General Dynamics Land Systems was the talk of AUSA 2012 with its new tracked version of the venerable Stryker wheeled vehicle.
GD built the tracked Stryker concept vehicle is as a potential offering for the Army’s upcoming competition to replace the Vietnam-War era M113 armored personnel carrier.
“One of the major benefits of this platform is it maintains the Stryker chassis Double-V Hull protection,” said Garth Lewis, Stryker Program Manager for General Dynamics Land Systems, at the Association of the United States Army’s 2012 meeting and exposition. “This vehicle will go everywhere an Abrams tank goes, everywhere a Bradley goes, and you will have the top speed to keep up with those platforms.”
Seeing a Stryker outfitted with tracks is a little ironic since many in the armor community feared that the 1999 launch of the wheeled-vehicle concept would lead to the end of tracked vehicles. Then Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki fueled that fear when he announced his vision of a medium-weight force and alluded to a possible future of an “all-wheeled force.”
The Stryker-equipped combat brigades that emerged from Shinseki’s vision have proven to be a game-changing asset for ground commanders. In Iraq, Stryker units quickly became known as the senior ground commander’s 911 force because of their ability to cover great distances quickly and deliver highly-mobile combat power on short-notice.
But lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan have also shown that wheeled vehicles have their limitations, especially in loose or muddy terrain.
That’s why the Army is planning to consider both wheels and tracks in an upcoming Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle program.
“I will tell you I’m not married to a track solution. … If you can come in with a wheeled variant that can meet our mobility force protection levels, bring it. If it’s a hover craft, it’s whatever you got, a reindeer pulled sled, I don’t care, as long as it meets the requirement, the target cost, the target affordability and all the capabilities we’re looking for,” said Col. Bill Sheehy, Heavy Brigade Combat Team program manager.
Right now, the Army has only released a draft performance-specification document, said industry officials who are awaiting a draft request for proposal.
GD’s concept vehicle displayed at AUSA is completely drivable, but the next-generation vehicle will maintain the Double-V hull and feature a wider platform for better stability. It will have six road wheels on each side and will have a wider track, Lewis said. It will also have a larger power plant offering up to 700 horsepower.
“At the end of the day, what that does for you is it gives you the survivability of the underbelly of a Stryker DVH and it also gives the mobility of an Abrams,” he said.
GD officials estimate that the tracked Stryker will have “greater than 60 percent commonality” with the wheeled version, an asset that will make it a strong candidate for the AMPV program, said David Dopp, program manager of the Stryker Brigade Combat Team. Sheehy agrees, but it will still have to prove itself against all other contenders.
“I think what GD is doing is outstanding trying to push the envelope and innovate with what we have; I welcome it,” he said. “As far as the question about whether it will cut the mustard [for the AMPV program], I don’t know.”