After writing several stories about the Stryker battle damage repair facility in Qatar, I drove one. A Stryker is a light-armored troop carrier that’s packaged in several variants. The type I drove was used for medical evacuations in Iraq. General Dynamics mechanics and welders in Qatar had recently repaired it.
I crawled over the cage-like slat armor, stepped onto the abrasive hull, and then dropped inside the driver’s hatch. The interior looked similar to a regular vehicle: a typical steering wheel, gas and brake pedals, and an automatic transmission lever. The big difference was on my left, a large grid of switches and buttons. Fortunately, I didn’t have to figure out that panel, aside from the emergency brake control.
Over to the right, I found switches to adjusted the seat. I brought the height down and slid it back some – if you’re going to drive around an armored combat vehicle, you might as well be comfortable.
After providing some familiarization, a General Dynamics vehicle commander took a nearby seat and communicated with me via a headset and microphone system. He explained how to close the rear compartment hatch and then cleared me for takeoff. I stepped on the gas and four of the eight wheels roared the truck down the test track. Stykers also have an eight-wheel drive setting, but using four wheels results in less drag. After driving about 1,600 meters and playing with the breaks, I turned around and floored the gas peddle.
On my final stretch, I reached about 50 miles per hour. The vehicles are capable of faster speeds, but I kept freezing under the idea of 20 tons of inertia. I felt safe, but intimidated.
Perhaps, one day, I’ll fire the turret-mounted 105 mm cannon on a mobile gun system variant. Probably not. 🙂