US Army Moves Ahead with V-Hull Strykers
Under current plans, the 8×8 wheeled Stryker armored vehicle will be the future backbone of 8 US Army and 1 National Guard medium armored brigades. The 5th Stryker Brigade from Fort Lewis, WA was the first Stryker unit sent to Afghanistan, deployed in the summer of 2009 as part of a troop level increase. The brigade was equipped with 350 Stryker vehicles. In the first few months of deployment, they lost 21 soldiers, with 40 more wounded, to IED land mines. The losses prompted the Army to examine modifications to their Stryker vehicles, in order to make them more resistant to land mines.
One result is the Stryker hull redesign, creating the v-hulled Stryker DVH. The US Army is now on pace to order 2 brigades worth, as it moves toward the end of Stryker armored vehicle production.
Strykers, Struck: The Afghan Experience & Response
The Strykers have come under criticism for their performance in Afghanistan since the first Stryker brigade was deployed there in the summer of 2009. The Stryker vehicles have been faulted for their lack of maneuverability on rough terrain, a problem that Canada’s similar LAV-IIIs have also experienced.
That creates an associated vulnerability to IED land mines planted in the road. In June 2009, the 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division deployed to Kandahar province. It had 37 troops killed in action and 238 wounded over its year-long deployment, and their flat-bottom Strykers were diverted part-way through into road guard missions, away from intense combat. Their replacement, the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, continued the “freedom of movement” missions, and had suffered 14 KIA, 5 noncombat KIA, and more than 100 wounded, as of May 2011. Stars and Stripes reports:
“In one incident in August , a 1st Squadron flat-bottomed Stryker was struck by a massive bomb hidden in a highway culvert in Kandahar province. The blast peeled away the armor protecting its engine like the skin of an orange, snapped off a wheel at the axel and mangled the metal cage that was designed to protect troops from rocket-propelled grenades.
[Pfc. Dustyn Applegate]… doesn’t rate the Stryker as a good vehicle for the sort of counter-IED mission that his unit was engaged in… “That’s the bad thing about the Stryker,” he said. “It has a flat bottom, so when the blast happens, it just blows up instead of up and out like with an MRAP. There is no safe place on the Stryker.”
On the other hand, “M1126 Strykers in Combat: Experiences & Lessons” detailed surprisingly positive reviews of the wheeled APCs’ performance in Iraq. There, they made good use of roads, and their relative silence compared to tracked vehicles was an asset in urban warfare. If the Stryker is not the vehicle for all situations, it has at least proven to be very useful under defined circumstances.
Any campaign that includes the mission of securing key roads, which is to say any mission that depends on economic progress and trade growth, will find Strykers very useful – so long as they remain survivable.
Deflecting Danger: The Strykker DVH Effort
Hence the Stryker double-v hull design, which channels blast force away from the vehicle and its occupants. The US Army has announced contracts to produce 742 Stryker DVH vehicles, as retrofits and as new production vehicles. That’s the full extent of the current plan, which was a major step beyond the program’s initial plan of 450 Stryker DVHs.
The modified M1126 Stryker ICVV/DVH infantry carrier is the base variant for 7 additional configurations, which will be employed as part of coherent v-hulled Stryker Brigade Combat Teams: M1129 DVH Mortar Carrier, M1130 DVH Command Vehicle, M1131 DVH Fire Support Vehicle, M1132 DVH Engineer Squad Vehicle, M1133 DVH Medical Evacuation Vehicle, M1134 DVH Anti-Tank Guided Missile Vehicle, and the Infantry Carrier Vehicle DVH-Scout (ICVV-S). The ICVV-S is a new configuration that allows internal stowage of the Long Range Advance Scout (LRAS) surveillance system, which is mounted externally on the standard M1127 Reconnaissance Vehicle.
The Stryker DVH program retains a connection with overall Stryker modernization efforts. In a sense, it just prioritized one element of that plan for faster fielding, and made them the front-line vehicles for an SBCT in-theater. That will rise to 2 SBCTs by the end of 2012. After that, the Army says that:
“Once the Army decides on the appropriate future force structure, fleet mix and overall number of combat vehicles, the quantity of DVH Strykers and variants of Strykers will be finalized.”
America isn’t the only one upgrading its LAV-IIIs. Blast-protection efforts are underway for Australia’s ASLAVs, and in Canada via the near-term LAV LORIT program, and their longer-term LAV-III upgrade to the same base vehicle.
To date, however, the Stryker Double-V Hull remains unique to the USA.
Some Stryker typers won’t be getting the DVH treatment. The US Army does not plan to purchase Stryker DVH versions of the M1127 Reconnaissance vehicle (which does have an ICVV-S DVH counterpart), M1128 MGS assault gun, or the M1135 Nuclear, Biological, Chemical Reconnaissance Vehicle. Once the DVH vehicles are done, and the last set of M1135s are ordered and produced, overall Stryker production will end.
During the December 2010 Stryker DVH Configuration Steering Board, the Army decided not to pursue full-rate production for the standard M1128 Stryker Mobile Gun System, either. While the M1128′s 105mm gun offers potent firepower, the type already has significant weight and protection issues that haven’t been resolved. The Army decided that neither continued production nor DVH made sense for this type, unless the Stryker Modernization program gave the vehicle more base heft and power.
That seems less and less likely. According to US Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Peggy Kageleiry:
“Stryker Modernization has been replaced with a reduced-scope Engineering Change Proposal (ECP). The scope of the ECP for Stryker upgrades is still to be determined, but the following will be considered: buy-back Space, Weight, Power, and Cooling (SWaP-C) deficiencies, improve mobility and protection, and provide ability to accept future network and protection upgrades.”
Contracts & Key Events
Under the contracts, the GM General Dynamics Land Systems Defense Group partnership in Sterling Heights, MI will provide design and integration engineering services, test articles/prototypes, and procurement of materials, including long-lead materials, to support the modified hull design with related integrated system changes. The US Army says the contract objectives are an integrated solution that will provide improved protection levels to support operations in Afghanistan.
The Army’s Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) in Warren, MI manages these contracts.
The Army is documenting the teardown and reuse process, in hopes of having clearer figures if the Army decides that it wants more Stryker DVHs later on. Obviously, they’re hoping to find out that this saves money, by using a lot of the old parts. Once they’ve had a chance to try and make this process more efficient, then cost it, they’ll be in position to present a case. US Army.
March 4/12: The US Army clarifies its plans for the Stryker DVH: 760 total, to be delivered by the end of 2012, equipping 2 Brigade Combat Teams. When queried, however, Lt. Col. Peggy Kageleiry said that:
“…the Army has a current procurement target of 742 Double-V Hull (DVH) Stryker vehicles… which will be completed by December 2012. Procurement of 158 NBCRVs which are on contract in FY12 & FY13, will complete the current planned Stryker vehicle purchase. Once the Army decides on the appropriate future force structure, fleet mix and overall number of combat vehicles, the quantity of DVH Strykers and variants of Strykers will be finalized.”
With respect to performance in-theater, Lt. Gen. Bill Phillips, principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, says there have been about 40 land mine incidents for the DVH. In 38 of those incidents, all soldiers walked away with just minor injuries. In his words: “That vehicle has performed beyond our expectations.”
Jan 18/12: GDLS’ newly-acquired Force Protection manufacturing facility in Ladson, SC, will be doing work on another v-hulled vehicle. About $10 million in new work is moving there, to install additional combat-related communication and protection equipment on 292 Stryker DVH (Double-V Hull) 8×8 wheeled APCs, which are getting ready to deploy to Afghanistan.
The new work begins in March 2012, and will occupy about 45 jobs until about February 2013. Force Protection.
Jan 17/12: The US Defense Department’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation issues his FY 2011 Annual Report, which includes the Stryker DVH program. The program get good reviews, based on tests. The modified Strykers retained the same basic mobility, proved their performance against land mines, and actually had better reliability than their flat-hulled counterparts. They were rated both operationally effective for performance, and operationally suitable for reliability.
Quibbles were minor, involving data collection for the M1126 ICVV’s operational assessment, and problems with the Stryker DVH driver’s compartment being too small for larger Soldiers. The Army is planning a driver’s compartment redesign, and will continue to test the other 7 DVH variants through Q3 2012. In the nearer term, February 2012 is expected to see the end of Styker ICVV-Scout operational testing, and M1129 Mortar Carrier Vehicle DVH developmental and operational testing, at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona.
Oct 25/11: General Dynamics Land Systems announces a $367 million order for another 177 Stryker double-V hull (DVH) wheeled APCs, raising the US Army’s buy to 2 full Stryker DVH Brigade Combat Teams. Work on Stryker DVH vehicles is performed in Anniston, AL and Lima, OH, as well as the main production facility in London, ON, Canada (W56HZV-07-D-M112, #0266, Mod.1).
The firm says that over 320 double-V-hulled Stryker vehicles have been produced so far, under a contract awarded in July 2010 for 450 double-V-hull vehicles. Deliveries will be complete by July 2013. DID checked with GDLS, and confirmed that this order brings the total number of ordered Stryker DVH vehicles to 742.
Oct 5/11: General Dynamics Land Systems announces a $243 million contract to produce and deliver another 115 Stryker DVHs. General Dynamics will also provide production sustainment support and obsolescence management services. Work will be performed in Anniston, AL, London, ON, Canada, and Lima, OH. Deliveries will be complete by September 2012 (W56HZV-07-D-M112, #0266).
The firm says that about 300 double-V-hulled Strykers have been delivered so far, under a contract awarded in July 2010, with initial deliveries rolling out in May 2011. This order begins to go beyond the program’s original goal of 450. GDLS.
June 1/11: A $40 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification “for Stryker double-V hull development and delivery of prototype vehicles.”
Work will be performed in Sterling Heights, MI, and London, Ontario, Canada, with an estimated completion date of July 30/12. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W56HZV-07-D-M112).
May 20/11: Stars & Stripes relays the US Army’s statement re: Afghan deployments of the Stryker DVH, and also details combat statistics and criticisms related to the Stryker’s deployments in Afghanistan.
May 9/11: US Army:
“In the coming weeks, Soldiers in Afghanistan will begin to see 150 new Strykers with a double-V hull, or DVH… The Stryker DVH, with enhanced armor, wider tires and blast-attenuating seats, went from conception to production in less than one year… “The rapid turnaround of the DVH is responsiveness at its best,” Col. Robert Schumitz, Stryker Brigade Combat Team Project Management Office, project manager, said… Engineers at General Dynamics Land Systems conceived of the double-V-hull design and tested it at Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz., Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., and the Army’s National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif… There are 140 Stryker DVH’s already in the Army supply chain, and plans are to field a total of 450 vehicles.”
April 12/11: A pair of contracts worth $49.5 million revise earlier orders for 404 vehicles. The wording is confusing, but GDLS clarifies that: “The dod announcements are not new vehicles or contracts” – designating them as limit increases to existing contracts.
A $37.2 million firm-fixed-price contract revises the not-to-exceed amount and obligated amount for Double-V hull production cut-in to 178 Stryker vehicles. Work will be performed at London, Ontario, Canada, and Anniston, AL, with an estimated completion date of Feb 29/12. One bid was solicited and one received (W56HZV-07-D-M112).
A $12.3 million firm-fixed-price contract revises the not-to-exceed amount and obligated amount for Double-V hull production cut-in to 226 Stryker vehicles. Work will be performed at London, Ontario, Canada, and Anniston, AL, with an estimated completion date of Feb 29/12. One bid was solicited and one received (W56HZV-07-D-M112).
March 3/11: GM GDLS Defense Group, LLC in Sterling Heights, MI receives an $18.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract that will “provide for support for 19 Stryker flat-bottom vehicles and 15 Stryker double-V hull vehicles.” Work will be performed in Sterling Heights, MI, with an estimated completion date of Feb 29/12. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W56HZV-07-D-M112).
Dec 3/10: A $91.9 million cost-plus-fixed-fee/firm-fixed-price contract, for service to support performance specification changes to the Stryker vehicle. These changes will design and buy “necessary components to support the Stryker mine protection kit” for vehicles in the Afghan theater.
Work will be performed in Sterling Heights, MI (5%), and London, Canada (95%), with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/10. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W56HZV-07-D-M112).
Oct 27/10: A $8.3 million firm-fixed-price contract cuts the modified double-v hull design into another 46 Stryker vehicles on the production line. Note that cut-in contracts pay for making the changes and for the new materials, not for the entire Stryker.
Work will be performed in London, Canada (50%), and Anniston, AL (50%), with an estimated completion date of Feb 29/12. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W56HZV-07-D-M112, #0256). This order brings the total to the program’s goal of 450 vehicles.
Oct 13/10: A $9.5 million firm-fixed-price contract to cut the modified double-V hull design into the production of another 45 Stryker vehicles. Work is to be performed in London, Ontario, Canada (50%), and Anniston, AL (50%), with an estimated completion date of February 2012. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W56HZV-07-D-M112).
Aug 10/10: Renovations may be more difficult than they first appear. A $20 million firm-fixed-price contract adds the modified hull design (double-V hull), into an additional 78 new-build vehicles, raising the total to 359. It also revises the obligated amount for the previous 281 vehicles (vid. July 9/10). Work is to be performed in London, Ontario, Canada (50%), and Anniston, AL (50%), with an estimated completion date of Feb 22/12. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W56HZV-07-D-M112). See also GD release.
Aug 6/10: A $9.8 million firm-fixed-price contract revises the obligated amount for the production cut-in of the revised Stryker performance and hull design into 281 new-build vehicles (vid. July 9/10). Work is to be performed in Sterling Heights, MI (30%), and London, Canada (70%), with an estimated completion date of Feb 16/12. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W56HZV-07-D-M112).
July 9/10: A $30.1 million firm-fixed-price contract directs production cut-in of the revised Stryker performance specifications, which incorporates a modified double-V hull design, into 281 vehicles. The new vehicles will be sent to Afghanistan. Work will be performed in London, Canada (70%), and Sterling Heights, MI (30%). Deliveries will begin in January 2011 to allow vehicles to be available for use by the Stryker brigade that will rotate into Afghanistan in 2011, and will be completed by February 2012. (W56HZV-07-D-M112). See also GDLS release.
June 1/10: The GM GDLS Defense Group, LLC in Sterling Heights, MI recently received a $29.1 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract buys 14 Stryker Double-V Hull prototype vehicles for government ballistic, performance/durability, and logistics testing and demonstration.
Work is to be performed in Sterling Heights, MI (41%); and London, ON, Canada (59%), with an estimated completion date of Nov 30/11. One bid was solicited, with one bid received by TACOM, CCTA-AI in Warren, MI (W56HZV-07-D-M112).
April 9/10: A $58.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for a modified hull design for the US Army’s Stryker vehicles to improve performance and survivability in Afghanistan. Work is to be performed in Sterling Heights, MI (41%), and London, Ontario, Canada (59%), with an estimated completion date of Nov 30/11 (W56HZV-07-D-M112).
March 11/2010: During US Senate testimony in early 2010, Gen. George Casey said that the US Army was planning to modify the Stryker vehicle with a double V-shaped hull designed to deflect land mine blasts from below.
The Stryker M1135 NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) reconnaissance and M1128 MGS assault gun variants would reportedly not be modified under the current plan. That could create field issues, since the M1128 is meant to act as firepower support in Stryker brigades.