Pentagon weighs sending Stryker combat vehicles to Ukraine

Last updated on January 9, 2023

The U.S. is considering sending Stryker armored combat vehicles to Ukraine in an upcoming aid package to help Kyiv fend off an expected Russian spring offensive, according to two people familiar with the discussion.

The news follows the Biden administration’s announcement last week that it will send 50 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, a powerful tracked armored vehicle that carries an autocannon, a machine gun and TOW missiles.

The Strykers may be part of the next tranche of military aid, according to a Defense Department official, who like others asked for anonymity to discuss internal deliberations ahead of an announcement. The administration could announce the package, with or without Strykers, late next week around the time of the next Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting in Germany.

The people stressed that no final decision has been made, and the administration could decide to send the Strykers in a future package instead.

“We have no announcements to make at this time,” said Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Garron Garn. A spokesperson for the National Security Council did not comment by press time.

Strykers would be another capability boost for Kyiv’s rapidly growing arsenal and would help meet a critical need for armor, as concerns grow that Russia is planning a second mobilization for a major new offensive in the coming weeks.

While Strykers are not as powerful or protective as tanks, the eight-wheeled armored fighting vehicle built by General Dynamics Land Systems can operate in snow, mud and sand, though off-road mobility is somewhat limited by its lack of tracks.

“Ukrainians need armored personnel carriers and short of other countries providing it, is what we have in inventory,” the DoD official said. “Not as good as a Bradley for a tank fight, but good to protect infantry and get up close to a fight.”

The U.S. has already sent Ukraine thousands of combat vehicles, including Humvees and mine-resistant vehicles used to move troops on the battlefield. But Strykers could offer a balance between a tank and an armored personnel carrier.

Army operators say the wheeled vehicle moves more quietly than a Bradley and note that it can ferry more troops, nine compared to six in a standard M2.

The vehicles were deployed regularly to Iraq with U.S. infantry battalions where they allowed U.S. troops to move quickly along paved roadways while offering more protection than a Humvee, along with a .50 caliber machine gun operated remotely by a soldier inside the vehicle.

Ukraine already operates a similar vehicle, as the first of a planned 39 Canadian Armoured Combat Support Vehicles — a Canadian version of the Stryker also built by General Dynamics — started to arrive in Ukraine in recent weeks. The vehicles were initially purchased for the Canadian armed forces, but in June Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced he was diverting their delivery to Ukraine.

The U.S. has sold 60 Strykers to Thailand, and North Macedonia is buying 16.

Sending powerful armored vehicles such as the Bradley and Strykers could be a precursor to providing tanks. But Western nations remain stuck in much the same place they have been for months — debating who goes big first.

“There’s a strange back and forth with the Europeans where any time anyone asks, the Europeans they say, ‘Well, you know, the U.S. should go first.’ And the administration said, ‘Well, we want the Europeans to go first or we want to do it together.’ And the Ukrainians are just saying, ‘For the love of God, just give us the tanks,’” said a person familiar with those discussions.