How Strykers Work

Stryker Configurations and Mission
Soldiers dismount a Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle to conduct a patrol in Mosul, Iraq.
Soldiers dismount a Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle to conduct a patrol in Mosul, Iraq.
Photo courtesy U.S. Army, by Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson


The Infantry Carrier Vehicle is built both for troop transport and as an offensive force in itself. In addition to the driver and commander, an ICV carries nine infantry soldiers. For weaponry, the ICV features a Konigsberg gun turret, which is operated via remote control from inside the vehicle. The gun turret can be equipped with a .50-caliber heavy machine gun, a 7.62-mm machine gun or a 40-mm Javelin missile launcher.


Cannon fire from a Stryker

The Mobile Gun System delivers true tank-like firepower in a small and maneuverable package. In fact, the MGS is fitted with a 105-mm cannon, the same gun barrel found on the original M1 Abrams tank.

The cannon can fire four different types of ammunition:

  • HE/HEP (high-explosive) rounds, which penetrate and destroy bunkers and walls
  • KE (kinetic-energy) ammunition, which destroys armored vehicles
  • HEAT (high-explosive, anti-tank) ammunition, which attacks vehicles and personnel with its fragmentation capabilities
  • Anti-personnel canisters, which are designed to attack infantrymen outside of their vehicles

In addition, the MGS has up to two secondary weapons, a 7.62-mm and a .50-caliber machine gun. To match all of this weaponry, the defensive system of the MGS is more robust than that of the ICV. Current plans for MGS armor call for special, reactive armor to go with the current steel structure and ceramic tiles. This Stryker also contains detectors for nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. By definition the heftiest of Stryker variants, the MGS presents the biggest challenge in meeting the weight requirements for rapid deployment by C-130 plane.

The Other Strykers

  • RV - Reconnaissance Vehicle Carries squads of scouts and surveillance equipment linked in to the FBCB2 system
  • MC - Mortar Carrier Has a 60-mm and 120-mm mortar capable of firing the full array of mortar ammunition, including heat-, infrared- and precision-guided shells
  • CV - Commander's Vehicle Contains a large video display system for viewing the FBCB2 tactical maps and a voice system that alerts the commander to danger; for weaponry, has a .50-caliber machine gun and a grenade launcher
  • FSV - Fire Support Vehicle Is outfitted for advanced command-and-control support including target acquisition, target identification and communications
  • ESV - Engineer Squad Vehicle Has mine detection and removal systems, a touch screen display for the squad leader, a remote-operated, 50-caliber machine gun and Javelin missiles
A Stryker Engineer Squad Vehicle crew reconfigures their vehicle after being transported aboard an Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft to Bicycle Lake Army Airfield at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, CA.
Photo courtesy U.S. Army, by Sgt. 1st Class Gary Ogilvie
  • MEV - Medical Evacuation Vehicle An ambulance built into a Stryker body; carries either four or six patients and three medics, along with medical equipment and an automatic litter-lifter
  • ATGM - Anti-tank Guided Missile Vehicle Has a two-tube missile launcher for TOW bunker busters and anti-tank missiles
  • NBCRV - NBC Reconnaissance Vehicle Contains detection systems for nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, equipment for analyzing field samples for dangerous content and meteorological equipment to monitor and predict weather patterns

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As you can see, the array of Strykers is designed to fulfill the needs of virtually every brigade in the Army.

In the next section, we'll examine the specific goals the Stryker project was instituted to address.

Mission: Vehicle for the New Army

To see what makes the Stryker so useful in the field, it is important to understand why it was developed. In the first half of the twentieth century, wars unfolded slowly and deliberately over vast areas of the globe. Transporting heavy equipment over long distances was a livable problem, because both sides were equally limited by how long it took them to move their armies. But in the current political and military climate, crises often erupt without warning and require a swift and powerful response.

A Stryker Mortar Carrier exits the tail of an Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft after landing at Bicycle Lake Army Airfield at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, CA.
Photo courtesy U.S. Army, by Sgt. 1st Class Gary Ogilvie

Today's conflicts are often too short in duration and small in scale for the older strategies of moving large convoys of equipment slowly along supply lines. Further, today's opponents are often small but determined independent forces rather than large national armies. This puts pressure on the Army's ability to respond to threats all over the world in a timely and powerful fashion. In response to speed-of-deployment problems he faced in the Kosovo conflict in 1999, General Eric Shinseki drafted the "Army Transformational Plan," which called for sweeping changes in the Army's organizational structure to adapt to the new challenges it faced.

General Shinseki's plan ordered the development of a new set of combat brigades to be known as an "interim force." Each of these brigades would be self-sufficient, as powerful as a tank battalion, and able to be deployed by air anywhere in the world within 96 hours. This is no easy task considering that current heavy brigades must be moved by ship and often require weeks to deploy. An interim-force brigade or platoon of brigades would be used in one of two ways:

  • as a first-responder, establishing and maintaining a presence until the heavier mechanized units arrived
  • as the main combat element

The Stryker project, a light vehicle designed to maximize speed, firepower, adaptability and interoperability, is the platform that was chosen to enable these new brigades to meet their objectives. If the interim-force brigades are as successful in the field as is hoped, Shinseki's plan then calls for the eventual transformation of the entire Army into an "objective force" where every brigade is capable of meeting similar goals of maximized firepower in a highly portable package.

Soldiers maintain security for a helicopter landing zone just outside the city of Mosul, Iraq.
Photo courtesy U.S. Army, by Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson

In order to meet that last requirement, an interim-force brigade's Stryker vehicle must be transportable on a C-130 aircraft, since that is the U.S. Air Force's most common cargo aircraft. The C-130 weight restrictions require a cargo load of no greater than 22 tons, so a Stryker vehicle itself can't weigh more than about 19 tons. Throughout the process of testing and modifying the Stryker for the unique characteristics of live combat missions, meeting this weight requirement has been one of the project's toughest challenges.

If the interim-force brigades and their Strykers meet with success on the battlefield, one day we may see the end of the distinction between light and heavy brigades, and a vast sea of Strykers will head into battle.

For more information on the Stryker project and other military vehicles, check out the links below.

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