At the Army’s annual conference this week in Washington, D.C., General Dynamics rolled out their "Wheeled Combat Vehicle Demonstrator" a clear effort to pitch the Army on a relatively off-the-shelf fighting vehicle that could meet the Army’s accelerated timeline for fielding the future Ground Combat Vehicle; the Army wants the GCV fielded in five to seven years. Of course the GD’s enhanced Stryker only makes sense if the Army goes for a wheeled solution for the GCV.
"We’re taking the Army leadership through, just to show them that we can do a lot of things with Stryker, it’s not a platform at the end of its growth cycle, it still has a lot of growth you can put on it and keep it in the Army’s performance envelope," said Mike Peck, director of business development for GD Land Systems. The enhanced Stryker incorporates a bunch of lessons learned from the battlefield, with added systems that many observers (including me), have wondered why they weren’t there to begin with, Peck said. It can be built for future brigades or the various systems can be retrofitted to existing Strykers during reset.
The first thing you notice is the low-profile remote turret, provided by Kongsberg, that can carry either a 25mm or 30mm auto-cannon, along with a coaxial machine gun. Fitting a remote turret eliminates the need for a turret bustle, yet adds the firepower the Army has long wanted in the Stryker. The enhanced Stryker has a bigger engine than the original Stryker, providing 100 more horsepower, has added armor, wider tires, added sensors, video displays, better suspension and drive train, weighs around 30 tons and still fits in a C-130.
To better protect against IEDs, the vehicle is higher off the ground, has ballistic floor plates and specially designed blast protected seats that absorb the blast rather than transmitting it directly to the soldier’s spine. Along with other hull reinforcements, it almost gets to MRAP 2 mine blast protection, Peck said. The vehicle has camera pods mounted on the front, sides and rear providing full 360 video coverage to the troops inside and a Lockheed Martin built mast mounted sensor ball carrying a 3rd generation FLIR and other sensors.
The Army said it wants the GCV to carry a ten man squad. With the mast mounted sensor and accompanying work station, the enhanced Stryker can only carry six. But the mast could be pulled and four more seats installed, keeping the gun turret. Or, the mast mounted version could be used in reconnaissance units or as command or fire support vehicles in the companies working alongside the troop carrier version.
The break point in wheeled vehicles versus tracks is about 35 tons, Peck said, above that point tracks make more sense on off-road use. He said GD could add appliqué armor to protect against up to 30mm auto-cannon on the front of the vehicle and still keep it under the 35 ton limit.
GD is pitching the enhanced Stryker for other Army units, not just the Stryker brigades. Peck said the vehicle is a perfect fit for the reconnaissance units in the Heavy Brigade Combat Team; coincidentally, the Armor Center at Ft. Knox is looking at a Stryker variant for just that reconnaissance unit.
I asked Peck what he thought GD’s chances were in the GCV competition. The enhanced Stryker meets many of the requirements the Army is notionally looking for in the GCV, he said, and is mindful of the budget pressures the service faces, which might favor a more off the shelf solution. “The Army has a lot of decisions to make, their struggling with force mix, how many and what types of brigade, what should the brigades look like once they get out there, how much modernization and integration of new technology, it all costs a lot of money,” he said.