Air Transportation: September 23, 2003


The army has overlooked the problems of getting a Stryker brigade on and off air transports at an air base. The Stryker brigades were created to get mobile American combat units to far off places in a hurry. Each Stryker brigade contains 3494 troops and over 300 Stryker LAVs (of various types.) The total weight of the brigade is about 13,000 tons. In addition, you need a steady flow of supplies (about 600 pounds per man per day) to keep the brigade in action. That adds another 1,000 tons (or more) a day. You want to have the Stryker brigade go in with a least three days of supplies, and have another 30 days worth stockpiled nearby. No problem moving a Stryker brigade by ship. It takes about 40 hours to load, or unload, the brigade from typical ships. Getting a Stryker brigade to Korea (the port of Pusan), from Washington State, would thus take about 11 days (loading, sea travel, unloading). The original concept was to airlift the Stryker brigades to distant combat zones. But this has never been practical because of a shortage of transports, higher priority users (like the air force supporting their warplanes overseas) and the difficulty of getting all that stuff on and off the transports. One recent RAND study calculated that a Stryker brigade could get to Seoul, Korea (from Seattle, Washington) faster by ship (by a couple of hours) than the same brigade could do by air (from Washington State to Osan, Korea), mainly because of the operational difficulties of moving a ready-for-combat ground unit. It takes a lot of time, and precious airbase space, to load a Stryker brigade onto transports, and then unload them at the other end. The basic problem is that the air force has never seen it's transports as practical transportation for any ground combat units except paratroopers and small numbers of armored vehicles. Sure, the specs for air transports always list what kinds of armored vehicles they can carry, but that's mainly for show. The air transports are much more useful, and valuable, moving spare parts for armored vehicles, crews for armored vehicles and just about anything but the armored vehicles themselves. But sometimes fantasies come to life, and that's what seems to have happened with the concept of moving Stryker brigades by air. 


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