CALL criticizes Stryker

The Center for Army Lessons Learned says soldiers need better training to use the Stryker vehicle's digital systems, and calls for a faster chip for FBCB2.

The Army should provide more training for soldiers using digital technology in the Stryker infantry carrier, and improve speed and interoperability for certain systems, analysts say in a new report.

"Most S6 personnel received no specific training on the digital systems used by the brigade, yet the officers and soldiers performed admirably despite this deficiency," said analysts at the Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL) in a recently released 102-page report about Stryker Brigade Combat Team of 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry.

Two of the six chapters in the CALL report focus on the performance of Stryker’s command and control and digital systems. Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division, the Army’s first Stryker Brigade Combat Team located at Fort Lewis, Wash., deployed to Iraq in late 2003. The 20-ton, eight-wheel vehicle; the computer systems in it; and the soldiers operating them represent the Army’s first attempt at transforming to a knowledge-based, rapid-deployable force -- a 10-year, $30 billion effort.

Analysts recommended that Army officials increase the speed and performance of Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below (FBCB2) system, which includes computer terminals that soldiers can use in vehicles to access warfighting information and communicate with instant messaging. "The computer processor speed in FBCB2 is too slow, especially when large units are moving at high speeds simultaneously, which causes the FBCB2 to often lock up," analysts wrote.

The report's authors also found that the Army Battle Command System (ABCS) -- a network of 11 applications that provides warfighting data including intelligence, weather and artillery stocks -- could not talk to the Maneuver Control System (MCS), which is supposed to integrate ABCS with an overall system that gives commanders a common operational picture of the battlefield.

"ABCS components were not interoperable with MCS because of software shortfalls, mission environment and communications links," the report states.

CALL analysts also learned that the digital systems in Stryker often overheated in the desert. “Air conditioners should be added to the Stryker vehicles to prevent electronic overheating problems,” they wrote.

Service officials plan to implement Version 6.4 of ABCS soon to serve as the new software baseline for the Stryker brigades, the 4th Infantry Division and all service units in upcoming years, an Army spokesman said. The new upgrade, scheduled for operational testing next month at Fort Hood, Texas, addresses the interoperability issues mentioned in the CALL report by changing software and architecture and using an automated information server, said Tim Rider, public affairs officer at Communications-Electronics Life Cycle Management Command, which oversees development, integration and maintenance of the Army's warfighting information technology.

A Stryker critic said the report justifies his years of skepticism on the vehicle and digital systems.

"Why are we spending billions on 'Mother, may I?' electronics to allegedly avoid the enemy that only overheat in overweight, wheeled Stryker trucks that cannot leave roads to stop being so easily blown up by the enemy?" asked Mike Sparks, a former Marine Corps officer and now a reservist who oversees Web logs and discussion groups on Stryker.

CALL analysts reported that the slat armor added to the vehicle to protect it against rocket-propelled grenades increased the Stryker’s circumference and weight, changing its performance. They said the armor protected against some but not all rocket grenades.

Pete Keating, spokesman for General Dynamics Land Systems business unit, which manufactures the Stryker vehicles, said they can travel off-road and not get blown up by the enemy. He said hundreds of soldiers served safely in the vehicle and testified on Capitol Hill to Stryker’s performance.

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