Thursday, October 02, 2003

Dodgy US vehicles off to Iraq

Seattle Times report

Hopes of the much-talked of "revolution in military affairs" that Donald Rumsfeld likes so much rest in part on the volley of new weapons projects that his team are spending reams of money on. One that's about to be tested is the Stryker family of wheeled armoured vehicles, and the new army brigades based on them. The first brigade is going to Iraq at the moment. And many people are fearing the worst. The vehicles are meant to be almost as easily deployed as airborne or light infantry, but with much better mobility on the ground and fighting power. It all goes back originally to General Eric Shinseki, the army chief of staff, who had this brainwave in 1999 after the fiasco of US army movement to Kosovo. A specification was drawn up for a family of eight wheeled vehicles capable of being deployed by C130 aircraft for 1000 miles, carrying 11 soldiers each as a personnel carrier or a variety of specialist tasks and capable of withstanding gunfire up to 14.5mm calibre and rocket propelled grenades. So as not to need tank support, one variant would carry a 105mm gun turret. All would be equipped with very advanced electronic gubbins.

And here they are...but the armour to keep RPGs out isn't ready, and the ones going to Iraq are being wrapped in an improvised wire mesh screen as a sort of once-only protection. And they are so heavy that they can't be transported in C130s with their fuel and ammunition - the big-gun one can't be at all. They tend to get stuck off the road, and they are awkward on it, being the size of a bus. The big gun version can't be fired near friendly soldiers because the muzzle flash is so vicious they might be killed. And when they took the muzzle brake off to cure that, the recoil wrecked the vehicles. In fact, you might as well look at the Congressional report into the whole sorry mess - it's in the Download section.

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