Magazine article National Defense

Brigades Not Likely to Deploy in 96 Hours: Army Works to Lighten Stryker's Load, So It Can Fly Longer Distances on C-130

Magazine article National Defense

Brigades Not Likely to Deploy in 96 Hours: Army Works to Lighten Stryker's Load, So It Can Fly Longer Distances on C-130

Article excerpt

The Army's new brigade combat teams are not likely-to be deployable within 96 hours, but they will nevertheless be much more mobile and faster to respond than any comparable unit today, officials said. The 96-hour timeline was the goal set nearly two years ago by the Army chief of staff.

Maj. Gen. Joseph L. Yakovac Jr., the Army's program executive officer for ground combat systems, said that efforts to reduce the weight of the BCTs are a must, but also stressed that the 96-hour deployment is "only a goal and not a requirement."

These brigades will be "significantly faster than the comparative brigades," he told National Defense during a combat vehicles conference in Fort Knox, Ky., sponsored by the National Defense Industrial Association.

He explained that the follow-on force to the BCT, which will have a new vehicle called the Future Combat System, will be required to deploy in four days.

The brigade's workhorse will be the Stryker, an eight-wheel light armored vehicle that is also known as the LAV III. Each of six planned brigades will have approximately 300 Strykers. The first vehicles are to be delivered this month at Fort Lewis, Wash. A brigade of 309 vehicles will be operational in spring 2003 and a second one by 2004. By 2007, the Army plans to equip brigades in Alaska, Fort Polk, La., Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard.

Last year, the Army estimated that deploying a BCT will require 217 trips by C-17 heavy-lift planes--half the airlift needed to move a heavy brigade. But the Army wants the vehicles to fit on smaller C-130 Hercules, because the Air Force has hundreds of those, compared to only a few dozen C-17s.

The Army awarded a $4 billion contract in November 2000 to a consortium of General Motors Defense, of Canada, and General Dynamics Land Systems, of Sterling Heights, Mich., for the development and production of up to 2,131 LAV IIIs.

Responding to criticism that the Stryker may be too heavy for the C-130, Yakovac cautioned that there is more than one definition of C-130 transportability and that it's important to understand the role that these brigades will play in combat. "When you get down to the weight issue, you've got to remember we have said this BCT is not a force entry unit." During a news conference last year, he made a similar point: "We don't anticipate C-130s going into a hot drop zone to get these vehicles off, and so what you have is a vehicle that's capable of coming off, doing minimal reconfiguration and being totally combat-ready."

The weight of the vehicle by itself is within the payload limitations of the Hercules. A personnel carrier variant of the Canadian LAV III weighs approximately 35,860 pounds. The maximum allowable payload on a C-130 ranges between 44,000 and 45,000 pounds.

The problem is that the Army has an additional 5,750 pounds of equipment that comes with each vehicle, Yakovac said. The Army's goal is for the vehicle and the equipment--including ammunition and a half a tank of fuel for the Stryker--to weigh 38,000 pounds altogether. The vehicle alone weighs 34,500 pounds. It's slightly lighter than the Canadian version, because it does not have the turret.

If the Army meets the 38,000-pound limit, it would be able to fly the vehicles up to 1,000 nautical miles without an Air Force waiver for exceeding the maximum aircraft weight allowed on a fixed runway. Yakovac pointed out that if the flying distance were reduced to 500 nautical miles, the payload could go up to 42,000 pounds. …

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