New Stryker Variants Gear Up for Testing
General Dynamics Land Systems in Sterling Heights, MI received a $24.5 million contract for spare parts that are unique to the two newest Stryker variants: the M1128 Stryker Mobile Gun System (MGS) and the M1135 Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Reconnaissance Vehicle (NBCRV). This contract funds procurement of initial unique spares for the first-time fielding of these two variants, and has a total potential value of $50 million if all options are exercised.
Work will be performed in Sterling Heights, MI (73%), London Ontario, Canada (15%), Tallahassee, FL (10%), and Scranton, PA (2%), and is expected to be complete by July 31, 2007. This was a sole source contract initiated on Dec. 9, 2003 by the Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command in Warren, MI (DAAE07-02-C-B001). See also corporate release.
So, how does this fit into the evolution of the USA’s Stryker vehicle family, and future production plans?
The M1128 Stryker MGS variant is meant as a direct-fire infantry assault vehicle with a 105mm cannon mounted in a low-profile, fully stabilized “shoot-on-the-move” turret. Other firepower includes a mounted M-240C machine gun and a pedestal-mounted M2 .50 caliber machine gun for the vehicle commander.
The MGS is intended to provide firepower support for Stryker Brigade Combat Teams, primarily as an assault gun for engaging hardened positions. Its 105mm gun can also deal with enemy armored vehicles, however, destroying anything up to a light tank with conventional ammunition. Heavier vehicles can also be engaged if specialized armor-piercing ammunition on hand, and so can masses of troops thanks to the welcome return of anti-personnel cannister rounds. The various ammunition types are made available to vehicle commanders via the 105mm cannon’s Ammunition Handling System. The operator selects which ammunition to use, and the automated system automatically loads the cannon. The AHS even allows several types of rounds to be loaded in advance, and the ammunition types are displayed on the cannon operator’s central control panel monitor.
The M1128 was also slated to be used by the Canadian Armed forces as the LAV-III MGS, but events overtook the program when Afghanistan demonstrated the need for tracked vehicles. The buy has been canceled, and their role will be filled by Leopard 1A5 and Leopard 2A6 tanks instead.
Stryker MGS has had a rocky development history, with widespread reports of problems with the recoil of its gun and center of gravity. DID’s photo up top would even appear to indicate a support bracket for firing tests, but a specific inquiry to General Dynamics Land Systems received this response:
“As you can see from the photo the recoil is not a problem firing the gun for the vehicle… in the past critics have made the claim that you could not fire over the side but the photo proves you can. What you identified in the red box is the instrumentation cables used to manual fire the gun and collect data. Other photos show the same cables as well.
Recoil was not an issue it was the pepper-pot muzzle break on the earlier vehicles that was used to let gas escape and lesson the recoil. When we lowered the gun turret to allow loading in C-130 Hercules the gas from firing was too close to the vehicles front end. We returned to a standard 105mm cannon without the pepper pot muzzle break and adjusted for the recoil in the mechanism.”
The M1135 Stryker NBCRV, meanwhile, provides the U.S. Army’s Stryker Brigade Combat Teams with the Department of Defense’s newest nuclear, biological and chemical detection equipment in a Stryker chassis. The core of the NBC RV is its on-board integrated NBC sensor suite and integrated meteorological system. An NBC positive overpressure system that minimizes cross-contamination of samples and detection instruments, provides crew protection, and allows extended operations at MOPP 0 (i.e. without protective clothing for its occupants).
The MGS and NBCRV have a high level commonality with the rest of the 310 Strykers that comprise a Stryker Brigade Combat Team, easing the unit’s training and logistics burden. The Army is slated to have six Stryker Brigade Combat Teams by 2008, and some of them have already served in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The Stryker MGS and NBCRV variants entered low-rate initial production (LRIP) in December 2005, and the M1135 NBCRV was fielded to the 2nd Cavalry Regiment at Fort Lewis, WA in February 2006. Soldiers with the 2nd Cav. Regt. will also be the first to receive the M1128 Mobile Gun System, with 27 vehicles scheduled to arrive from July to August 2006 for testing in an operational unit environment.
General Dynamics will eventually deliver 17 of the Stryker NBC Reconnaissance Version and 72 of the Mobile Gun Sysytem variants during low-rate initial production. The vehicles will be used for various tests and user evaluations through Q4 2007, and the Milestone C decision to begin full-rate production of both variants is also slated for the fourth quarter of 2007.
Additional Readings & Sources
- The M1128 Stryker MGS
- The M1135 Stryker NBCRV
- DID (Feb 12/08) – Stryker MGS: Problems in the Field.
- US Army (May 9/06) – Stryker ramps up to unveil Mobile Gun System
- General Dynamics (Jan 20/06) – General Dynamics Awarded $24 Million Spare Parts Contract for New Stryker Vehicle Variants