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by Kris Osborn, President, Center for Military Modernization

(Washington D.C.) Delivering armed soldiers into hostile enemy fire with added battlefield awareness, conducting silent reconnaissance without generating an acoustic or thermal signature, or firing air burst rounds from a 30mm cannon with long-range precision targeting are all expanded missions envisioned for the emerging StrykerX infantry carrier.  

StrykerX

The maker of the Army’s well-known Stryker vehicle has unveiled a new, high-tech StrykerX demonstrator vehicle engineered with a series of cutting edge new innovations designed to launch attack drones, fire lasers, conduct EW operations and achieve paradigm-changing amounts of long-term “silent watch” capability with a hybrid-electric engine.

“It's our attempt to put new technology onto the fleet. You know the Strykers are out there in great numbers. We're producing the DVH (Stryker Double V-Hull) model today so this would be something new to the Army. If they could choose to go for it, as it's a hybrid electric engine. Unlike the tank, the vehicle is driven purely by electrical power, the diesel engine is only there to generate electricity into the motor, which then drives all the axles. You get a fair amount of silent move capability, not just a few minutes, but a good period of time,” Tim Reece, Director, US Business Development, General Dynamics Land Systems, told Warrior in an interview.

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Given the number of variants of the Stryker vehicle, such as a reconnaissance vehicle, infantry carrier and medical evacuation platform, an ability to implement “silent watch” capability would introduce a wide range of significant tactical advantages.
“There is more than a day’s worth of silent watch capability out of the battery pack without having to turn on your engine. You also get to reconfigure the crew a little bit, instead of having a driver forward in what all the soldiers referred to as the hellhole. The driver and the commander now sit side by side in a cockpit arrangement more like a helicopter or a jet aircraft, sharing a series of screens in front of them so they can function together better,” Keith Barclay, Director of Strategy & Growth, General Dynamics Land Systems, told Warrior in an interview.

The StrykerX also includes more room in the back for an infantry squad and an ability to connect the crew with all sensors. 

“Soldiers have that see-through armor effect that you read about all the time, and much better situational awareness as they're bouncing around in the back of that vehicle heading towards their objective,” Barclay said.

Most of all, the StrykerX uses advanced on-board AI-enabled computing, common IP protocol and open technical standards to support continued, long-term innovation as the vehicle moves into the future. Such a modular, open-systems approach will enable the vehicle to add new sensors, weapons, command and control equipment and computing. 

“As soon as we pick a battery or battery provider, you know, eight months, 10 months, a year later, there's a new generation of battery with greater density or greater transit throughput, power,” Reece said.

StrykerLeo

The StrykerX vehicle will also greatly expand upon, improve and upgrade several of the vehicle’s most cutting-edge technologies such as its laser weapons, Short-Range-Air-Defense Stinger and Hellfire missiles, 30mm cannon and ability to launch highly lethal “hunter-killer” surveillance and attack drones.

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GDLS has extensive experience launching attack drones from the Stryker and is now arming the StrykerX with two back-end launchers to fire Switchblade 300 mini-drone explosives. 

Previously, GDLS tested an integrated sensor-shooter drone system mounted on the vehicle itself. A small, vertical take-off surveillance drone, called the Shrike 2, launches from the turret of the vehicle to sense, find and track enemy targets. Then, using a standard video data link, it can work in tandem with an attack missile to destroy the targets it finds. The technology is intended to expedite the sensor-to-shooter loop and function as its own “hunter-killer” system. Firing a 5kw laser, a Stryker vehicle destroyed an enemy drone target in prior testing, raising confidence that combat vehicle-fired laser weapons could become operational in coming years. These Hunter-Killer drones will now be fortified with Switchblade 300 explosive mini-attack drones on the StrykerX. 

The StrykerX demonstrator is also armed with an upgradable 30mm cannon, which can use a proximity fuse and fire high-explosive rounds, armor piercing rounds and air burst rounds. Also, while the .50-Cal is often used as a suppressive fire "area" weapon designed to restrict enemy freedom of movement and allow troops to maneuver, the 30mm gun brings a level of precision fire to the Stryker Infantry Carrier that does not currently exist. 

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Dismounted infantry units are often among the first-entering “tip-of-the-spear” combat forces which at times travel to areas less-reachable by heavy armored platforms such as an Abrams tank or Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Certain terrain, bridges or enemy force postures can also make it difficult for heavier armored vehicles to maneuver on attack. Common interfaces and interoperable technical standards may also allow Stryker developers to add new or upgraded weapons configurations to the platform, such as new or improved anti-air missiles currently used in the Short-Range-Air-Defense program. SHORAD, as it's called, currently fires Stinger and Hellfire missiles against mid-to-lower tier air threats from the Stryker vehicle, introducing an ability to track and destroy enemy drones, helicopters and even some low-flying fixed-wing planes. 

Building upon what’s called SHORAD Increment 1, which arms the Strykers with a range of anti-air explosive weapons, the Army is fast-progressing with Increment 2 of its M-SHORAD program, an ongoing initiative to arm Strykers with 50kw laser weapons. This not only introduces new prospects for precision attack upon enemy drones, but also introduces an ability to attack and defend at the speed of light. Lasers, if properly and fully integrated with the requisite mobile electrical power, are inherently scalable, meaning they can be adjusted to fully incinerate and destroy enemy targets or merely disable functionality. The Army has been working with several vendors to refine and strengthen its Stryker-fired laser and expects to have it operational within just the next few years.

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GDLS weapons developers say the Stryker lasers use Ku-band tracking radar to autonomously acquire targets in the event that other sensors on the vehicle are disabled in combat. With additional computing power, on-board, mobile electrical power and improved command and control systems, the StrykerX will likely be in a position to add much more powerful lasers to the platform as technology matures. Lasers can also enable silent defense and attack, something which provides a substantial tactical advantage as it can afford Stryker vehicles the opportunity to conduct combat missions without giving away their position. StrykerX developers will also add an electronic warfare jamming system intended to take out the signal of enemy drones.

Kris Osborn is the President of Warrior Maven - Center for Military Modernization and 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.

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