by: Robert Burik [ ]
Originally published on:
In the late 1990s the US Army Chief Of Staff promoted the idea of the Brigade Combat Team Doctrine. The Stryker was created to fill that role. It was never designed to fight it out with enemy armor in the tradition of the legacy forces. The concept was to create a vehicle that could be more easily transported by air to hot spots around the world, and to be more easily maintained. Instead of heavy forces being re-assigned Strykers, lighter forces, which normally used trucks and Humvees, were re-assigned Strykers. The contract was awarded to General Dynamics Land division in 2000, production began in 2001, and deliveries began in 2002. The Stryker saw its first combat in Iraq in late 2003 after first undergoing trials at the NTC in southern California and in Korea.
Seven different Stryker Brigades are in existence as of today. Six are regular Army and one is a National Guard unit. More Stryker brigades are likely in the future, both in the regular Army and in the National Guard. 3/2 Stryker Bde was the first to deploy with the vehicle, and a movie featuring one of their first significant fights is in the pre-production phase.
As this is a review of the AFV Club Stryker ICV, I will not go into the different variants, other than to note that there are a total of 10 variants, and at this time AFV Club has announced they will market the Mobile Gun System (MGS) variant as well, with an expectation the kit will make it to shelves in late 2007.
THE KITThe kit build starts with the hull. The Mexas ceramic tiles are nicely depicted and some are separate in the AFV Club kit, which makes for nice seams just like on the real vehicle. The bolts for the Mexas are nicely done and with pinwashing and highlighting these should look great. One of the first items I looked for were the footman loops that are attached to these bolts in many places all over the vehicle. These footman loops are used to tie down equipment with the ever present straps on the Stryker. Incredibly, I did find footman loops - I did not expect them attempted in plastic - but I only found them on the engine hatch. Actually, they are all over the vehicle, especially on the roof rear, and on the front sides of the hull. Hopefully the aftermarket folks will assist here. The main drawback of the hull is that the production strut guards are not depicted. After the initial operating testing and evaluation with 3/2 Stryker Bde the strut guards were changed from the narrow, solid design depicted in the kit, to a larger, perforated design. This would be best represented in PE and it appears Trumpeter has provided this in their Stryker Update set, but it is not known if any of their PE will fit on the AFV Club kit since it is designed for the Trumpeter kit which is quite different in many dimensions. The rear jerrycan racks are accurate, but would probably have benefited from being represented in PE instead of the out of scale plastic.
A slight disappointment is that the front four wheels can not be posed in any position other than straight ahead. It will take some planning and slicing to turn the wheels, which usually adds more subtle interest to the finished model. Otherwise, the wheels are extremely well done, and the tires even include the raised Michelin lettering and the raised lines on the face of the tire, and most impressively the ever so slight ribs seen on the real outer tire wall are evident. The tires are vinyl, and care will have to be taken to remove the small mold seam down the middle of the tireís tread pattern. Modelers may want to add the brake lines to the front four wheels that are covered in some type of cloth. Although hard to see when the wheels are pointed straight ahead, these would be more noticeable with the wheels turned. Eight step rings are provided and these are commendibly thin for plastic. Note that on newer vehicles since about late 2005/early 2006 the step ring was retained only for the wheel next to the driver's position. However, older vehicles, including 3/2 Bde currently in Iraq, still have all eight step rings.
The side hull consists of separate hatches, which gives the potential to show them open, but there is not any interior hull detail. The prominent side bustle racks are nicely done, and include the tie-down loops, which although molded solid, are quite impressive nonetheless in plastic. These tie-down loops are repeated on the roof and it is a nice touch that AFV Club depicted them since once the real vehicle is inspected closely these become very apparent as much of the gear is secured using them. The tie-down loops are also correctly depicted on the inside support bars of the bustle racks. Built-in rails are included in the AFV Club bustle racks. These are a newer feature on the Stryker and fold down in real life but are molded into the part on the kit. They will be difficult to remove if one wishes to depict a vehicle without them. This adds to the blend of new and old representations in the kit. The pioneer tools are well done, but note that in addition to the basic ways they are held on with large clasps, in real life they are also held on with straps. The photos of a real vehicle in the instruction sheet also show the straps.
Regarding the upper hull and roof, all personnel hatches and the engine hatch are separate, but again, there is no interior detail in the hull, so posing them open would create other issues. The light clusters are well done, and the GPS disc antennas are even present. Lenses are provided in clear plastic, so no need for MV lenses. The periscopes are clear plastic too. The air intakes get PE grilles. Note that only the very front part of the left grille is actually the exhaust. The rest of that grille is an air intake, and its proximity to the exhaust lowers the heat signature of the Stryker by allowing cool air to flow over the exhaust. The winch and fairlead are well done and a string is provided for the cable. Step 17 allows a choice of the Driver Vision Enhancer (DVE) position. For a pre-production vehicle choose the position in front of the driverís hatch. For production versions place the DVE to the right of the driverís hatch. Wiring of the real vehicleís lights and DVE are prominent, so the modeler may wish to consider adding these details. The small recess for the vehicle serial number is even represented, but no actual number is there. The driver's hatch even gets the environmental cover in vinyl, another nice touch. But, AFV Club did not represent the non-slip surface which is on most horizontal surfaces, and even the step rings of the wheels.
The RWS is very nice. The look and heft of the real RWS is captured well. The lenses are in clear plastic and both the day sight and thermal sight get PE rain/sun guards. A nice touch for these PE parts is that there are bending guides on the parts sprue to get the proper curve of these two parts. A choice of either the M2 .50 cal machine gun or the Mk 19 grenade launcher is provided but their barrels are not drilled out. On paper, most units have the platoon split between two trucks with M2s and two trucks with Mk 19s. The large ammunition box is well detailed and includes the circular lens holder for the thermal sight. PE chain is provided for both lens covers. The smoke dischargers are well represented and include the grenades themselves, but to depict the tubes empty the modeler will need to drill them out. Neither the front nor rear spent shell catch bags are provided. As well, there is no spent shell chute which sends the casings into the bags. The chute would be easy enough to make, but the bag(s) may take some sculpting and/or dexterity since they are made of tubing and canvas. As with the lights, the wiring for the RWS and smoke dischargers are fairly prominent on the real vehicle and many might want to add these details.
The decals are well printed. Units depicted include 1-23 Inf, 5-20 Inf, and 3-21 Inf, but 1-14 is a cavalry unit and I believe the decals for this particular vehicle could only be for an RV and therefore are not appropriate for an ICV. A choice is given for either stencilled on crew names over a sand rectangle, or a blank rectangle, which is very common. The instructions call out "Field Green" for the CARC paintand suggest several different hobby paint manufacturer's specific color. The correct color is CARC Green 383 (FS34094). Of course, lighting and weathering have an effect on color, not to mention the scale effect of lighting.
Extras provided include two M4 carbines. One has the grenade launcher attached and the other does not. One has a hand grip and scope. They are very finely molded. No rucksacks are provided or any other extra equipment. It would have been nice to get a tow rope since these are often seen hanging somewhere on the rear or side of the vehicle. No tow bar is provided either. These are mounted on the right front side of the hull. I do not think the Dragon or Legends tow bar for the Abrams would suffice since the Stryker tow bar is rated for lighter vehicles, and therefore is different.
conclusionsThe molding is crisp, and the busyness of all the detail of the real vehicle is well captured. Overall, there is a slight mixture of pre-production detail and production detail in regards to the strut guards and bustle racks. Thus, it would be very easy to make a great looking pre-production vehicle used during 3/2ís evaluation exercises by carefully removing the rails inside the bustle racks. If you wish to depict a vehicle after that time period, then some work will be needed on the strut guards.
A NOTE ON THE SLAT ARMOR PACKAGE AND OTHER STRYKER EQUIPMENT
All Strykers that have deployed to Iraq have had slat armor. At this time there is no slat armor available in kit form. It seems that it would be very difficult if not impossible for the mainstream kit makers to produce realistic slat armor. So, depiction of Strykers would be limited to home station vehicles or vehicles on maneuvers, at say, the NTC or JRTC at Ft Polk, etc, unless one were up to the challenge of scratchbuilding the slat package. At this time, there are rumors one or more aftermarket companies are interested in making a slat kit, but nothing is concrete so far.
Strykers began to show up in Iraq in late 2003. Initially, the slat package of 3/2 Stryker Bde did not include the diamond mesh extended exhaust cover or the extended lights. In late 2004 these began to show on Strykers with the arrival of 1/25 Stryker Bde. Crews from these brigades used sandbags as improvised protection for the exposed soldiers in the air guard hatches and the squad leaderís hatch. Kevlar blanket rolls were also used and even Kevlar plates from IBA vests. This provided nametape defilade protection for the troops. In about 2005 blast shields started to appear in-country to replace the sandbags since the sandbags were affecting automotive performance and were not as effective protection as the steel plates.
As well, anti-IED equipment has appeared on Strykers in various guises. Warlock was a short tube that is similar in appearance to PVC piping, and was usually mounted either in front or behind the squad leader hatch. Then the longer version, also known as Duke, started to appear. Both the Warlock and Duke also appear on home station trucks. One of the latest anti-IED pieces of equipment is Rhino, which is mounted on the front of the vehicle and is folded up when not in use. Thus far these have only been seen on in-country vehicles. Another recent in-country addition to the Stryker is the regular use of camouflage nets erected in a box shape around the rear portion of the roof, I believe to confuse would-be snipers as to where exposed crewmembers may be located as they patrol.
Photos of both in-country and home station vehicles show them with razor wire coils, pickets for the razor wire, picket-pounders, and the modern litter, which is made of a mesh material. Most vehicles use cargo netting to strap down gear on the roof, and as noted above a tow rope is often seen instead of being rolled up and stowed away. On the real vehicle Javelins or AT4s are stowed inside, but many times during patrols and expected action they are placed on the roof. So, there will be ample opportunity to raid the spare parts box and maybe even the aftermarket companies will provide some help.
As with any vehicle, upgrades occur over time, and the Stryker is no exception. Some upgrades are retrofits, and some are on new vehicles, and at the same time these upgrades may only be applied in-country or at home station before being deployed. In addition to what is noted above, the DVE lens has recently changed from a rectangular lens to a round lens, similar to the LAV. A large black air horn has started to appear on the left front side since late 2005. Currently, reactive armor is planned for the Stryker, but no photos have surfaced as of this writing. The point is do not be confused by photographs and donít make assumptions, and endeavor to find out what time period a particular photo may have been taken before making any conclusions. Researching and modeling a new and currently deployed vehicle like the Stryker can be a very interesting experience.