Not Just Drones, Howitzers & Jet Engines, India Could Strike A Deal With US For ‘Combat Tested’ Stryker Armored Vehicles

With some big-ticket defense deals in the pipeline for India by the United States, a new weapon system, the ‘Stryker’ armored vehicle, may also be up on the offer for New Delhi.

The two countries have signed agreements for high-value systems like the MQ-9 Reaper drones and jointly produce F-414 jet-fighter engines that will power India’s LCA Tejas aircraft in a multibillion-dollar deal aimed at weaning India off arm dependence on Russia.

However, as per the latest reports going around in Indian media, the United States would also offer a family of eight-wheeled ‘Stryker’ armored fighting vehicles and upgrading 155mm M777 howitzers with precision-guided long-range ammunition, 145 of which are already present in the Indian inventory.

However, Washington may have a precondition for signing such an agreement. According to some reports, the ultimate decision to supply this equipment depends on the requirements set forth by the Biden administration.

If the agreement is finalized, it will be one of the critical facets of India-US defense collaboration, along with a contract with Micron for a $2.7 billion chip facility in India and agreements on quantum computing and artificial intelligence. This is significant for the burgeoning defense cooperation between the two countries.

Despite sanctions being imposed on Russia after the invasion of Ukraine, India has continued to maintain its ties with Moscow despite international pressure.

Earlier this month, during the visit of US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to New Delhi, the two sides agreed on a defense “road map” that could speed up Delhi’s approvals for purchases of cutting-edge weapons from Washington while also allowing for the possibility of joint defense production.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks with President Joe Biden during a State Arrival Ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House.
File Image: India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks with President Joe Biden during a State Arrival Ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House

Several US lawmakers have been outspoken against the partial treatment of New Delhi despite its reluctance to stall arms and oil purchases from Russia. Military Analysts believe that the multi-billion arms agreements aim to reduce India’s reliance on Russia and to arm it against China.

Many believe that if India becomes less dependent on Russia, it will also change its priorities in terms of its foreign policy.

Moreover, with Russia’s preoccupation with the Ukraine war and deliveries of promised equipment delayed, analysts predict that the US sees it as the most opportune moment to boost military ties with India and push Russia out.

While many high-value systems could be acquired by India, Stryker may be the most significant. In 2020, media reports indicated that the Indian Army was looking to choose from three different vehicles, including the American Stryker Infantry Combat Vehicle and Humvees.

There were also reports that the US offered a “joint development” of the Stryker armored vehicle with India. The prospect of such a purchase is significant as it is expected to be used by Indian Army troops against the Chinese in high-altitude regions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Stryker Armored Vehicle For India

After the India-China border stand-off of 2020, the Indian Army felt the need to procure a new and cutting-edge armored vehicle that would replace the Russian-origin BMP infantry combat vehicles, which are used by the Mechanized Infantry regiments of the Indian Army in deserts, plains, and high-altitude locations.

Since the conflict of 2020, India has widely recognized that its troops need light tanks and a larger number of armored Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs) to navigate the high-altitude terrain in which the Indian Army troops struggled with their movement.

EurAsian Times reported in 2020 that sources in the Indian military had informed the media that the Indian Army was considering the purchase of a vehicle for fast troop movement in the Eastern Ladakh region, with the Tata WhAP, American Stryker, and Humvee as high-listed options on its list.

Stryker combat vehicle
File Image: Stryker combat vehicle

According to reports, the Strykers and Humvee are reportedly capable of being dropped from transport aircraft, including the C-130J and the C-17s which the Indian Air Force also operates. The ability to airdrop vehicles is usually advantageous because it is impossible to drive through the dangerous terrain of the Himalayan mountains.

However, out of the three armored vehicles, India appears to be siding with the Stryker armored vehicles. Military experts contend that the vehicle’s versatility, mobility, and flexibility would make it a suitable option for India, which has been seeking to upgrade equipment for deployment against China.

Caesar on Twitter: "Chinese VN-22 6×6 IFV" / Twitter
Chinese VN-22 (via Twitter)

This is significant as an armored vehicle called ‘VN22’ belonging to China seems to have eerie similarities with the US Stryker armored vehicle. As previously noted by analysts, the vehicle resembled the Stryker almost perfectly, except that it has six rather than eight wheels.

According to reports, the vehicle has a weapons mount on top and is rectangular with protruding corners or edges. Another image from VN22 appears to be a spinning turret with a cannon mounted on it. In addition, Chinese descriptions of the vehicle’s mission scope also closely resembled those provided by US Army ground vehicle commanders.

What Is The Stryker Armored Vehicle?

The Stryker meets the immediate need to give Combatant Commanders a strategically and operationally deployable brigade capable of swift movement anywhere in the world in a combat-ready configuration. It is significantly lighter and more transportable than existing tanks and armored vehicles.

The 19-ton, eight-wheeled Stryker intermediate armored vehicle (IAV) offers the Army a family of ten distinct vehicles on a common chassis. Stryker is deadlier than light vehicles like Humvees while being lighter and easier to move than large combat vehicles like the Russian-origin T-72 and T-90 tanks in the Indian arsenal.

The Stryker family includes three variations based on standard vehicle platforms: the M1127 Reconnaissance Vehicle, the M1128 Mobile Gun System, and the M1135 NBC Reconnaissance Vehicle.

Strykers can operate in snow, mud, and sand but are not as strong or defensive as tanks. Their lack of tracks slightly constrains their off-road mobility.

The vehicles, which had a.50 caliber machine gun that could be remotely fired by a soldier inside the vehicle, were frequently sent to Iraq with US infantry battalions to allow American forces to travel fast along paved roads.

The US Army announced in 2021 that it would divest every single Stryker Mobile Gun System by the end of the fiscal year 2022. The M1128 Stryker Mobile Gun System, with its antiquated cannon and automatic loader, was at the time discovered by the service to be structurally flawed and outmoded.

The Stryker Mobile Gun System was the first Army system to include an autoloader, which at the time was cutting-edge technology. These systems hogged the limelight when the United States sent armored vehicles to Ukraine for its fight against Russia.

The US has sold 60 Strykers to Thailand, and North Macedonia is buying 16. If India buys the system, it will become the next big customer of these formidable systems.