The US Army’s Second Cavalry Regiment is likely to be on the front line of any western response to more Russian expansion in Ukraine. With that in mind, last week the regiment requested that its armored vehicle fleet be upgunned to cope with the likely threat. 2nd Cav is a Stryker Brigade Combat Team and the core of its combat power is the M1126 Stryker Infantry Combat Vehicle. The Canadian-built Stryker has been reasonably successful in lower-intensity conflicts like Iraq and Afghanistan, but it has some limits. It’s modern and very well equipped, especially in communications and electronics, but the M1126 is lightly armed. Its standard armament fit is a remote weapon station with either a 40mm grenade machinegun or the venerable .50 Browning HMG. That’s ideal for counterinsurgency but totally inadequate against a mechanized enemy force.
The solution Second Cav is asking for is for 81 of their ICVs to be upgunned with a 30mm cannon. This can be integrated into the existing weapon station and fires the same ammunition as the chain gun on the AH64; it’s highly effective against light to medium armored vehicles like the Russian BTR and BMP. In any direct confrontation between US and Russian forces these infantry vehicles would be a major part of the hostile force, and they’re pretty much immune to heavy machine gun fire. They’re not immune to a 30mm round though – nowhere near – so this upgrade would seriously enhance the combat power of the regiment.
Is it enough though? After all BTRs and BMPs don’t operate on their own; according to standard Russian doctrine they work closely with tanks. The separatists in eastern Ukraine are armed with a mix of older Soviet-era tanks, mostly T-72Bs and probably some T-64s. Regular Russian units in the region have the T-72B(M) and T-90A. Any of these tanks will shrug off 30mm fire all day, and all except the T-64 are virtually impregnable to 105mm sabot rounds as well – and that’s the heaviest direct fire weapon available to the Cav. The regiment has 27 Armored Gun Systems – a Stryker hull with a 105mm main gun in a remote-controlled mount (although the Army is cutting the number of systems to 10). Unfortunately while the AGS can take out a T-55 at a reasonable range it’s no more heavily armored than the standard Stryker, so its chances in a stand-up fight with any tank are pretty slim. A sabot round might kill a T-72B at 1,000 yards (it has no chance against the frontal armor of a T-72B(M) or T-90) but the T-72’s 125mm can destroy a Stryker from twice that range.
So while upgrading the Cav’s Strykers with a heavier gun is a good move, and one that’s probably long overdue, it’s not enough to let them stand against a determined Russian move. Russian ground based air defense is probably the best in the world and there’s no guarantee of NATO air superiority over the battlefield. A Russian tank brigade is a compact and powerful formation with a lot of very heavily protected firepower, and it can move fast. To slow it down and stop it needs heavy metal. By all means give the Strykers their cannons, but give them tank support too.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.