M88A3 Hercules is an advanced heavy recovery vehicle. Image courtesy of BAE Systems.
The vehicle belongs to BAE Systems’ M88 family of recovery vehicles. Image courtesy of U.S. Army.
The M88A3 recovery vehicle will be equipped with a Caterpillar C32 ACERT diesel engine. Image courtesy of mark6mauno.

M88A3 Hercules is a next-generation heavy recovery vehicle being manufactured by BAE Systems for the US Army.

The prototype was unveiled at the Association of the United States Army’s 2018 (AUSA) annual meeting held in October 2018. The recovery vehicle is the latest variant of the M88 family and is used effectively for rescuing disabled tanks from the battlefield. It offers improved performance, survivability and responsiveness than the M88A2 recovery vehicle.

M88A3 meets the requirement of single-vehicle recovery gap as it eliminates the need for two vehicles for raising and moving tanks. The US Army placed a $318m contract with BAE Systems for the upgrade of M88A2 recovery vehicles to the M88A3 configuration, in September 2019. The contract was awarded under other transactional authority (OTA) acquisition model.

The upgrade works are being carried out at BAE Systems’ facilities in York in Pennsylvania, Aiken in South Carolina, Anniston in Alabama, and Sterling Heights in Michigan, US.

M88A3 Hercules programme

The M88A2 vehicles, which are currently operational, are unable to perform single-vehicle recovery of the Abrams weighing up to 80t during all conditions due to additional weight and survivability improvements made on the tank.

BAE Systems invested in independent research and development for developing M88A3 to perform single-vehicle recovery of the tank.

In the financial year (FY) 2020, the investment is used for vehicle’s design, development, integration and prototype building. Upon completion of the prototype, the vehicle will be tested in FY2021 to confirm technical solutions and meet performance requirements.

In 2018, the US Government unveiled its intention to issue a request for white paper (RWP) in support of the M88A2 vehicle engineering change proposal effort through the Detroit Arsenal Automotive other transaction agreement (DA2 OTA).

The DA2 OTA is 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.

The effort allows the construction and delivery of up to nine M88A3 prototype vehicles to meet the requirements specified in the RWP by modifying M88A2 vehicles provided by the US Government.

The prototypes will later be tested to meet the requirements of the procedure specification. The vehicle will then be produced based on the contractual agreements.

M88A3 design and features

The M88A3 Hercules vehicle will be capable of performing hoisting, winching, and towing operations for advanced battle tanks. The enhancements will improve the speed, hoisting and winching capacity, survivability and reliability of the vehicle.

The recovery vehicle will offer a range of upgraded features including modernised power-train for improving horsepower and torque as well as a seventh road-wheel for increasing stability. It will also be equipped with improved armour protection for increased survivability.

The M88A3 recovery vehicle will have an overall length of 8.5m, width of 3.6m, and height of 3.1m.

The vehicle will have the capacity to accommodate a driver, mechanic, commander and the crew of recovered main battle tank (MBT).

M88A3 Hercules capacities

The overall weight of the vehicle will be approximately 78t. It will have a hoisting capacity of 40t (80,000lb), pick and carry capacity of 32t (64,000lb) and recovery capacity of 80t (160,000lb).

Engine and mobility of M88A3 recovery vehicle

The M88A3 Hercules will be powered by a Caterpillar C32 ACERT diesel engine, which develops a maximum power output of 1,350hp.

The vehicle will feature upgraded seven-station hydro-pneumatic suspension units (HSUs) for improved cross country mobility, and performance during recovery operations.

Ground clearance of the vehicle will be more than 16in, while its side slope will be 60%. Vertical obstacle crossing of the vehicle will be 1m, whereas trench crossing will be 2.6m. The recovery vehicle will have a maximum speed of 56km/h and a cruising range of 405km.