August 14, 2004
A U.S. Army Stryker brigade stationed in the north of Iraq, around Mosul, for eight months so far, has proved itself quite capable in combat. The Stryker armored vehicles are controversial, mainly because they are new, and are light armored vehicles that move via wheels, rather than tracks. The Strykers are also catching a lot of criticism for the usual problems a new combat vehicle encounters. The Stryker brigade equipment exchanged a lot of armor protection and heavy weapons for more electronics and communications equipment. The brigade has an initial version of the battlefield Internet that the army is slowly putting together. The action in and around Mosul is not as heavy as it is down around Baghdad. But there are heavily armed Baath party diehards and al Qaeda terrorists up in Mosul. Thus the Stryker brigade has seen a lot of action, some of it quite heavy. It was thought that the Strykers would be very vulnerable to RPGs, but only two vehicles have been lost that way so far. In some actions, platoons (four vehicles) of Strykers had dozens of RPGs fired at them with no serious damage. The protection on the Strykers has been up to the job, but the troops, and hostile Iraqis, have also noted that the Strykers are faster, and quieter, than armored vehicles. This turns out to be a battlefield advantage, something American troops had forgotten about. The last large scale use of wheeled armored vehicles by American troops was in World War II. Some of the details of how those vehicles could be used had apparently been forgotten. A wheeled armored vehicle can more quickly move out of an ambush, or any other kind of trouble. Wheeled armored vehicles also make a lot less noise. The track laying system is inherently noisy, wheels are not. Strykers can sneak up on the bad guys, an M-2 Bradley or M-1 tank cannot.
The troops in the Stryker Brigade are trained to same high standards of all American infantry, which means soldiers capable of operating at high speed. The Stryker brigade has a new communications system that allows for speedier operations. Whether its getting out of an ambush, or getting into position for a raid or attack, the extra speed leaves the enemy at a disadvantage.