The Stryker vehicle is the ideal combination of armor, lethality and “historically high” mission availability rates. Stryker Brigade Combat Teams (SBCT) have demonstrated the value of a force that can rapidly move as a cohesive combined arms team. Stryker is extremely mobile on the ground and is C-130 air transportable. This system provides the Army with the ability to project combat power anywhere on earth within 96 hours.
The Stryker MGS (Mobile Gun System) variant is a direct-fire infantry assault platform with a 105mm cannon. It is mounted in a low-profile, fully stabilized, “shoot on the move” turret integrated into the Stryker chassis. MGS carries 18 rounds of standard 105mm main gun ammunition; 400+ rounds of 0.50 caliber ammunition, and 3,400+ rounds of 7.62mm ammunition. The bunker and wall-breaching capabilities allow it to neutralize enemy vehicles, equipment and hardened positions.
When I learned that I would be returning to my unit and be on a Stryker versus an Abrams, I was a bit heartbroken. My first thought was, “This thing is not a tank!” This was completely true, and in fact one of the first lessons I give my new Soldiers is that the MGS is not a tank. Its primary role is to provide direct firepower support for ground Infantry troops. However, despite my initial disappointment, I quickly fell in love with the platform. Here’s 5 Things That I Love About the Stryker MGS:
1. Less Maintenance: Anyone out there who has been on a tank or in an HBCT (Heavy Brigade Combat Team) knows that the M1-Abrams requires about 80% of your time maintaining it. This may or may not appeal to you, but not me. The Stryker MGS requires about half as much servicing than the Abrams and rightly so. For one, the system is not nearly as sophisticated as the Abrams platform. As I stated before, it is not a tank, but rather a 105-mm gun and turret system mounted on a standard Stryker chassis. The Stryker was made for the Infantry, primarily, and let’s face it…maintenance is something foreign to our “crunchies” out there…thus, the Stryker MGS is much easier to maintain.
2. Almost Seamless Transition: The folks at GDLS (General Dynamics Land Systems), the developers of the Stryker have done a great job bringing everything familiar about the FCS (Fire Control System) and gunner’s controls and optical system into the MGS from the Abrams. Now, I am not saying that it is 100% the same, it is not. But, any Abrams gunner or TC (Tank Commander) can get on an MGS and be able to operate the system quite easily. To me, as a PL this is a great thing as I can receive a new Soldier, as I did, from an HBCT and he is able to transition easily onto the new platform. The referenced Soldier is actually quite exceptional and is my gunner.
3. Smaller Crew: In a traditional tank crew, there are 4 crew members: a TC, a gunner, a loader and a driver. Now, this may be hard to understand if you were never on a tank crew, but those 4 men eat, live, sh*t and pretty much do everything in that small space together. With 4 men, things get quite busy and teamwork is essential to the tank operating proficiently. On the MGS, the crew is only 3. A VC (Vehicle Commander), a gunner and a driver. The “loader” is replaced with an automated auto loading system. To me, I prefer this. It allows me, as a VC to have a more intimate relationship with my gunner and reduces confusion. I am sure that the gunners also appreciate the ammunition carousel between him and the VC instead of having them sitting over their shoulder slapping them in the head! (My tankers out there know exactly what I am talking about!)
4. Not a Tank, Still Not Walking: As stated before, the MGS is not a tank, but rather a Stryker with lethal direct fire capabilities geared towards supporting our Infantry brothers. To me, this is awesome. Before, a tank platoon supported itself internally via the wingman concept and the battle was focused on tank on tank warfare. Tanks worked in conjunction with the Cavalry in their Bradley IFVs and that was pretty much it. Now, the task organization can be anything. My 3 MGS vehicles in my platoon could remain organic and operate as a platoon in support of the Infantry mission, be broken up and divided amongst the Infantry platoons or anyway the Commander sees fit for the mission. Talk to any tanker who deployed well after the initial push to Iraq. They will tell you right after they got off their tanks and started walking alongside the grunts. The MGS allows technically proficient 19K Soldiers to remain in their vehicles, continue to go out on missions doing what they were trained to do and bring the big gun outside the wire to support their Infantry brothers.
5. FIREPOWER! It may not be a tank, but I still get to wake up in the morning, strap on my tanker boots and fire the “big bullets” down range. That is WHY I became a tanker… There is nothing in world like being inside a turret smelling the fumes from an expended round, feeling the shock of the percussion and recoil of the main gun through your body, the sh*t talking amongst your crew and other vehicles and the way it makes me feel, even to this day after firing countless rounds down range. The only way to truly describe it is to actually do it! You can’t describe it in words. There is nothing like it in the Army. Tell me where else you can fire a 105-mm shotgun shell at enemy troops or a round that penetrate a 1 foot thick reinforced concrete wall like it was butter! Damn, just writing this paragraph has me a bit aroused…
FINAL THOUGHTS: The Stryker MGS is a wonderful platform and being a part of a SBCT is probably the best job in today’s Army. We are still tankers, maintaining our pride and tradition, but immersed with our Infantry brothers that we support. While my crew may be smaller, I am a part of an even larger team now and I couldn’t think of any better mission to support than that of the ground Infantry by squeezing triggers on the MGS!