The Stryker was named after Private First Class Stuart S. Stryker and Specialist Robert F. Stryker, unrelated servicemen who received the Medal of Honor posthumously for their roles in World War II and the Vietnam War, respectively. It is an 8×8 armored vehicle developed by Canadian engineering firm General Dynamics Land Systems for the United States Army.
In service since 2002, the idea behind the Stryker’s development was to bridge the gap between vehicles like the Humvee, which is easily deployable but lacking in both armor and weaponry, and fully tracked tanks, which are heavily armored and have plenty of firepower, but aren’t easily deployed.
The primary mission of the original Stryker variant, the M1126, was simple. It was supposed to transport infantry into active operations areas. It would also provide plenty of protection and support during both transport and the disembarking process. The design spawned a number of mission-specific variants over the years, and General Dynamics Land Systems continues to develop upgrades to this flexible 8×8 platform.
Development and Design Spec
In 1999, U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki made a plan known as “Objective Force.” It outlined the need for equipment that could be quickly deployed, but also properly outfitted for a multitude of different scenarios.
A key component of this plan involved a new land vehicle which could support this changing combat landscape. The General Dynamics LAV III “Kodiak” was considered an excellent template to get started from. In service since 1999, the Kodiak itself was based on the Swiss Mowag Piranha IIIH 8×8, a design that dated back to 1972.
For the Stryker, the term “Interim Armored Vehicle” was used. This was because the original idea was for the vehicle to serve as stop-gap measure before the US Army’s Future Combat Systems modernization program developed a replacement. But with the FCS program effectively shuttered in 2009 without yielding a vehicle which filled the roles of the Stryker, development of the General Dynamics vehicle has continued.
The current general specification for the Stryker is a 19-ton light armored vehicle that rolls on eight blast-resistant tires. Four of them normally serve as drive wheels, while all eight can contribute to the Stryker’s motivation when needed.
The vehicle’s general dimensions measure 22 feet, 10 inches in length, 8 feet, 11 inches in width, and 8 feet, 8 inches in height. Though the crew count varies depending on configuration, two operators typically handle the various functions of the Stryker, while an additional nine passengers can ride in the M1126 infantry transport variant.
Early versions of the Stryker utilized Caterpillar’s turbocharged 7.2-liter inline 6-cylinder 3126 diesel engine. More recent iterations use Caterpillar’s C7 motor, which shares the 3126’s 7.2-liter displacement. The C7 generates a healthy 350 horsepower and 1028 pound-feet of torque. Hooked to an Allison 3200SP six-speed automatic transmission, the powerplant allows the Stryker to reach a top speed of 62 mph. The Stryker boasts an operational range of 310 miles.
Strykers are also equipped with periscopes and thermal imaging systems. These not only improve both enemy and friendly vehicle tracking, but also allow the commander to have a near-360-degree field of vision around the vehicle without being exposed.
Since one of the key objectives outlined as part of the General Shinseki’s plan was the ability to deploy a brigade anywhere in the world within 96 hours, the Stryker is designed to be transportable by a C-130 Hercules. This must done without slat armor installed on the vehicle, as the increase in width makes it too large to fit.
Armament and Protection
The primary armament of the Stryker is a Protector M151 Remote Weapon Station. It’s usually outfitted with either an M240 7.62mm machine gun, an M2 12.7mm machine gun, or an MK19 40mm automatic grenade launcher.
The M151 firing system offers full remote operation. This means that the operators inside the vehicle can use the system from within the confines of the Stryker.
The hull of the Stryker uses hardened steel that offers all-around protection from 7.62mm rounds and 14.5 mm rounds on the frontal arc. Strykers occasionally come with bolt-on ceramic armor. This upgrades protection to an all-around shielding from 14.5mm rounds, artillery fragments from 155 mm rounds, and armor-piercing ammunition.
Optional armor packages offer an additional layer of protection. These include cage armor and reactive armor tiles for shielding against rocket-propelled grenades and other projectiles, armored skirts for additional protection against improvised explosive devices, and a ballistic shield to bolster the protection of the commander’s hatch.
Variants and Future Use
The Stryker’s modular design sparked a number of different variants of the vehicle over the years. However, the M1126 serves as the core variant of the Stryker. It is an armored personnel carrier for a crew of two and up to nine passengers. For situations where real -time intelligence/surveillance is required, the M1127 variant is outfitted to provide reconnaissance support and anticipate threats.
The M1128 Stryker uses a lightweight version of the 105mm M68A1 cannon used on the M1 Abrams and M60 Patton tanks. The M1128 provides direct fire support to infantry against both stationary and mobile targets. The M1129 serves a similar infantry support role, though it is instead equipped with a Soltam 120 mm Recoil Mortar System that can be outfitted with a range of munitions for different situations.
The M1134 variant is equipped with anti-tank TOW missiles. This provides a long-range weapons capability that surpasses normal tank cannons. In this variant of the Stryker, however, crewmen must manually rearm the launcher.
A “double v-hull” version of the Stryker chassis was developed in response to the increasing threat of IEDs. It trades the flat-bottomed hull of the standard Stryker for a V-shaped version, providing improved survivability against ground-based explosives. This hull has been equipped to many new Stryker vehicles and retrofitted to a number of older ones. Variants which prioritize mobility over protection do not utilize the double v-hull design, so the M1127, M1128, and M1135 – the latter a variant designed to detect nuclear, biological and chemical threats – use the original hull design instead.
Nearly 5000 Strykers have been built to date. The vast majority are used by the United States military, but a number of Allied countries use the vehicle, too. Development of the platform is ongoing, and a number of experimental versions have undergone evaluation over the years. These include version currently in testing, which would be equipped with a directed energy weapon. This could potentially make the Stryker the first integration of a U.S. Army laser weapon onto a combat vehicle.