The Army building up its fleet of up-gunned, missile-armed Stryker vehicles for Europe and other high-risk global threat areas. The combat platform has been upgraded in a massive and powerful way with air-defense weapons, new drone attack technologies and a stronger 30mm cannon able to fire air burst rounds and other types of ammunition.
The Stryker is also being armed with laser weapons and small, vehicle-launched, recoverable drones to increase surveillance, targeting, survivability and lethality. There are multiple variables related to this series of Stryker vehicle enhancements, a move strongly reinforced by the 2021 Defense budget which nearly doubles the amount of funding allocated for the vehicles. The Army spent more than $600 million on Strykers in 2019, and then jumped the number above $1.1 billion for 2020 and 2021.
Army weapons developers describe the Stryker overhaul as a “mash up,” or integrated effort to add new guns, lasers, sensors and anti-aircraft missiles. A large part of the effort is being driven by a conceptual and tactical recognition that the Cold War emphasis on “counter-air” or short-range-air-defense had “atrophied” during more than a decade of counterinsurgency. Accordingly, the Army launched a Short Range Air Defense (SHORAD) program to arm the Stryker with counter drone, helicopter and even some fixed-wing enemy platforms, adding Hellfire Missiles, Stingers and even Javelin anti-tank missiles to its line up of firepower.
As part of this Stryker lethality upgrade, the Army and General Dynamics Land Systems have added a much more powerful 30mm cannon to the vehicle, a move which greatly expands the attack envelope for the vehicle by not only adding firepower but also including newer kinds of ammunition such as air burst rounds and proximity fuses. The new 30mm cannon can fire twice as far as a .50-cal machine gun, General Dynamics Land Systems developers told The National Interest.
The Stryker’s fire control system, which includes a Remote Weapons Station, targeting screen and manual controls, can receive radar-camera fused information before tracking and “locking on” to the target. The target tracking, lock-on and fire functions are managed by a control stick and soft switches on the screen, allowing the gunner to slew the weapon onto the target. The tactical aim with much of this is to further fortify Infantry Brigade Combat Teams with supportive fires for maneuver operations, especially across bridges or through high-threat areas facing enemy fire.
Another large part of this SHORAD concept is simple counter drone weaponry, given the fast-changing reality that Russian and Chinese helicopters and drones are increasingly armed with rockets, missiles and of course small arms fire. SHORAD adds something to infantry warfare which simply has not been there in recent years. While a much-upgraded PATRIOT missile can now take out maneuvering cruise missiles and multiple attacking weapons at one time, it might be less impactful when it comes to counter closer-in enemy drone threats or even some kinds of incoming artillery, rockets, mortars or missiles. In this respect, it by no means seems to be beyond the scope of possibility for up-gunned Strykers to fire munitions such as Hellfire or Stinger as defensive interceptors.
Of course, deployment specifics are naturally closely held for security reasons, the Army and the Pentagon have been clear that many of the up-gunned Strykers continue to be bound for Europe as a way to add additional deployability, expeditionary capability and deterrence against Russian expansionism.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.