The Army's new Stryker wheeled medium vehicle has been in a lot of crossfires -- literal and figurative -- since its introduction a couple of years ago. Critics say it's too heavy, too big, too cramped inside, thin-skinned and expensive. Supporters tout its quietness, ease of maintenance and flashy new electronics.Now that Ft. Lewis, Wash.-based Stryker brigades from the 2nd and 25th Infantry Divisions have finished tours in Iraq, there's some real-life experience to help sort the truth from the vitriol, and the consensus is pretty good. National Defense Magazine quoted an observer in October:The vehicle, designed to carry a nine-man squad and two-man crew, has shown that its survivability, agility, mobility and technology is effective in an urban combat zone where the enemy strikes at any time in numerous ways, said [Ft. Lewis general staffer Col. Michael] Peppers. Having accompanied the 25th ID's Strykers on several combat missions in the town of Qayyarah, I'd like to add "adaptibility" to Peppers' praise. Soldiers are learning to use the Stryker to do things it was never designed for.Take for example the TOW-missile variant of the Stryker, which was meant to take out tanks but finds itself in Iraq with no tanks to fight. So soldiers have been using its TOW sights as a surveillance device, parking the Stryker on hilltops at night. The TOW Strykers can spot insurgent trucks from miles away.As for the Stryker's other amenities ... riding in the back of a rattling, cramped M-2 Bradley always makes me sick to my stomach. But on one quiet night mission in a Stryker, I fell fast asleep.There is some talk in Marine Corps circles about buying the Stryker to fill the gap between the new Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle and trucks. (Marine Maj. Craig Wonson advocates the Stryker in an excellent piece in this month's Proceedings, which is not yet on-line.) The Air Force and the Canadian Army have already gotten into the Stryker game with small purchases in recent years.-- David Axe
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