Stryker Gets New Systems: American Tanks Get Weapons Upgrade

America’s fleet of Stryker fighting vehicles are set for an upgrade.

Armed forces around the world are watching with alarm as Russia wages war against Ukraine. Since the invasion started in February, many countries in the West are doing more than watching.

Many are arming Ukraine with the latest in weapons and hardware needed for it to prevail against their invading neighbour.

 The U.S., in particular, has sent billions in weapons and financial aid to Ukraine. As nations wait to see how the war plays out in the coming months, America continues stepping up to ensure Ukraine has what it needs to win the war.

Kyiv City State Administration building.
The devastation in Ukraine has made militaries around the world nervous. Image by CC BY 4.0

At the same time, America is also growing and enhancing its own military inventory. Congress last year approved almost a billion dollar in upgrades to the Army’s Stryker combat vehicles. In 2016, some Stryker vehicles were updated with 30 mm cannons. Soon, as many as six brigades will have them. Each brigade has 96 vehicles, costing $942 million (USD).

Strykers were already formidable foes on the battlefield. Each one is equipped with a grenade launcher and one of two types of machine gun.

Stryker Dragoon

Soon, all will have a 30 mm cannon in their arsenal. Henceforth, once the updates are done, the M1126 Stryker combat vehicle will be called a Dragoon.

Although Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine seems, on its face, unrelated to the U.S. Army’s move, they are in fact linked.

As explained by a high ranking official, while the U.S. was preoccupied with moves in Afghanistan and then Iraq, Russia began updating its military equipment. That led America to “identify a capability gap,” as the official said, that had to be addressed. The Stryker shortcoming, he acknowledged, put U.S. forces in peril, which became increasingly apparent after Russia first invaded Ukraine in 2014. The updates, he said pointedly, were “intended to get Russia’s attention,” which no doubt they did.

A Stryker Dragoon in Poland.
A 30 mm-armed Stryker Dragoon on a gunnery range in Poland.

The Dragoon will, in addition to having the new cannon, be faster and more agile. American military leaders acknowledged that the Stryker combat vehicle, as it was before the update, put the country’s forces “in a position of unacceptable risk,” one official said.

The vehicles are manufactured for the U.S. army by General Dynamics Lands Systems (GDLS) in Canada and in Michigan. It is one of a family of eight-wheel combat vehicles made by the defense manufacturer. This particular update has been contracted out to Oshkosh Defense.

When Russia invaded on February 24th, Western nations did not immediately send what is called in military parlance “lethal aid,” meaning weapons. But many quickly realized that, for Ukraine to repel and even defeat Russia, that is what the West had to do.

Stryker roof-weapon system.
Strykers are typically fitted with a machine gun on the roof.

Now, as the war enters its third month, everything from helicopters to tanks are rolling into the beleaguered nation. The Czech Republic was the first of the NATO countries to send tanks to Ukraine, despite Russia’s threats that it would cut off oil and gas supplies to Western nations that continue to help. Nonetheless, even once neutral Sweden has begun shipping weapons and ammunition to Ukraine. At the time of this writing, Germany was debating whether to send a supply of Leopard tanks to help Ukrainian efforts.

So far, the United States has not mentioned whether the new Stryker combat vehicles will eventually be sent to Ukraine. But the war is apparently not ending anytime soon. And so perhaps, a year from now, Russian forces will face off with the new Dragoon vehicles on the battlefield.

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Clearly, this is not going to be a quick war. If Russia hoped it would easily invade, occupy and overthrow the government in Kiev, it badly miscalculated.