Armor: April 3, 2004

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After four months in Iraq, the Stryker brigade up in northern Iraq  lost its first Stryker armored vehicle to an RPG attack on March 28th. Two RPGs were fired at the vehicle and one got past  the Slat Armor. The vehicle caught fire and was destroyed. None of the crew were hurt. Only the driver was aboard, and he got out. The rest of the crew (an infantry squad) were on foot patrol at the time. About half a dozen RPG rounds have previously been fired at the brigades 309 Strykers so far, most only causing minor damage. Two Strykers were damaged when hit by a roadside bomb. Only one soldier was injured. Three Stryker crewmen were killed, back in December, when a Stryker rolled over when part of the dirt embankment underneath it collapsed. 

The troops like the Stryker, mainly because it's faster than the M-2 Bradley tracked armored infantry vehicle that many of the troops had used earlier in their careers. The Stryker has a smoother ride and it is quiet. This has proved to be a significant advantage when going on raids, or just patrolling. The road wheels and metal pads of a tracked armored vehicle make a lot more noise. The Iraqis are unnerved by silent Strykers sneaking up on them.

Being a new combat vehicle, the Stryker has come under a lot of criticism. But so far, the troops using it are enthusiastic. That is also largely due to the fact that the Stryker is a new vehicle and has a lot of new stuff in it. The vehicle has a .50 caliber (12.7mm) machine-gun that can be fired from inside the vehicle via an automated mechanism and video cameras on the outside of the vehicle. The driver also has a video camera, which provides the driver with more protection (although a narrower view of what's up ahead) when the vehicle is under fire, or in hazardous country. 

The Strykers are also equipped with the new FBCB2 "battlefield Internet." This means each vehicle has a computer, and is linked to all the other via satellite. This gives unit commanders a much better sense of where everyone is, especially at night. This stuff, in a less complete form, was used during the 2003 march on Baghdad, and worked well. The more complete FBCB2 has more bells and whistles and the troops seem to like it. 

The Stryker brigade is near, a city that has a large Sunni Arab population, a lot of Saddam loyalists, but not as much violence as there is further south in the "Sunni Triangle." About a dozen Strykers have suffered serious damage so far, including several that were totaled. But casualties have not been high, and the troops still have that rush from being the first kids on the block with a new toy. The Stryker has not failed miserably as some critics predicted, and the Stryker troopers are constantly developing new ways to use vehicle. But a full assessment won't be possible until the Stryker brigade completes its one year tour in the Fall, and an after-action report is written.

 


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