Introducing the M88A3 Hercules: Revolutionizing Heavy Recovery Vehicles for the US Army

The M88A3 Hercules is an advanced heavy recovery vehicle currently being developed by BAE Systems for the US Army. This new addition to the M88 family of recovery vehicles offers improved performance, survivability, and responsiveness compared to its predecessor, the M88A2. Its main purpose is to fill the single-vehicle recovery gap, eliminating the need for multiple vehicles to raise and move tanks.

In September 2019, the US Army awarded BAE Systems a $318 million contract to upgrade existing M88A2 recovery vehicles to the M88A3 configuration. The upgrade work is being carried out at BAE Systems’ facilities located in York, Pennsylvania; Aiken, South Carolina; Anniston, Alabama; and Sterling Heights, Michigan.

The development of the M88A3 Hercules began when it was identified that the currently operational M88A2 vehicles were unable to perform single-vehicle recovery of the Abrams tank weighing up to 80 tons under all conditions due to additional weight and survivability improvements made on the tank. BAE Systems invested in independent research and development to address this issue and create the M88A3.

The company allocated resources in the financial year 2020 for the design, development, integration, and prototype building of the M88A3. Once the prototype is completed, it will undergo testing in FY2021 to confirm technical solutions and meet performance requirements.

To support the M88A2 vehicle engineering change proposal effort, the US Government expressed its intention to issue a request for a white paper in 2018. This effort is facilitated through the Detroit Arsenal Automotive other transaction agreement (DA2 OTA), managed by the Defense Automotive Technologies Consortium (DATC), US Army Tank and Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC), and the Army Contracting Command (ACC) – Warren. It allows for the construction and delivery of up to nine M88A3 prototype vehicles by modifying M88A2 vehicles provided by the US Government.

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The M88A3 Hercules is designed with several upgrades and features. It will be capable of performing hoisting, winching, and towing operations for advanced battle tanks. These enhancements will improve the vehicle’s speed, hoisting and winching capacity, survivability, and reliability. Upgraded features include a modernized powertrain for improved horsepower and torque, as well as a seventh road-wheel for increased stability. The vehicle will also have improved armor protection for enhanced survivability.

With an overall length of 8.5m, width of 3.6m, and height of 3.1m, the M88A3 recovery vehicle will be able to accommodate a driver, mechanic, commander, and the crew of the recovered main battle tank (MBT).

In terms of its capacities, the vehicle will weigh approximately 78 tons and have a hoisting capacity of 40 tons (80,000 lb), pick and carry capacity of 32 tons (64,000 lb), and recovery capacity of 80 tons (160,000 lb).

Powering the M88A3 Hercules is a Caterpillar C32 ACERT diesel engine with a maximum power output of 1,350 horsepower. The vehicle will feature upgraded seven-station hydro-pneumatic suspension units (HSUs) to enhance cross-country mobility and recovery operations performance. It will have a ground clearance of more than 16 inches, a side slope capability of 60%, a vertical obstacle crossing limit of 1m, and a trench crossing capability of 2.6m. The M88A3 recovery vehicle will be capable of reaching a maximum speed of 56 km/h and have a cruising range of 405 km.

Overall, the M88A3 Hercules represents a significant advancement in heavy recovery vehicles, offering the US Army increased capabilities in single-vehicle tank recovery. With its enhanced performance, survivability, and responsiveness, it is set to become an essential asset for the military. For more information about the M88 brand, visit M88.

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