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Soldiers with the Army's 2nd Cavalry Regiment virtually train with the upcoming Dragoon Stryker, equipped with a larger 30 mm cannon, at Grafenwoehr, Germany, Thursday, March 30, 2017.
Soldiers with the Army's 2nd Cavalry Regiment virtually train with the upcoming Dragoon Stryker, equipped with a larger 30 mm cannon, at Grafenwoehr, Germany, Thursday, March 30, 2017. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)
Soldiers with the Army's 2nd Cavalry Regiment virtually train with the upcoming Dragoon Stryker, equipped with a larger 30 mm cannon, at Grafenwoehr, Germany, Thursday, March 30, 2017.
Soldiers with the Army's 2nd Cavalry Regiment virtually train with the upcoming Dragoon Stryker, equipped with a larger 30 mm cannon, at Grafenwoehr, Germany, Thursday, March 30, 2017. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)
A soldier with the Army's 2nd Cavalry Regiment virtually train with the upcoming Dragoon Stryker, equipped with a larger 30 mm cannon, at Grafenwoehr, Germany, Thursday, March 30, 2017.
A soldier with the Army's 2nd Cavalry Regiment virtually train with the upcoming Dragoon Stryker, equipped with a larger 30 mm cannon, at Grafenwoehr, Germany, Thursday, March 30, 2017. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)
A soldier with the Army's 2nd Cavalry Regiment virtually train with the upcoming Dragoon Stryker, equipped with a larger 30mm cannon, at Grafenwoehr, Germany, Thursday,March 30, 2017.
A soldier with the Army's 2nd Cavalry Regiment virtually train with the upcoming Dragoon Stryker, equipped with a larger 30mm cannon, at Grafenwoehr, Germany, Thursday,March 30, 2017. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)
One version of the Combat Unmanned Aerial Systems Mobile Integrated Capabilities (CMIC) Stryker, still in testing, in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Tuesday, March 21, 2017.
One version of the Combat Unmanned Aerial Systems Mobile Integrated Capabilities (CMIC) Stryker, still in testing, in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Tuesday, March 21, 2017. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)
A soldier peering out of one version of the Combat Unmanned Aerial Systems Mobile Integrated Capabilities (CMIC) Stryker, still in testing, in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Tuesday, March 21, 2017.
A soldier peering out of one version of the Combat Unmanned Aerial Systems Mobile Integrated Capabilities (CMIC) Stryker, still in testing, in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Tuesday, March 21, 2017. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)
One version of the Combat Unmanned Aerial Systems Mobile Integrated Capabilities (CMIC) Stryker, still in testing, in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Tuesday, March 21, 2017.
One version of the Combat Unmanned Aerial Systems Mobile Integrated Capabilities (CMIC) Stryker, still in testing, in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Tuesday, March 21, 2017. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)
Three Infantry Carrier Vehicle Strykers currently in use by the Army's 2nd Cavalry Regiment in February 2017.
Three Infantry Carrier Vehicle Strykers currently in use by the Army's 2nd Cavalry Regiment in February 2017. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — With its increasing focus on deterring Moscow’s aggression in eastern Europe, the Army is upgrading 81 of its Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicles to boost their fire power to match those of their Russian counterparts.

The Army’s 2nd Cavalry Regiment last week began virtually testing the newly developed 30 mm cannon-equipped Dragoon Stryker, the latest version of the armored eight-wheel-drive troop transport built by General Dynamics.

“The Army has decided to increase the lethality of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment by providing the 30 mm variant of the Stryker,” said Maj. James Anderson, the 2nd Cavalry’s force modernization officer. "Today we don’t have that vehicle yet. What the Army has provided is a system that allows us to train on that piece of equipment before it even arrives.”

The soldiers are testing the new Stryker on Virtual Battlespace 3, the Army’s flagship virtual gaming platform for training. The software was recently set up in Grafenwoehr to allow 2nd CAV soldiers to get experience with the up-gunned Strykers well in advance of the arrival of the new vehicles next February.

“The virtual training was very useful for the crews,” said Pfc. Phillip Cobb, a Stryker driver. “It allows us to see how the Stryker is going to react in tactical situations. They’re not going to drive the same as our current vehicles. They’re heavier. With this (virtual) training, I know how it’s going to react when we actually get to train with them.”

The virtual 30 mm Stryker program allowed the soldiers to prepare for the new vehicle without the costs of ammunition and fuel.

The Stryker serves primarily an infantry carrier vehicle, capable of transporting nine soldiers onto the battlefield. As one of two U.S. combat brigades based in Europe, and the most heavily armored at that, the unit’s lightly armed Strykers have been criticized as inadequate to the goal of defending the Continent against a possible incursion from Russia.

Soldiers with 2nd CAV are conducting operations in eastern Poland, less than 100 miles from the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.

The upgraded 30mm gun will certainly add firepower to the platform, which until now has only been armed with 12.7 mm machine guns for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The new weapon will allow the Strykers to engage enemy infantry fighting vehicles, scouting vehicles and transports, but not main battle tanks with their 120 mm main guns.

“We don’t ask the Stryker to compete against an armored force, we ask the Strykers to deliver infantry squads, which have a myriad of armor defeating capabilities, to the battlefield,” said Anderson. “The 30 mm Stryker will be able to provide additional firepower and support to the infantrymen.”

The Stryker’s success stems partly from its versatility. Besides the Infantry Carrier Vehicle model, there are Strykers outfitted with mortar capabilities, mobile medical facilities and other special equipment. The Army began testing a new anti-drone Stryker, the Combat Unmanned Aerial Systems Mobile Integrated Capabilities Stryker, in Grafenwoehr, earlier this month.

“It’s a very versatile vehicle,” Anderson said. “It provides more protection than a Humvee would, and it’s more maneuverable than a tank.”

egnash.martin@stripes.com Twitter:@Marty_Stripes

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