Military Transformation:

Fielding of Army's Stryker Vehicles Is Well Under Way, but Expectations for Their Transportability by C-130 Aircraft Need to Be Clarified

GAO-04-925: Published: Aug 12, 2004. Publicly Released: Aug 12, 2004.

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In its transformation to a more responsive and mobile force, the Army plans to form 6 Stryker Brigade Combat teams equipped with a new family of armored vehicles known as Strykers. The Stryker--which provides transport for troops, weapons, and command and control--was required by the Army to weigh no more than 38,000 pounds and be transportable in theater by C-130 cargo aircraft arriving ready for immediate combat operations. The Army plans to equip its future force with a new generation of vehicles--Future Combat Systems--to also be transportable by C-130s. GAO was asked to assess (1) the current status of Stryker vehicle acquisition, including the most current Stryker vehicle program and operating cost estimates; (2) the status and results of Stryker vehicle tests; and (3) the ability of C-130 aircraft to transport Stryker vehicles within a theater of operations. This report also addresses the transportability of the Army's Future Combat Systems on C-130 aircraft.

The acquisition of the Stryker vehicles is about two-thirds complete; with about 1,200 of 8 production vehicle configurations ordered and 800 delivered to units. In addition, limited quantities of two developmental vehicles--the Mobile Gun System and the Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Reconnaissance vehicle prototypes--have also been ordered for testing. Stryker program costs have increased about 22 percent from the November 2000 estimate of $7.1 billion to the December 2003 estimate of $8.7 billion. Total program costs include acquisition costs--procurement, research, development, and test and evaluation--as well as military construction costs related to Strykers. The Army does not yet have reliable estimates of the Stryker's operating costs because of limited peacetime use to develop data. As of June 2004, testing of the eight production Strykers was mostly complete, with the vehicles meeting Army operational requirements with limitations. However, development and testing schedules of the two developmental Strykers have been delayed, resulting in an over 1-year delay in meeting the vehicles' production milestones and fielding dates. While the Army has demonstrated the required transportability of Strykers by C-130 aircraft in training exercises, in an operational environment, the Stryker's average weight of 38,000 pounds--along with other factors such as added equipment weight and less than ideal flight conditions--significantly limits the C-130's flight range and reduces the size force that could be deployed. These factors also limit the ability of Strykers to conduct combat operations immediately upon arrival as required. With the similar maximum weight envisioned for Future Combat System vehicles intended for the Army's future force, the planned C-130 transport of those vehicles would present similar challenges.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In the Mobility Capabilities Study (December 2005), DOD evaluated and clarified the C-130 tactical intra-theater deployment capabilities of the Stryker brigades in several probable operational missions and scenarios. The evaluation for each scenario included an assessment of the size of a combat-capable Stryker force using C-130 aircraft and other available inter- and intra-theater modes of transportation, and addressed related operational capability limitations. Furthermore, for each scenario and operational mission, DOD also evaluated options for alternative modes of transportation, to include identifying timelines for probable deployments.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should, in consultation with the Secretary of the Army and the Secretary of the Air Force, provide to Congress information that (1) clarifies the expected C-130 tactical intratheater deployment capabilities of Stryker brigades and Stryker vehicles and describes probable operational missions and scenarios using C-130 transport of Stryker vehicles that are achievable, including the size of a combat capable C-130 deployable Stryker force; (2) describes operational capability limitations of Stryker brigades given the limits of C-130 transport; and (3) identifies options for, and the feasibility of, alternative modes of transportation--such as C-17 aircraft-- for transporting Stryker brigades within an operational theater.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army commented on this recommendation, noting that C-130 transportability is one factor that they are considering during development of the Future Combat System. Furthermore, as part of the Mobility Capabilities Study that DOD provided to Congress in December 2005, DOD included an evaluation of intra- and inter-theater transport of various Army units within the context of several operational scenarios. These scenarios included the movement of brigade-sized teams using different modes of transportation - to include the C-130, sealift, and other tactical and strategic airlift capabilities.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should, in consultation with the Secretary of the Army and the Secretary of the Air Force, provide the Congress similar clarification concerning the operational requirements and expected C-130 tactical airlift capabilities of Future Combat System vehicles, considering the limits of C-130 aircraft transportability.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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