On Monday, the Pentagon issued a press release noting that a Stryker brigade soldier had died in Al Qadisiyah, Iraq, on November 12 “when his Stryker military vehicle accidentally rolled over.” The accident is under investigation and the circumstances behind the rollover are not yet clear. We don't know how many Stryker rollovers have occurred in Iraq since those numbers are not released publicly. However, insiders say such rollovers are not uncommon and aren't limited to Strykers.
“Unfortunately, one of the best methods for avoiding IEDs (roadside bombs) is to drive like a bat out of hell and swerve a lot,” one insider told us. “This throws off the timing of the guys (insurgents) who are trying to either remotely or hard wire detonate an IED. Most of the time, their timing is too slow and the blast misses the vehicle.
“The down-side to this is there are a tremendous number of vehicle accidents associated with hyped-up young soldiers doing this day after day with Strykers, trucks and especially HMMWVs. All it takes is one mistake, and if you look at the number of nonhostile vehicle deaths due to accidents (again mostly in HMMWVs) you can see this unfortunate fact.”
This may be true, but the Strykers appear to be a special case in at least one way. Because rocket-propelled grenades are a major threat, the Strykers in Iraq were outfitted with an add-on, 5,000-pound “slat” armor. This bird-cage armor increases the vehicle's profile, and changes the vehicle's handling characteristics.
A December 2004 study of the Stryker brigade in Iraq by the Center for Army Lessons Learned noted the handling problem and recommended more training. At the time, the problem was that the Stryker drivers at Fort Lewis, Washington, were training on Strykers that didn't have the add-on armor. When they got to Iraq, driving the Strykers with slat-armor was like driving a whole different vehicle.
A story in today's Aerospace Daily & Defense Report quoted a general saying that earlier rollover problems with the Stryker had been solved with more soldier training. However, even the extra training is a band-aid solution. The real fix will come when the manufacturer delivers vehicles with effective armor that doesn't require the add-on cages.