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2CR discusses Stryker modification

Crew gives feedback on towing howitzer

Brig. Gen. Michel-Henri St-Louis (Canada) speaks with Staff. Sgt. Colt Dietrich about how well a Stryker Combat Vehicle tows a M777 howitzer. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Jennifer Bunn

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Senior and junior leadership from Field Artillery Squadron, 2d Cavalry Regiment, hosted an equipment modification discussion with Brig. Gen. Michel-Henri St-Louis (Canada), Deputy Commanding General for Operations of I Corps at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and representatives from General Dynamics Land Systems Feb. 22 at the FA headquarters.

The main topic of discussion was about how to adapt a Stryker Infantry Combat Vehicle into a prime mover for a howitzer crew. Following a formal presentation, St-Louis engaged the crew members in the motorpool. They were able to provide feedback from their personal experience after they tested the concept in the Grafenwoehr Training Area.

Although soldiers at Fort Lewis were the first to hook up a M777A2 howitzer to a Stryker, Staff Sgt. Colt Dietrich, a howitzer crew chief assigned to Archer Battery, and his crew are the first to drive the combination in a field environment.

"We are the first ones to actually drive it and test it on the road," he said. "I like it a lot. I think it's going to be a good advancement for us."

Currently, the howitzer crew tows their M777A2 with a M1083 Medium Tactical Vehicle, a general utility truck in which they can also haul other equipment, but the crew travels in separate vehicles because the MTV cab only accommodates three people and everyone else are in Humvees. A Stryker has sufficient space for the whole crew.

"The Stryker is going to help with mobility really. This is a safer vehicle. We are just testing it to see what the capabilities are between this and the M1083 prime mover," Dietrich continued. "So, basically we are just seeing what's going to be more efficient for us."

To continue to be a leading force in Europe, 2d Cavalry Regiment is committed to modernization and readiness. Soldiers are already training in the field with the new 30mm Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle-Dragoon and a Stryker with the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station for a Javelin. A modified Stryker for the howitzer crews would add to the regiment's mobility and lethality.

"I think as far as safety, survivability and capability (the Stryker) is better compared to the vehicles we have now," Dietrich added.

Force protection is a main concern when comparing a Stryker to a medium tactical vehicle.

The Stryker, with a standard remotely controlled weapon system mounted on top, gives the crew greater lethality for self-defense and protection. Also, the infantry combat vehicle has a lower center of gravity than the medium tactical vehicle which lowers the roll-over risk.

Furthermore, infantry combat vehicles provide a separate seat for individual passengers and seat belts for safety versus riding in the back of a medium tactical vehicle with flat seats and only a troop strap. By mandate, soldiers cannot ride in the back of a medium tactical vehicle on European roads anyway. The regiment travels thousands of kilometers each year to participate in multinational exercises throughout Europe.

Between questions and answers, St-Louis was able to observe the crew going through the emplacement and displacement crew drill of the howitzer connection to the Stryker with the current tow device.

"The current Stryker prime mover tow device needs to be reconfigured for a top mount design. The current design requires soldiers to lift the device to the howitzer barrel to attach it, while also balancing the howitzer," explained Maj. Jacob Estrada, operations officer for FA Squadron. "This means it takes four people rather than the standard two people, taking two soldiers away from normal crew drill duties."

"Engineers are confident it could be modified to lay across the top of the barrel instead, allowing its weight to rest on the howitzer barrel," Estrada added.

Additional considerations addressed included the greater fuel capacity the Stryker has versus the medium tactical vehicle, which allows for greater operational reach. And, a Stryker provides a better communications platform.

Estrada said that overall, Archer Battery and the howitzer crew were excited to execute the proof of concept and provide feedback so the relevant parties can conduct further analysis and begin making modifications.

"The I-Corps DCG-O engagement with Brigadier General St-Louis was a success. We were able to provide informed candid feedback to the DCG, Stryker Warfighting Forum, General Dynamics, and the Army Test and Evaluation Command," Estrada concluded.

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