WASHINGTON — The Army is moving ahead with a new, bomb-resistant design for its Stryker armored vehicles that officials say will better protect soldiers in Afghanistan and other combat zones prone to roadside bombs.
The Defense Department's decision to approve the Army's effort, outlined in a Pentagon memo earlier this month, follows calls from lawmakers — including Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh — to stick with the Stryker as a staple of the Army's ground fleet.
Army officials have decided to begin with 330 of the vehicles with a new double-V shaped hull, on the way to buying as many as 450. The current order is for $99 million for early-order material.
Defense News first reported the Pentagon's approval Monday.
The Army will build and test the vehicle simultaneously, eyeing its ability to withstand blasts that have damaged Strykers. One defense analyst said Tuesday, however, that the double-V design may not provide the protection the Army wants.
A hull with two Vs and a cavity between them runs a risk of trapping, rather than deflecting, the force of an explosion from underneath, said John E. Pike, a defense analyst with Globalsecurity.org.
The problem with Strykers is that explosions can lift them and make them roll over, Mr. Pike said. Unless soldiers are well-padded — which they are not, generally — or tightly strapped in, they are likely to be injured, he said.
Mr. Pike said that when he first saw the Army's double-V hull design last spring, "I thought they didn't get the nature of the problem."
Defense News reported that the Pentagon's approval was conditioned on more testing of the design, and that a final go-ahead will not come before fall.
The Stryker was unveiled several years ago as a replacement for Bradley fighting vehicles, and the Defense Department has moved money from Bradleys to Strykers. Several variations of the vehicle are already in the field.
Mr. Owens and other members of Congress wrote to top lawmakers on the House Armed Services and Appropriations committees in April, urging them to include funding for Strykers in defense bills for the coming fiscal year.