted Strykers that went to Europe with Javelin anti-tank missiles, typically fired from a man-portable system.
“We just completed our 2nd Squadron fielding in Germany,” Col. Glenn Dean, the Army’s program manager for Stryker, told Defense News in an interview. And the service also completed fielding its first squadron with Javelin.
The unit live-fired the Javelin missiles in a test last week, he said, and is headed to a major exercise coming up in the latter part of October.
All the work the 2nd Cavalry is doing with the upgunned Strykers is feeding into the Army’s decision-making process as it formulates requirements.
“Right now, the force at large is really in an information gathering and assessment mode, and we are going to determine what the requirements will be, and we will take that to the AROC,” Dean said.
“What is the acquisition strategy going to be? Well, that really depends on what the requirements are,” he added.
Between early user testing this year and subsequent fieldings, Dean said, there has been an overall “very positive response” to the lethality and effectiveness of the system.
“The cannon provides a tremendous standoff and additional maneuver space, and it is very effective against the threats they are concerned about in Europe,” he said.
But some feedback suggests that the physical layout of the vehicle could use some improvements, particularly when it comes to situational awareness, and the program is already moving forward quickly to provide an effective solution to improve the vehicles in the field, Dean said.
The turret for the cannon takes up a lot of roof and hatch space and also affects how equipment is stowed.
“We are actually making modifications to Dragoon based on lessons we are learning in testing,” Dean said, “so we are adding an enhanced situational awareness system to it. We are changing some of the ways we do vehicle stowage to allow a unit to carry some more equipment, as well as some other minor things.”
One of the driving factors for the specific design of the Dragoon version of Stryker was the ability to reload and operate the turret under armor, Dean said.
“One of the questions that the community is trying to consider is how important is that capability, really?" he said. "And so, depending on what decision they make there, that could change the nature of the physical solution.”
The Army has made quick work to enhance the situational awareness in the vehicle.
When it was first built and fielded, the Dragoon used the existing periscope in a single narrow field-of-view, a driver’s vision enhancer at the front of the vehicle, and the gun sight.
Users in the field said they had a hard time seeing and maneuvering, especially since they were used to sticking their heads out of the vehicle to move around.
By late March or early April, Dean said, the Army provided, for an early user test, a preliminary enhanced situational awareness capability that consisted of a wide field-of-view driver’s vision enhancer that expanded from 40 degrees to 107 degrees, Dean said. The vehicle also came outfitted with three single narrow field-of-view cameras positioned on the left, right and on the back of the vehicle.
But soldiers still said there remained a lot of dead zones where users couldn’t see, and the back camera was prone to getting dusting or muddy.
Additionally, the driver still had control over the cameras, so the vehicle’s commander and squad leader had to refer to the driver to see.
Now, the service is going forward with a wide field-of-view driver’s vision enhancer on the front, back, left and right of the vehicle that can be controlled by the commander and squad leader, and offers 428 degrees of coverage, providing overlap, Dean said.
The Army is working through a software upgrade to allow independent control of the cameras and is installing its new solution now, with an intent to deploy it next spring, according to Dean.
The funding for the modifications came from leftover initial funding for the program that the program office held on to despite some of the money being reprogrammed to cover the cost to pure fleet Strykers with double-v hulls.
General Dynamics Land Systems has its Stryker A1 30mm cannon variant with the situational awareness cameras on display at the AUSA annual meeting.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.