Be wary of predicting what will happen in future wars based on the technology of now

In the mid 90s the US Army had a lot to do that the American public really didn’t care much about. Somalia, Kosovo, Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, with plenty of other missions around the world as well. One thing the Army learned was that light formations weren’t great at these “military operations other than war” and heavy formation sucked worse. So GEN Shinseki, of black beret and ACU pattern camo fame, decided the Army needed a “medium brigade” solution to have more mobility than the light units, and less deployment support than the armored units. Through a series of different contests and bids, the LAV-III variant was chosen over an enhanced M113 variant, and the M113 fanboys have never shut up about it since. Almost as soon as the first Stryker unit was fielded, they went to Iraq. No place like war to test out a concept.

One of the most damning critiques of the Stryker Brigade Combat Team was written by Victor O’Reilly, who in 2003 wrote the most lasting and scathing critique of the Stryker vehicles which can still be found at globalsecurity.org.  http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/congress/2003_rpt/stryker_reality_of_war.pdf

But that was in 2003, the US Army had just fielded the first SBCT and before the first deployment was over. Imagine training up on borrowed Canadian and Italian surrogate vehicles, then getting your very own “LRIP” (low rate initial production) Strykers and taking them to war. No real doctrine, no real idea of how to use a wheeled brigade. But they did, and while men like Victor O’Reilly viewed the Stryker as a failure because it saw so much combat, others viewed the Stryker in the same like as Vietnam Veterans viewed the UH-1 Iroquois because it saw so much combat. The UH-1 was light, carried guys in who did the fighting, pulled guys out who did the fighting, and sometimes even provided fire support from door gunners or attachments.

The Stryker earned a reputation for getting you in, and getting you out, rapidly. The success of the Arrohead Brigade in the rapidly devolving from “major combat operations” to “stability operations” that a ground platform that moved more people than HMMWVs with better firepower was a good thing to have. And so the Army invested more into the Stryker program, even upgrading the majority of Strykers to the double V hull variant with MRAP levels of protection.

The Army did a quick snapshot of the lessons learned from the first Stryker Brigade (3-2ID, “Arrowhead”) and released that in 2007:  http://www.history.army.mil/brochures/Stryker/Stryker.pdf

All that history with 3-2ID ended as the Army went into reorganization and 3-2 ID reflagged to 1-2 ID, casing the colors of the younger brigade to keep the colors of the oldest brigade serving.  http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/local/military/article35388975.html

Every criticism that Victor O’Reilly wrote, way back in 2003, was true then. One of his opening criticisms was that the adoption of the Stryker was a peacetime gesture, but that the Army was a war! However the criticism of O’Reilly has not stood the test of time or the performance of the Stryker brigades in actual war, or peace. There is no tracked vehicle formation that could complete a “Dragoon Ride” in 2015 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Dragoon_Ride and again in 2016 http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/06/02/dragoon-ride-heading-into-eastern-europe-with-the-u-s-armys-2nd-acr/

It should be noted that due to the random twists of fate in the Army supply system, the original LRIP Strykers fielded to the Arrohead Brigade are the bulk of the Strykers in the 2nd Cavalry Regiment. The 2nd Cavalry Regiment used to be the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, until they Army gave away their fighting vehicles to another formation to prepare them for a “new” system that never materialized. And so for years the 2nd ACR rolled as a “light” cavalry unit in HMMWVs. The fielding of Strykers to 2ACR made them 2SCR, and eventually the unit leadership decided “screw it, we are just cavalry” and the unit is now 2CR.

The Stryker isn’t perfect. But neither is the HMMWV, JLTV, BFV, or Abrams tank. Every vehicle is a deliberate choice of compromises. History has judged that the US Army can live with the shortcomings of the Stryker in tactical maneuverability, armor, and firepower to take advantage of its superior operational mobility, speed, and light logistics train. There are some old Cavalrymen who would have strong words about my opinion that the Stryker is the best Cavalry vehicle we have in terms of getting to the fight fast, finding the enemy, and doing the traditional Cavalry tasks, but that is the truth of the matter as it stands today. History may prove me very wrong, but hopefully not soon.

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2 Responses to Be wary of predicting what will happen in future wars based on the technology of now

  1. Dick B says:

    I was 3rd ACR guy . . . yup, we’d have loved wheelies!

    Like

  2. DW says:

    That 2003 review of the stryker was pretty damning. However it is interesting, back in my day – this was pre-BFV, the M113 was it and it was soundly criticized by all the experts then. I guess if I had to choose between a humvee and a stryker – the choice is pretty obvious, not that the grunt gets a choice. I am curious why the MTVL never got a really good tryout, seems like having another option in the tools shed for deployment would be helpful. Budgets & politics I guess.

    Like

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