Armor: Stryker Has Fans In France


January 5, 2015:   In late 2014 the French Army received government approval and funding for its $6.1 billion program to develop and build 2,080 VBMR (multi-role armored vehicles). The first 62 VBMR are to be delivered by 2015. The VBMR are 25 ton armored vehicles similar to the American Stryker. Most (82 percent) VBMR will be the Griffon infantry vehicle carrying three crew and eight infantry and armed with a remote control turret using a 12.7mm or 7.62mm machine-gun or 40mm automatic grenade launcher. There is also a recon version called Jaguar which is the next most numerous variant.

VBMR will replace the 1970s era VAB, which was initially a 13 ton 4x4 armored vehicle. Some 5,000 of these were built. There were improvements over the years, upping VAB weight to 16 tons or more. Since 2007 France has also bought over 600 new VBCI armored vehicle, which was intended to replace tracked IFVs rather than wheeled ones.  Like most other European nations, France is replacing some of their tracked armored infantry vehicles with wheeled ones (like the U.S. Stryker). The VBCI is an 8x8, 25 ton vehicle with a crew of three, plus eight troops in the back. Armament consists of a 25mm autocannon, and a 7.62mm machine-gun. Like the Stryker, the VBCI has very up-to-date sensors and electronics. France is getting 550 of the infantry version, and 150 command post (more electronics, fewer people) versions. The VBCI will replace tracked AMX10 infantry vehicles. The VBCI vehicles cost about $5.5 million each and deliveries began in 2010. The VBCI is the “heavy” wheeled armored vehicle that complements the lighter VBMR.

Both VBCI and VBMR were influenced by the American experience with Stryker. The U.S. Army began deploying Stryker in 2005 and eventually formed nine Stryker brigades. These gained considerable combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. Stryker production is supposed to end in 2014, with 4,466 vehicles delivered since 2002. Most (96 percent) were actually delivered by 2012.

Each Stryker brigade has 332 Stryker vehicles. There are ten different models, but most are the infantry carrier version. The original Stryker cost about a million dollars each, plus the costs of weapons and equipment. Weighing 17 tons, Stryker has a top speed of 100 kilometers per hour and a range (on roads) of 500 kilometers. Stryker has a crew of two, a turret with a remotely controlled 12.7mm machine-gun, and can carry nine troops. A 7.62mm machine-gun is also carried and often another 12.7mm one as well.

The army is planning on incorporating the V shaped hull into the new Stryker 2.0 design. The Stryker 2 will weigh about a ton more than current models and have a more powerful engine (450 horsepower versus the current 350), plus a suspension system and other mechanical components upgraded to support up to 27 tons, larger tires, improved brakes, and improved sensors (so that troops inside the vehicle will have better awareness of what's outside). These are the major modifications, there will be several more minor ones (better air conditioning, a sniper detector, more electricity generation, and so on). Outwards appearance won't change much, other than the V shape hull (to better handle roadside bombs.).

Stryker 2 provides for "growth" (more armor and equipment) as well as making the vehicle more agile and reliable. The changes are based on user feedback and are considered a modernization project, not, strictly speaking, a new version of Stryker. Most of the 3,300 Strykers the army has in service have been in combat, and units headed for Afghanistan were the first to get the modernized ones. With all the budget cuts Stryker 2.0 may never see service. But in the meantime the extensive electronics used in Stryker (and the need to “boot” the vehicle rather than just turn the motor on) made all armored vehicles potentially a lot more than they have been in the past. This is what the French, and others, noted, as well as the innovative and effective tactics Stryker crews developed.






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