Road Testing a Stryker
“It’s not like a tank. A lot of people look at it like it is. It gets us to the fight and provides us with fire support. It’s not designed to take a massive beating. It does have armor that can withstand different types of ammunition, but…” And that pretty much sums up a road test of a Stryker from the guys who are living in one of those things. Andrew and I had an opportunity to tool around the desert in one—and were told we were the first reporters to ever get to do that with one of the teams out at the NTC. In this case, it was the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, from Fort Bliss, Texas.
The Stryker model joined the Army in 2002 and comes in two styles: Mobile Gun System and Infantry Carrier Vehicle (the most common Stryker), and there are around nine configurations. Some may be light on seats and heavy on radios, while others, like fire support, may not have too much weaponry.
We spent time in an ICV named Sloth. The 8x8 normally drives around as a 4x8 (back four push, front four steer). In the setup we saw, there was seating for eight plus the gunner, squad leader, and driver. The hierarchy for exiting the vehicle varies by squad, so it might be Alpha followed by Bravo—or whomever is closest to the door. The guys describe it as “a little cramped inside, especially when you’re in full kit.”
A Caterpillar turbodiesel is hooked to an Allison transmission and it feels super torquey, convenient for the approximately 22 tons a Stryker weighs, depending on how much additional armor it has. Horsepower is around 420. There’s an air suspension, two 13-gallon fuel tanks, air brakes, and run flats. The rubber weighs 350 pounds each, and not easy to change either. The Stryker can be driven with up to three blown-out tires. Specs: 142 inches tall, 302 inches long, and 123 inches wide.
There’s also A/C, but nobody can really feel it unless they’re sitting right next to it. The driver can’t feel it at all.
In fact, the driver gets hosed a lot. They say the most difficult thing about driving a Stryker is that there’s only about 30 degrees of visibility when the hatch is closed, causing nearly complete blindness on the right side because of the engine placement. The squad leader and air guards become the eyes: “It was interesting to watch him say ‘go faster’ and ‘do a hard right’ and ‘give it gas,’” said Andrew, who rode literal shotgun; he took the gunner seat for the ride. The gun system has two cameras—thermal and regular—so the gunner can scan around and see everything safely from inside the vehicle; in fact, everything the gunner does is from inside, save for having to hop up and load. “It’s pretty amazing. When you’re sitting, you have a 360 view. I steered the gun with a joystick that was very sensitive, just like a video game.” Andrew also noticed an idiot light on the dash was on, signifying “low ammo.”
What breaks most on this thing? Hubs and diffs, mainly because of the hard driving and rough terrain it sees, although the intense heat thins out the oil causing both to wear out.
There didn’t used to be a governor, so in those days the Stryker could hit 80-85 mph. But as you might guess, at 80 mph, it was all over the road. Max speed now is around 62 mph. Some told us that rolling over in one of these is pretty gnarly because unlike a car or truck that tears apart in the process, a Stryker stays solid, causing all the damage to happen inside. Therefore, they’re diligent about tying everything down. They have rollover drills, although that pretty much boils down to bracing and then holding on for dear life. The Stryker also can get really rocky because they’re top heavy, but extra armor helps lower the center of gravity and fix that.
They all agreed that driving a Stryker takes a lot of practice and patience, although one guy told us, “The gas pedal’s on the right, the brake pedal’s on the left…you just can’t be scared.”