The U.S. Army recently took delivery of the first Stryker combat vehicle armed with a 30mm cannon -- an upgrade that significantly boosts the firepower and range of the eight-wheeled infantry carrier.
The upgraded M1126 Stryker vehicle will be known as the Dragoon, the name of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, according to an Oct. 28 Army press release.
"It's important to realize the genesis of this event," said Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, speaking at the General Dynamics Land Systems Maneuver Collaboration Center in Sterling Heights, Michigan.
Following the 2014 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Army leaders in Europe "identified a capability gap that threatened our forces in theater," Allyn explained. "The Russians, it turns out, had upgraded and fielded significant capabilities while we were engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Army leaders recognized that existing Stryker weaponry placed U.S. forces at "unacceptable risk," he said.
Stryker Brigade Combat Teams first saw combat in Iraq in late 2003. The highly mobile infantry force is equipped with potent variants, such as the 105mm Mobile Gun System and anti-tank guided missile vehicle.
The Urgent Operational Needs statement submitted in March 2015 resulted in a directed Stryker lethality requirement, one that included an accelerated acquisition effort to integrate the 30mm cannon on the vehicles, Allyn said.
The prototype features a Kongsberg Medium Caliber Remote Weapon Station, or MCRWS, that houses a potent 30mm cannon. The weapon system is capable of engaging enemy targets out to 3,000 meters.
By comparison, Strykers armed with M2 .50 caliber machine guns have a maximum effective range of 1,830 meters on an area target.
In addition to the 30mm cannon, the weapon station can also mount a coaxial medium machine gun.
The prototype also features a new fully integrated commander's station, upgraded driveline componentry and hull modifications, Army officials said.
Fielding to the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Europe will begin in May 2018, which represents "a near-record time from concept to delivery," Allyn said.
Adding a 30mm cannon is part of the Army's larger Stryker fleet lethality strategy, which includes providing an under-armor Javelin anti-tank weapon capability and improving the capabilities of the Stryker anti-tank guided missile vehicle to better locate and engage targets via networked fires, Army officials maintain.
Maneuver officials began initial tests in early 2014, which featured Kongsberg's MCRWS and a stabilized 30mm cannon. Kongsberg has been working with Stryker-maker General Dynamics Land Systems on the MCRWS since 2008. The company also makes the M151 Remote Weapon Station that's currently on the Stryker.
"This is an example of what is possible when government, military and industry leaders unite as one team," Allyn said, describing the collaboration between General Dynamics Land Systems and the Army's Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at email@example.com.