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Stryker FoV Program

In November 2000 the Army took another step into its Transformation Initiative when it announced that GM GDLS Defense Group had been awarded the contract to supply the Army with the Interim Armored Vehicle. GM GDLS in a joint venture between General Motors, Electro-Motive Divison, and General Dynamics Land Systems Division and is based in Sterling Heights, Mich. The majority of the work on the project is done in the United States and Canada.

Army officials signed a $4 billion contract to produce 2,131 LAVs over six years. The contract's first iteration calls for enough LAVs to equip the first IBCT at Fort Lewis. Each brigade will have more than 300 LAVs, and the six option years of the contract should produce enough LAVs for the first six Brigade Combat Teams.

A number of subcontractors were used to produce the different LAV configurations and equipment. The prime contractor - GM General Dynamics Land Systems Defense Group LLC -- conducts work in four primary locations. Structure, fabrication and final assembly of the LAVs takes place in both Anniston, Ala., and London, Ontario in Canada. Engineering takes place in Sterling Heights, Mich., and upper hull structures are produced at a plant in Lima, Ohio.

The contract provided the Interim Brigade Combat Team with two vehicle variants that are deployable anywhere in the world in combat-ready configurations. The two variations of the LAV III that are produced for the Interim Armored Vehicle program are the Infantry Carrier Vehicle and the Mobile Gun System. The Stryker has eight configurations besides the basic infantry carrier model - mortar carrier, reconnaissance vehicle, anti-tank guided missile vehicle, fire-support vehicle, engineer support vehicle, command-and-control vehicle, medical-evacuation vehicle and the NBC reconnaissance vehicle. The Strykers were not a replacement for the M1 Abrams tank or the M3 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle. The Strykers are used in places, such as urban areas, where the heavy armored vehicles are not suitable for the mission.

Testing

In September 2002 the Army Test and Evaluation Command started the 16-day field-testing portion of a formal comparison between the new Stryker Armored Vehicle and the M113A3 Armored Personnel Carrier at Fort Lewis, Wash. Formally dubbed the Medium Armored Vehicle Comparison Evaluation, the test was required by the 2001 National Defense Authorization Act. The comparison started with a 50-mile road march, and the first two mission vignettes are schedule to begin Sept. 13. A wide variety of data was be collected from a platoon of four M113A3s rebuilt by Anniston Army Depot, Ala., and a platoon of four new Strykers delivered to Fort Lewis.

The Army's first Stryker Brigade Combat Team conducted its operational evaluation exercise at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Lousiana. The exercise, named Arrowhead Lightning II, was set to assess the SBCT's ability to conduct early entry and combat operations in a mid- to low- intensity environment against an unconventional enemy. The exercise was set to take place from May 15-27, 2003. Following a month-long training event at Fort Irwin, CA, that ended in mid-April, the brigade transported 1,500 vehicles -- including 293 Stryker vehicles -- by air, land and sea to ports close to Fort Polk. Upon completion of the operational evaluation exercise, the Army was to prepare a report to the Secretary of Defense, who would in turn then have certify to Congress whether the results of the evaluation indicate the design of the SBCT is operationally effective and fully trained before it can be deployed on missions worldwide.

The 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry, of the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, (SBCT 2) is deployed their equipment and personnel to Fort Knox, KY, to participate in the Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) from June-September 2003.

The battalion also discovered that while the Stryker vehicle can easily ford streams and shallow rivers, Soldiers must take care not to exceed certain speeds. They found that if they entered the water at fast speeds, then water would splash up over the front of the vehicle, filling the engine compartment, causing the vehicle to stall. When the vehicle slowed down, the water would not splash over the hull, and allowed the vehicle to move through the water without stalling.

The Stryker test and evaluation program was challenging because of the requirement to test and evaluate ten different variants. The Army's OE Report concludes, "current design and training performance of the first SBCT meets the requirements of the Organizational and Operational Concept." Based on the Army's assessment, DOT&E did not believe there are any unit design issues. However, the OE was not sufficient to completely address the operational effectiveness and suitability of an SBCT, nor did it address the operational effectiveness, suitability, or survivability of the Stryker vehicles themselves. Stryker vehicle effectiveness, suitability, and survivability was assessed in the BLRIP report.

The Army completed the Stryker IOT&E. DOT&E's independent evaluation is ongoing. This evaluation determined the operational effectiveness and suitability of eight of ten Stryker vehicles types that were available for testing.

Deployment

The first interim brigade combat team contains three substitute vehicles, because the mobile gun system and support systems for the nuclear, biological and chemical reconnaissance vehicle, and the fire support vehicle, would not be ready by May 2003. The Army will not field an interim brigade combat team supported by all configurations of the Stryker until 2005.

For the first time since World War I, the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division deployed overseas. The brigade's Stryker vehicles and other equipment arrived 12 November 2003 in the port of Kuwait on board the USNS Shughart and USNS Sisler after a three-week voyage from Fort Lewis, Wash., via the Port of Tacoma. The deployment marks the second time that Stryker vehicles have landed on foreign soil though. In August 2003 a platoon from the Army's first Stryker Brigade Combat team conducted a capabilities demonstration in South Korea.

The Army is betting much of its future on the success of this 19-ton wheeled combat vehicle wrapped in a steel-grilled hoop skirt. In Iraq, the vehicle's combat debut is unfolding with the Army's first Stryker Brigade combat team. This much-debated $10 billion experiment aims to field as many as half a dozen 3,600-soldier units equipped with these high-tech, lightly armored vehicles that can speed infantry to a fight. Unlike an Abrams tank or a Bradley fighting vehicle, the Stryker is a medium-weight, eight-wheel vehicle that can carry 11 soldiers and weapons at speeds of more than 60 miles an hour. With its giant rubber tires instead of noisy tracks, it is fast and quiet and draws on the brigade's reconnaissance drones, eavesdropping equipment and the Army's most advanced communications gear to outflank an enemy rather than outslug it.



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