The U.S. Army is quadrupling the number of Stryker combat vehicles equipped with the new 30-millimeter autocannon. The upgrade will allow Strykers to better fight against similar vehicles used by potential adversaries. It is part of an Army-wide effort to increase firepower as the service swings away from guerrilla wars back to the prospect of big-power conflict.
The Stryker is an eight-wheeled armored vehicle designed to carry an infantry squad across roads and cross-country to the battlefield. As originally conceived, the Stryker would have light armor and just a .50 caliber machine gun or 40-millimeter automatic grenade launcher. The emphasis was on a fast, lightly armored vehicle that could quickly deploy to distant theaters. The Stryker can travel up to speeds of up to 60 miles an hour on roads and up to 330 miles on a tank of gas.
Now, as the U.S. Army contemplates potential ground combat against the mechanized armies of Russia, China, and North Korea the emphasis is shifting away from mobility and towards firepower. Strykers may be called upon to engage vehicles such as the Russian , Chinese , and North Korean , and the heavy machine guns and grenade launchers Strykers used to carry are too light to effectively engage Stryker’s peers. There are currently seven Stryker brigade combat teams, and each brigade has about 4,500 soldiers and more than 360 Strykers.
In 2016 the U.S. Army decided the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, a Stryker brigade combat team and the only U.S. Army mechanized unit permanently stationed in Europe, needed extra firepower. In the event of a crisis the 2nd Cavalry would ride to NATO’s eastern border, helping to protect countries such as Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
In order to improve the 2nd Cavalry’s odds in battle, the Army decided to arm half of the brigade’s Strykers with Javelin missiles and the other half with the new . The new turreted Stryker is known as Stryker Dragoon. Here’s a video of Stryker Dragoon at the live fire range.
The Protector turret, manufactured by Norwegian defense contractor Kongsberg, is armed with a and a . The autocannon carries 150 rounds of MK 238 High Explosive Incendiary—Tracer (HEI-T) for use against ground troops and unarmored targets and the and the MK 258 Armor Piercing Fin-Stabilized Discarding Sabot-Tracer (APFSDS-T) round for use against armored vehicles. It is completely unmanned, operated by the Stryker crew inside the hull of the vehicle. Protector is stabilized, allowing Stryker Dragoon to fire accurately while on the move, and is equipped with a thermal camera, day camera, and laser rangefinder.
Now, , the Army has decided to equip three more Stryker brigades with the Protector turret. The turret will arm Strykers in three of the brigades operating the “double v-hull” version of the vehicle, an improved version that offers greater protection against improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
The result will split the Army’s Stryker force into heavier and lighter brigades. Heavier brigades, equipped with Stryker Dragoons and Javelin missiles, would be more suited to taking on modern mechanized armies. Lighter brigades, armed with remote-controlled heavy machine guns, would still be available for contingencies where the additional, anti-vehicle firepower wasn’t needed.
Stryker Dragoon is an example of the Army quickly addressing an urgent need from the field, developing the new gun and turret and testing it over a period of about two and a half years. It’s also an example of the service taking existing weapon systems and modifying them to address a different set of threats, instead of buying a new weapon system altogether.
By all accounts the “new” weapon system is highly successful and a hit with crews.