Friday, February 21, 2003

Strykers are likely
to sit out war in Iraq

By Gregg K. Kakesako

The Army's chief planner says it is highly unlikely that its state-of-the-art Stryker troop vehicle will be tested under combat conditions if the United States goes to war with Iraq.

Lt. Gen. Benjamin Griffin, Army deputy chief of staff, said yesterday during a visit to Hawaii that field tests of the 19-ton vehicle will not be completed until summer.

The eight-wheel combat vehicle is the centerpiece of the Army's latest combat concept, which envisions reshaping units like the 25th Infantry Division so 3,500 soldiers can be deployed to hot spots within 96 hours. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki proposed the change to make the Army more responsive to the military's needs.

Six Stryker brigade teams are planned with two belonging to the 25th Infantry Division. However, only one of those two Stryker teams will be stationed at Schofield Barracks, and last year its future seemed in doubt. The other will be at Fort Lewis in Washington, home to one of the 25th Division's three brigades.

Despite objections raised by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who suggested last year deleting two of the six Stryker units, Griffin said yesterday the one destined for Wahiawa is still on the books.

He said the Army is developing options to meet Rumsfeld's objections.

The Army is conducting an environmental impact study and envisions spending nearly $700 million on 32 projects here and at the Big Island's Pohakuloa Training Area to accommodate the 400 new combat vehicles by 2007. This year, the Bush administration requested nearly $20 million to purchase additional training lands at Kunia.

The Stryker combat vehicle -- named for two unrelated Medal of Honor recipients, Pfc. Stuart Stryker and Spec. Robert Stryker -- has a top speed of 60 mph and can hold a nine-man squad and two crew members. It can be outfitted in 10 different ways, with everything from a 105-mm cannon for a mobile gun system to a completely wired command center.

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