The Army is trying to rapidly field Strykers with a bigger gun to the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Europe amid concerns the service is outgunned by Russian counterparts, and so far the program is on track, according to Col. Glenn Dean, the project manager for Stryker.
Congress provided the Stryker program office funding in 2015 and 2016 to field Stryker infantry carrier vehicles with a 30 mm cannon to the regiment in Europe by 2018. A little more than $300 million is allocated for eight prototypes and upgrades to 83 production vehicles, plus spares.
General Dynamics Land Systems — the Stryker's prime contractor — was authorized by the Army to hold a competition to select a gun and turret for the vehicle.
The company chose Kongsberg Defense Systems as the turret provider and ATK's XM813 30 mm cannon for the gun in December 2015.
The Army started formal testing six weeks ago and so far has received six out of eight prototypes — as of Feb. 10 — at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, Dean said. A couple of subject matter experts from the 2nd Cavalry have devised a plan for all of the soldier equipment that would be loaded into a Stryker to test realistic operational weight distribution, and soldiers even have had a chance to fire the cannon, he added.
Later this summer, several 2nd Cavalry crews will arrive at Aberdeen to drive the vehicle, fire demonstration rounds and develop gunnery training plans, Dean said.
In January next year, the first vehicle will arrive in Germany for an early user test with about a company's worth of soldiers, and they will run through gunnery and tactical training and prove out the concept before the full brigade set of vehicles shows up later in 2018, he said.
Not only is the program ahead of schedule, by a week, but it's also under budget; so under budget that the Army reinvested the savings toward fielding Javelin anti-tank capabilities to the 2nd Cavalry at the same time it receives the Stryker vehicles next year, according to Dean.
"We didn't have to go back to the Army and Congress to ask for money, we were able to do that with efficiencies we found in the program," he added.
Dean said the program has come together due to a variety of decisions and tradeoffs to keep pace with the schedule. Part of that meant sticking to the integration of relatively mature capabilities.
The tradeoffs manifested in the turret, for example, Dean said. The Army wanted a linkless ammunition feed system like what is used in the Apache helicopter, rather than the linked ammunition used in the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, because the linked version can malfunction and the links come at an additional cost.
The Army also decided to forego an external hatch on the top of the turret and instead will have a remote turret design in the upgunned Stryker.
In terms of integration, there's been some "minor teething problems," Dean said, such as needing to tweak and update the turret software.
But considering the Army is bringing "disparate components together and trying to make them work" for the first time, Dean said, having only minor issues and continuing to stay on target in terms of schedule and cost, is a success.
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.