The M88A2 Hercules (heavy equipment recovery combat utility lift and evacuation system) is a self-supportive armoured recovery vehicle used in battlefield rescue and recovery missions.

It is a variant of the M88 Hercules, which was originally designed by Bowen McLaughlin York (BMY). The first M88 vehicle was manufactured by BMY in 1961, while the first variant, M88A1, was introduced in 1977.

BMY merged with Food Machinery and Chemical (FMC) in 1994 to form United Defense Industries, which was acquired by BAE Systems Land and Armaments in 2005. BAE Systems is the current manufacturer of the M88A2.

The M88A2 recovery vehicle meets the US Army’s requirements for a well-equipped recovery vehicle, which safely performs towing, winching and recovery operations in war zones. The M88A2 vehicle can also winch inoperative heavyweight M1A1/2 Abrams tanks.

The vehicle was designed and equipped to carry out repairs to other supported vehicles in the battlefield. The M88A2 armoured recovery vehicles were introduced into the US Army in 1997 and deployed in wars in the Gulf and Kosovo.

M88A2 armoured recovery vehicle construction

BMY designed the M88 in 1959, using chassis and automotive parts from the M48 and M60 Patton vehicles as blueprints. The M88 design was divided into three sections: hydraulics, engine, and crew compartments.

The hydraulic system was designed to provide sufficient power to maintain tracks and recovery operations with a 19mm drive hydraulic winch. The vehicle contains a XT-1410-5A cross-drive transmission, which works three-speed forward, one- speed reverse gears. The M88A2 vehicle can carry a crew of three, which includes commander, operator, and mechanic.

Armoured recovery vehicle winching power

The Hercules can recover up to 70t combat vehicles such as Leopard, M1A1, M1A2, bridging systems and other vehicles. Technically improved to give greater performance, the M88A2 was also equipped with extra armour.

The vehicle was built with a long 35t boom, and 140,000lb constant pull main winch for superior and easier winching ability. It is also equipped with 85.3m (280ft) cable and an auxiliary 3t winch.

The M88A2 was developed to give 55% more winching power, 40% more lifting strength and 25% extra towing muscle.

It can provide refuel and de-fuel facilities to vehicles when required and be used for slave-starting and hydraulic winching.

M88A2 anti-personnel mine protection

The hull of the M88A2 Hercules was designed to offer protection against anti-personnel mines, artillery fragments and small arms fire. The vehicle is equipped with .50 calibre machine gun with 1,300 rounds for self-protection. It can perform evacuation, recovery and repair of battle tanks and other vehicles in a battlefield.

The vehicle is equipped with armoured track skirts and smoke screen generators, and provides protection against nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) attacks.

Air-cooled twin turbo diesel engine

The M88A2 is powered by continental AVDS-1790-8CR, V12 air-cooled twin-turbo diesel engine with a rated power of 1,050hp. The vehicle is equipped with enhanced propulsion system and an auxiliary power unit (APU) which offers auxiliary electrical and hydraulic power when the main engine is not in operation.

The M88A2 is equipped with enhanced engine horsepower, improved power-assisted steering, electrical systems, and braking performance to improve the mobility. The vehicle’s fuel capacity is 1,563l and its road speed is 48km/h.

M88A3 Hercules The M88A3 Hercules is the upgraded configuration of the M88A2 vehicle designed to provide performance, survivability, and responsiveness.

BAE Systems was awarded a contract of $318m to upgrade the M88 recovery vehicle for enabling the battlefield recovery of an upgraded Abrams tank in September 2019. A single

M88A3 can recover the advanced version of the M1A2 Main Battle Tank (MBT). The project is expected to complete in 44 months.

The upgrade of M88A3 configuration includes improvements to the existing powertrain, suspension, tracks, while improving the speed, reliability, and capability of the vehicle.

M88A2 orders and deliveries

The US Army ordered 113 M88A2 vehicles in a $251m contract in November 2006 and the deliveries were concluded in 2009. The contractual scope also included supply of spare parts and extension of system technical support to the US Army.

The US Army placed another order worth $185m with BAE Systems for 90 M88A2 army-configured vehicles and four vehicles for the US Marine Corps in 2008. Another 39 vehicles were ordered by the US Army under an $81.4m contract awarded in May 2009.

BAE Systems was awarded a $70m contract to convert 30 US Army M88A1 hulls into M88A2 Hercules vehicles in July 2010, followed by a $165.5m contract for 43 vehicles in July 2011.

A $108.4m contract to provide 29 Hercules vehicles to the US Army and 16 vehicles to the US Marine Corps was awarded in August 2011.

BAE Systems delivered 500 vehicles to the US Army and 75 vehicles to the US Marine Corps by October 2012 for the US Army requirement of 748 armoured recovery vehicles.

The company was awarded a contract worth $110.4m by the US Army for the conversion of 36 M88A1 vehicles to the M88A2 standard in July 2015, followed by another contract for the conversion of an additional 36 M88A1 vehicles in April 2016.

BAE Systems was awarded a $148.3m contract for upgrading 43 M88A1 heavy-lift vehicles in October 2019, increasing the total procured quantity of the M88A2 capability to 914. The company completed the delivery of 841 vehicles by February 2020.

The M88A2 vehicles were also ordered by the countries including Australia, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, and Morocco. The Australian government took the delivery of six new vehicles in April 2017. The US approved a potential sale of 25 M88A2 vehicles to Morocco for $239.35m in March 2020.

The US previously approved a potential sale of 19 M88A2 recovery vehicles to Kuwait for $281m in October 2019.

BAE systems was awarded a $21.8m contract by the Egyptian defence forces for the coproduction of 13 M88A2 recovery vehicles in May 2001. The company was awarded a $31.8m contract to deliver eight more M88A2 vehicles to the Iraqi Army in October 2012, following the delivery of eight M88A2 vehicles to the Iraqi Army in 2010.

In August 2021, the US State Department approved a potential foreign military sale (FMS) of five M88A2 Hercules vehicles to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in the US.