For the past decade, those eight-wheeled Army Stryker vehicles that were born at Joint Base Lewis-McChord earned a reputation as fast and light machines as they carried soldiers to the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Now their manufacturer has unveiled a new model that would turn the speedy Stryker into something closer to a tank. The model, called the Stryker + Tr, would add 20 tons and run on tracks instead of wheels.
The modified Stryker is an early offering in defense manufacturer General Dynamics’ effort to earn a contract creating the Army’s next armored personnel carrier, replacing the M113 light armored tracked vehicle. The company anticipates a competition for that contract next year.
The tracked Stryker would look familiar to South Sound residents who occasionally see soldiers driving traditional wheeled Strykers on Interstate 5. But it would serve a different purpose and would not fold into the three Lewis-McChord infantry brigades using the vehicles today.
Instead, it would fit in with what the Army calls “heavy brigade combat teams” – units with more armor, more firepower and less speed than the Stryker brigades at the base south of Tacoma.
That’s a different goal than what the Army asks of traditional Strykers, which are intended to be quickly deployable and fast on the battlefield.
“Stryker brigades have proved themselves in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are an effective fighting brigade as equipped,” said Don Kotchman, vice president of General Dynamics’ armor brigade combat team.
“There’s no intent to try to displace those vehicles,” he said.
The tracked Stryker is estimated to weigh between 62,000 and 84,000 pounds. The top weight is roughly 44,000 pounds more than an off-the-floor, basic wheeled Stryker. In Afghanistan, most Strykers weigh closer to 60,000 pounds because they carry extra armor and are built with a different design that deflects the blast of buried mines.
Kotchman said the tracked Stryker could be appealing to the Army because it would give soldiers similar platforms across different brigades. The tracked Stryker would hold 11 soldiers, the same as a wheeled Stryker. It would have a heavier, more powerful engine and move the driver’s seat back somewhat.
General Dynamics also is pitching Stryker variants as more efficient than other vehicles. It noted to reporters at the Association of the United States Army conference last week that Strykers cost $18 per mile compared with $45 per mile for the M113.
“It’s going to be quite a good offering for us,” Mike Cannon, General Dynamics’ senior vice president for Ground Combat Systems, told reporters at the conference. “And even if it doesn’t go as the (replacement for the M113) solution, we still believe that we needed a medium-weight tracked vehicle in our portfolio. And this will be our first one and it’s pretty slick-looking,” he said.
Locally, the M113 is part of the fleet for the Washington National Guard’s 81st Brigade Combat Team.
Lewis-McChord has more than 900 Stryker vehicles for its three infantry brigades – two of which are in Afghanistan, with the third on its way. The base has the largest concentration of Strykers in the Army. The base’s new senior Army officer, Lt. Gen. Robert Brown, has taken to calling the combined three brigades the Army’s first “Stryker division.”
Meanwhile, Army Pacific Command announced last week a plan to place more Strykers in Hawaii. They’re expected to come from the vehicles that are still in Afghanistan, according to a report in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
The Army has plans for nine Stryker brigades, five of which are at installations along the Pacific Rim: the three at Lewis-McChord, one in Alaska and one in Hawaii.Adam Ashton: 253-597-8646