ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Maryland — How the U.S. Army’s new Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle Dragoon performs in the upcoming year in Europe will contribute to how the service shapes its future lethality capabilities within those medium-weight, infantry-centric brigade combat team formations.

The U.S. 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 an urgent need request from 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.

“This capability that is coming to 2CR is directly attributable to Russian aggression,” Lt. Col. Troy Meissel, the regiment’s deputy commander, told reporters Tuesday at Henry Field, a live-fire test range here. And the regiment is working actively with foreign partners and the bigger Army in Europe to shape its formation and increase its capabilities to overmatch Russian weapons systems.

[Army on track to integrate bigger gun on Stryker]

On Tuesday, the Stryker Carrier Vehicle Dragoon, or ICVD, demonstrated in a live firing its ability to fire on target at a range farther out with more deadly force than previously capable. While it’s not designed to offensively fight mechanized forces, it is a vehicle that can defend against mechanized forces, Meissel explained.

The Stryker ICVD prototypes have been under test and evaluation at Aberdeen Proving Ground, or APG, with members of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment before a company set of vehicles are deployed to Grafenwoehr, Germany, in January 2018.

Once training exercises are complete, the U.S. Army will field Stryker ICVDs to the entire regiment and it will go out and maneuver, Col. Glenn Dean, the program manager for Stryker, said Tuesday at the live-fire.

“Looks today like we are going to do first-fielding in Poland in a forward area, which is sort of a novel experience for everyone except Stryker,” he said, adding the vehicle was first fielded forward on the battlefield in Afghanistan.

Maj. Gen. David Bassett, the program executive officer for Ground Combat Systems, hammered home the vehicles about deploy to Europe were just a PowerPoint less than 18 months ago and the program office made a variety of choices along the way that helped the development move quickly, including choosing readily available, off-the-shelf solutions, such as the remote turret, from Kongsberg in Norway and the 30mm cannon from Orbital ATK.

The program also kept as much commonality as possible with the Stryker platform, including the fire-control system and the suspension from the double-V hull version of the vehicle, he added. The ICVD is a flat-bottomed version.

“What you were left with was the requirement to bring all those together in a way that didn’t degrade those capabilities, and so it’s about making those hard choices and doing so in a way that your probability of success doesn’t go down,” Bassett said.

Going Remote

The U.S. Army also involved the 2nd Cavalry Regiment nearly from the beginning of the program to ensure that what it received at the end of the process fits with its needs directly.

It was determined quickly that the regiment would not sacrifice fitting a nine-man squad together in the back of a Stryker, along with a gunner and a driver.

Since the nine-man squad wouldn’t be separated, the U.S. Army determined a manned turret was out of the question because it would take out seats in the back of the vehicle. Therefore, it was determined a remotely operated turret would be necessary for the Stryker prototype.

Additionally, putting a 30mm gun on top of the vehicle meant the Stryker operators would lose visibility because hatches used to see out of the top of the vehicle had to be taken away.

Keeping those requirements in mind, representatives of the regiment traveled to Stryker manufacturer General Dynamics Land Systems in Michigan in December 2015 and sat in a virtual mock-up of the upgunned Stryker to determine where the commander should sit and where hatches could be retained, deleted or moved, among other configuration considerations, Dean said.

One of the biggest hurdles now is how to maneuver the vehicle without being able to stand up out of hatches and look out over the terrain.

To mitigate the loss of situational awareness, the U.S. Army incorporated three windowed tiles that look out beyond the front of the vehicle underneath the turret.

A Stryker driver at APG said it would be ideal to have more wide-angle views of the terrain using some kind of material solution.

Meissel said the regiment would wait to figure out what could be added to enhance visibility and what tactics, techniques and procedures would be solidified when the vehicles are fielded and in training. “For example, knowing they don’t have visibility, the likelihood of this vehicle leading the formation is lower because you have to have another vehicle in front and be able to look for obstacles in the area,” he said.

“This challenge of how you maneuver these vehicles buttoned up is one that is going to be increasingly common, so as you get on more lethal battlefields, you have to be able to fight without being in the hatches,” Bassett said. “I think a lot of what we are trying to learn is how do you fight a remote turret; how do you fight buttoned up, and then it will help us inform the decisions we make about the potential materiel solutions as we look at nonmateriel and materiel solutions.”

The future of cannons

And the whole idea of using cannons within the Stryker formations will be assessed, as well.

“The Army is still working through its requirements for the future of lethality, so there is certainly an intent that 30mm capability goes to the entire Stryker fleet,” Dean said.

Other upgrades the U.S. Army was able to add to the Stryker fleet as the result of savings from the ICVD program, such as the common remote weapon system that can fire Javelin anti-tank missiles, will also influence how lethality is provided to the fleet in the future, Dean explained.

[US Army Seeks New Stryker Capability Beyond Bigger Gun]

Specifically on cannon requirements, Dean said the U.S. Army is working through whether it proceeds with cannons in the same form factor as the ICVD and how many are built and fielded and where within the formation it should exist among other considerations.

The U.S. Army has already asked for resources for a second brigade worth of upgunned capability, Bassett said, even though there are questions the 2nd Cavalry needs to answer about the path forward for the Stryker ICVD.

The general said it might seem like the U.S. Army is asking for resources ahead of need or developing a capability with too much concurrency with production, but that is how the ICVD program has been so successful. “It would be more efficient in terms of resources to wait, but our adversaries aren’t waiting, and so we are looking to lean forward to provide capability sooner rather than later.”

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.

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