Weighing only 19 tons, it is capable of traveling at 62 mph. Indeed, the eight-wheeled combat vehicle moves so quickly and quietly that Iraqis have referred to soldiers at their helm as “Ghost Riders.” Critics initially worried that the Stryker was too lightly armored, leaving it open to damage from rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs). Its makers responded by offering armor that can be added on to the vehicle to better protect against RPGs. The vehicles are designed to withstand the force of 14.5 mm armor piercing rounds, 50-caliber bullets and 152 mm airburst shells, while a reinforced undercarriage helps protect against the impact of mine explosions.
The eight-wheeled Stryker entered Army service in 2002. Designed to enable combat teams to maneuver more easily in tight, urban areas, it was the first major combat system purchased by the Army since the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle in the 1980s.
It was then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki who pressed for the development of the Stryker vehicle, and the first brigades were deployed to Iraq in October 2003. The vehicle was named after two Medal of Honor winners who were killed in action: Pfc. Stuart S. Stryker, a fighter in World War II, and Spc. Robert F. Stryker, a soldier during the Vietnam War. The two men were not related.
Made by a joint venture that includes General Motors Corp.’s Electro-Motive Division, now Electro-Motive Diesel Inc., and General Dynamics Land Systems, the Stryker vehicles looks like a cross between a Humvee and a tank. It can carry about 10 men, while a canon atop the vehicle can be fired remotely. The tires can be inflated or deflated from inside the vehicle to gain traction on surfaces of varying smoothness.
The Stryker has 10 vehicle configurations: infantry carrier; reconnaissance; anti-tank guided missile transport; fire support; engineer squad; mortar carrier; commander transport; medical evacuation; mobile gun system; and nuclear, biological and chemical reconnaissance.