One of the things we want to get into with this site is theissue of what works and what doesn't in terms of combat vehicles in Afghanistan.Roadside bombs and military grade land mines continue to cause the largestnumber of U.S.casualties there. If there are new tactics or pieces of equipment that can aidin the counter-IED fight we want to know about it.
Over at the Second Line of Defense site, Robert Johnson getsinto the issue of why there are no heavy brigade combat teams in Afghanistanand in the process debates the relative merits between tracked and wheeledvehicles on that battlefield. The main reason there aren't any heavy brigades in Afghanistan is that pretty mucheverything must be flown into the country and flying in an entire heavybrigade, or even a mechanized battalion, is not altogether realistic. Not tomention providing fuel and spare parts for a heavy unit once its there. TheRussians could just drive their stuff across the Friendship Brigade in the1980s. We don't have that luxury.
As Johnson points out in his article, the dismal state ofthe Afghan road network, and the heavily mountainous terrain, place real limitson where tracked vehicles could even go. The Soviets found their tanks weremore useful as mobile pillboxes guarding bases and combat outposts than asoffensive weapons. The mujaheddin would usually lay low if tanks were prowlingabout.
Yet, Johnson makes a couple of points about the Strykervehicle's performance in Afghanistanthat I want to highlight. He contends that the wheeled-vehicles haven'tperformed as well as expected (some 21 vehicles lost to IEDs since lastsummer) because the network architecture that provides vital communications andintelligence between vehicles doesn't exist there like it did in Iraq.He says:
"The connectivity from theater to home station in the pastand today (unlike in Iraq)remains virtually non-existent in Afghanistan. Therefore,Stryker formations are unable to utilize their superior on-board C4architecture to establish a number of network-based advantages when preparingfor on-going operations.
The networks within theater (i.e. within Afghanistan) are not as robust as in Iraq nor are the information platforms (likeUAVs, etc) as plentiful in Afghanistanas they have been in Iraq.
These key factors explain why Stryker formations in Afghanistanhave been unable to capitalize upon their superior on-board C4 architecture notonly to enhance their protection, but, more importantly, to become moreeffective in their mission.
On balance, these factors create more of a disadvantage for the Strykerformations than the HBCTs, which, absent the more advanced on-board C4architectures, are a more self-reliant formation in terms of the mobility,armor protection, and firepower components of protection."
I'd be interested to hear from any knowledgeable folks outthere whether the network situation in Afghanistan is as bad as Johnsonportrays it, and, if so, how big a difference does it make in the counter-IEDfight and Stryker unit performance. Is Johnson right to argue that the command,control and intelligence advantages of the Stryker are not being properlyleveraged in Afghanistan?