October 24, 2009:
The U.S. Army has ordered another 352 Stryker wheeled armored vehicles, at an average cost of about a million dollars each. Another half million dollars is spent on equipping the vehicles for combat. The army has already received 2,988 Strykers. Production began in 2000, and four years later, the first Stryker brigade entered combat in Iraq. There are currently seven Stryker brigades (six active duty, one National Guard), with another active duty brigade being formed. Soldiers who have used Stryker in combat were enthusiastic about it.
Initially, the Stryker was controversial, mainly because they were new, and light armored vehicles that moved via wheels, rather than tracks. The Strykers also caught 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 had an initial version of the battlefield Internet that the army was slowly putting together.
The initial 2004 combat actions in and around Mosul were not as intense as they were down around Baghdad. But there were heavily armed Baath party diehards and al Qaeda terrorists up in Mosul. Thus the Stryker brigade saw 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 were lost that way in the first year. 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 were faster, and quieter, than other 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.
Off the road, the Stryker is not as mobile as a tracked vehicle. Canadian troops in Afghanistan recently got reminded of this, as their LAVs (a cousin of the Stryker, also used by the U.S. Marines) often got stuck when they left the few roads found over there. The Canadians brought in some tracked armored vehicles to deal with the worst off-road situations. When Stryker showed up in Afghanistan during the Summer of 2009, if found the Canadian experience to be very accurate. Off road, the Stryker had problems with mobility, and increased wear and tear. But for patrolling the main roads, the Stryker was excellent.
The troops in the Stryker Brigades were trained to the same high standards of all American infantry, which means soldiers capable of operating at high speed. The Stryker brigades new communications system allowed for speedier operations. Whether it's getting out of an ambush, or getting into position for a raid or attack, the extra speed leaves the enemy at a disadvantage. But this depends on using roads, or hard, even ground for cross country operations.