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04 Apr 03. Eight variants of the Army’s Stryker interim armored vehicle were transported this week aboard C-130 Hercules aircraft from the Southern California Logistics Airport near Victorville, Calif., to Bicycle Lake Army Airfield, a dirt landing strip at the National Training Center.

The early-entry mission April 1 and 2 marked the beginning of “Arrowhead Lightning,” a series of operational evaluation exercises being conducted now at the NTC and next month at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., for the Army’s first Stryker Brigade Combat Team: 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.

The Army and Air Force previously demonstrated the ability of a Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle, or ICV, to fly aboard a C-130 in an exercise last year at NTC. This week, though, was the first time the other seven Stryker variants have been transported in a tactical operation aboard C-130s, officials said.

“We’re making history bringing all eight Stryker variants that we own in the brigade off C-130(s) and landing on this airstrip and rolling off directly into the fight at the National Training Center,” said Col. Mike Rounds, commander, 3rd Bde, 2nd Inf. Div., from Fort Lewis, Wash.

Six Air Force National Guard C-130 aircraft from Nevada, California, and Mississippi teamed up to move the Strykers. The pilots and crews flew 16 sorties on April 1 from SCLA to Bicycle Lake, and 21 sorties April 2. A Stryker Brigade infantry company, plus several additional Stryker vehicles were transported during the two-day mission.

Altogether, the Air Force transported 30 fully loaded Stryker vehicles with crew. The eight Stryker variants transported were the ICV; the Commander’s Vehicle; Fire Support Vehicle (FSV); Mortar Carrier (MC); Engineer Squad Vehicle (ESV); Medical Evacuation Vehicle (MEV); Reconnaissance Vehicle (RV); and the Anti-Tank Guided Missile vehicle (ATGM).

Both the E and J models of the C-130 were used to transport the Strykers. In addition to C-130 aircraft, officials said soldiers can load up to three Strykers aboard an Air Force C-17, and four in a C-5.

The Operational Evaluation at NTC and JRTC encompasses a series of exercises and evaluations designed to assess the readiness of the brigade, officials said, and the operational effectiveness and suitability of the SBCT organizational design.

The SBCT is designed to provide combatant commanders increased operational and tactical flexibility, officials said. The Stryker, an eight-wheeled medium-weight armored vehicle, is the SBCT’s primary combat and combat-support platform. Lighter and more transportable than existing tanks and armored vehicles, the Stryker fulfills a requirement of the Army’s Transformation program to equip a brigade capable of rapid deployment worldwide.

Upon completion of the operational evaluation, officials said the Army will prepare an evaluation report, as required by the 2002 National Defense Authorization Act for procurement of SBCTs. The secretary of defense must then certify to Congress that the results of the evaluation indicate the design of the SBCT is operationally effective and suitable before it can be deployed on operational missions.

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