BAE Systems has secured an other transactional authority (OTA) contract to upgrade the US Army’s M88A2 Heavy Equipment Recovery Combat Utility Lift Evacuation System (HERCULES) vehicles.

Under the $318m contract, BAE Systems will upgrade the M88 recovery vehicles to the M88A3 configuration.

The upgrade will enable single-vehicle recovery of the latest version of the Abrams tank and remove the need for two vehicles to handle the heavier weights of the tanks.

The switch to the new configuration is being pursued as the existing M88A2 vehicle is unable to carry out the single-vehicle recovery due to incremental weight increases of the Abrams.

The M88 family of vehicles is used to recover stranded or disabled combat vehicles.

BAE Systems Combat Vehicles business recovery programmes director Dennis Hancock said: “As the US Army’s primary recovery vehicle, the M88 plays a critical role in the army’s Armored Brigade Combat Team.

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“We have partnered closely with the army and industry partners to develop a solution that addresses the single-vehicle recovery gap. We are proud to continue to support the army’s recovery needs by providing a next-generation solution to effectively rescue disabled tanks from the battlefield.”

The next-generation M88A3 HERCULES will include improvements such as an upgraded powertrain, suspension, and tracks.

The upgrade will help increase the vehicle’s speed, hoisting and winching capability, survivability, and reliability.

Other enhancements to the M88 recovery vehicles include a seventh road wheel to help reduce ground pressure and new hydropneumatic suspension units (HSUs) to enable the track to be locked out.

The current configuration requires the use of objects such as wood blocks to lock out the track.

BAE Systems will carry out the work under the contract at its facilities in Aiken in South Carolina; York in Pennsylvania, Anniston in Alabama and Sterling Heights in Michigan.

The firm unveiled a prototype of an M88A3 HERCULES in October last year.