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13 Aug 04. U.S. Air Force C-130 transport planes can carry the U.S. Army’s new Stryker armored vehicles only short distances due to their massive weight, congressional investigators said on Friday.

The investigators recommended the Pentagon clarify how it planned to use C-130s to transport the Stryker within a theater of operations; the effect of limited range on missions; and potential alternatives for moving Stryker brigades.

The Army’s first new combat vehicles in 20 years, Strykers can carry up to 11 soldiers and are part of an effort to make the Army faster and more agile in battle.

But the Government Accountability Office report said moving the hefty Stryker by the C-130 turboprop — the workhorse of short-haul transportation for the military — would be tough.

“In addition, if fitted with additional armor for increased protection against weapons such as rocket-propelled grenades, a Stryker would be unable to fit inside a C-130, and with added weight of the armor, the aircraft would be too heavy to take off,” the GAO report said.

The Stryker, which weighs an average 38,000 pounds (17,100 kg), and is already deployed in Iraq, could be flown only about 860 miles (1384 km) by the C-130 under nearly ideal flight conditions, the GAO report said.

“Adding just 2,000 pounds (900 kg) onboard the aircraft for associated cargo such as mission equipment or ammunition reduces the C-130 aircraft’s takeoff-to-landing range to only 500 miles (805 km),” said the GAO.Limits on transporting associated equipment also curbs the ability of Strykers to engage in combat operations immediately upon arrival, the report added.

About a year ago the GAO said it could take much longer than hoped and vast airlift resources to deploy the new Stryker brigades of troops into action around the globe, mostly using bigger C-17 and C-5 transport planes with jet engines.

The cost of the Stryker vehicles has jumped from $3.34 million a piece to $4.13 million between November 2000 and December 2003 while the overall program costs have jumped to about $8.7 billion from $7.1 billion in that period, the latest GAO report said. General Dynamics Corp. (NYSE:GD – News) began delivering the first Stryker vehicles to the Army in February 2002, 14 months after it first awarded the contract to the company.

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