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The Military Humvee – The Workhorse

Known as the Humvee, the Army’s light tactical vehicle has been the face of half a dozen military interventions. It’s also a symbol of the changing nature of war.

The Humvee’s successor, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV), is faster and better equipped to withstand roadside Improvised Explosive Devices. But a new generation of vehicles is in the pipeline. Contact Humvee Interior now!

The armor of a Military Humvee is designed to stop small arms fire and some roadside bombs. It will not protect against anti-tank weapons or IEDs. The Army had started adding armor to its High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, or HMMWV, years before Operation Iraqi Freedom, and many of the vehicles in use in Iraq were already up-armored. However, the soft-skinned vehicles could not stop a bullet from an AK-47 or other similar weapon. US troops in Iraq found themselves relying on sandbags, plywood and other makeshift in-the-field solutions to provide them with some level of protection.

The original HMMWV was not designed to operate in combat zones, but rather for utility, logistical and scout missions. Those specifications precluded armor, so as to maintain the high load capacity and cross country mobility of the vehicle.

To provide some degree of protection for the soldiers in the field, the military began retrofitting HMMWVs with armor and bulletproof windows. This increased the protection of the vehicle, but it also added a significant amount of weight, which reduced performance and fuel efficiency. In addition, the additional weight placed additional strain on the engine, transmission and drivetrain, increasing wear, accelerating failures and causing other problems.

In response to the increasing number of Iraqi troop deaths caused by roadside bombs, the Army accelerated production of an improved armor kit for the HMMWV. The Armor Survivability Kit, or ASK, is available on all new HMMWVs and can be added to older models. It includes a steel turret that can withstand most small arms fire and an add-on armor kit to the doors that will stop most roadside bombs, or fragmentation devices.

The ASK and FRAG 5 armor kits are available at six different Army depots and arsenals, with employees working three shifts to keep up with demand. Currently, the kits are being installed in Iraq by teams that remove the doors and side armor from existing Humvees and install them on the vehicles in the field. They have been able to produce about 220 armored Humvees each month so far this year.

Fuel Efficiency

The Military Humvee is a workhorse that has conquered sand, snow and rock. It’s evaded detection on the desert and pulled trailers down highways. It’s been dangled from helicopters and carried in the belly of transport aircraft. It’s even made appearances in the 2005 film War of the Worlds as part of the Military forces deploying to counter the Martians invasion. Despite its many accomplishments, the HMMWV is a thirsty machine. The Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Command (TARDEC) has been developing a prototype military vehicle that is both faster and more fuel efficient than a traditional Humvee. The FED Alpha prototype can reach speeds of up to 40 mph and achieves a combined city/highway mileage of 8.2 mpg, according to TARDEC.

The first-generation Humvee, built on the M998 chassis, was designed in 1985 as a light scout vehicle with armor protection and a payload capacity of 5,100 pounds. Since then, the truck has been adapted for a number of missions. Today, the Military Humvee is a mainstay in many armies around the world.

AM General also began production of a civilian version of the Humvee in 1992 called the HUMMER H1. Its unique features include full-time four-wheel drive, a tried and true 6.5L diesel engine, central tire inflation system, independent front and rear suspensions with protected inboard disc brakes, and geared wheel hubs for amazing low-range crawling capabilities. It can be configured for a wide range of roles including troop transport, ambulance, and mobile artillery systems.

Despite its numerous accomplishments, the HMMWV has always had one ongoing weakness: roadside bombs. The first-generation Humvees were vulnerable to these explosive devices, which could be triggered when a soldier’s leg entered an unprotected area of the vehicle. The newest versions of the Humvee have improved armor and a stronger frame, but these new trucks are still not immune to this threat.

To combat this problem, the U.S. Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Enginering Command (TARDEC) is working on a prototype vehicle that uses an electric powertrain. The FED Bravo prototype runs on an 18-hp diesel hybrid electric motor, two 10-hp electric motors and three batteries. The hybrid system allows soldiers to export power from the batteries and use it for tools or other equipment. This prototype can perform all of the duties of a regular military Humvee, and it burns 70 percent less fuel than its non-hybrid counterparts.


In its original form, the Humvee had a very sluggish powertrain. Its 13,000-pound weight and unfavorable power-to-weight ratio resulted in a 36-second 0-60 time, as shown by Motor Trend’s Jonny Lieberman during testing of the humvee. This was not ideal for a tactical vehicle designed to be loaded down with weapons, armor, and whatever else the troops could possibly want to hang on them.

That was before Oshkosh Defense (the company that currently makes the Humvee) stepped in with a powertrain upgrade. By adding a Duramax 6.6L diesel engine with performance enhancements from Banks Power of Azusa, CA, the Humvee is now quicker than ever before. The Banks-tuned Humvee boosts horsepower to 190 and adds more than 250 lb-ft of torque. The military-spec HMMWV now cuts its 0-60 time to 21 seconds and actually crosses the quarter-mile mark before it reaches 60 mph.

Even with that big increase in performance, the Humvee retains its basic, no-frills character. The interior is Spartan, with only a radio, heater, and air conditioning. The seats are utilitarian, with a limited backrest. This is not a vehicle to be used for long hauls, though, as the ride can get pretty rough.

The Humvee has a low profile and wide stance, which helps it stay stable when off-roading. It can climb a 60-percent incline and traverse a 40-percent slope, and it’s capable of fording up to five feet of water.

For such a capable vehicle, the Humvee is relatively light. Its aluminum body saves weight, while the suspension and driveline are tough enough to handle a beating. It can also be sling-loaded by helicopters—three HMMWVs fit in a C-130 Hercules and 15 in the much larger C-5A Galaxy transport aircraft.

With all of this capability, it’s no wonder that the Humvee is still the go-to vehicle for so many nations and militaries. But the next generation of military vehicles may replace it with a more sophisticated Joint Light Tactical Vehicle. We’ll just have to see what happens when the new models are introduced, and how quickly they can be adopted by soldiers on the ground.


As you might have guessed, the military does not store Humvees in their garages. Instead, they are demilitarized and sent to civilian auctions, which is the same method they use for many of their fleet vehicles, including cars and trucks. These vehicles are then titled like any other vehicle on the road and sold to private vendors.

The Humvee is a four-wheel drive, light-duty truck that can be configured for a variety of uses. The current model, the HMMWV (High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle) was designed to replace the old jeeps, as well as the larger M274 Mule and M561 Gama Goat models. The basic HMMWV chassis can be converted into three different configurations: weapons carrier, utility vehicle and field ambulance. Each of these three configurations can be fitted with interchangeable body kits. The HMMWV has a payload capacity of up to 5,300 pounds, depending on the body style.

Originally, the Humvee was designed to be an Army replacement for the jeep. Its low-profile size and wide stance make it hug the ground, making it more maneuverable in difficult terrain than the traditional jeep. It also can be slingloaded and dropped from helicopters, which allows it to fit three in a C-130 Hercules transport aircraft and 15 in the Lockheed C-5A Galaxy airlifter.

The HMMWV can be outfitted with an array of weapons, from machine guns and grenade launchers to the deadly TOW antitank missile. Its pop-up gun turret provides crew protection, and its stealthy profile makes it less visible to the enemy. The vehicle can even be equipped with a Hellfire laser-guided antitank missile, which can hit tanks from over 100 yards away.

While all three manufacturers that produce the Humvee essentially follow the same design, each has its own unique variations that set it apart from the others. For example, General Dynamics’s version uses an air-cooled diesel engine, whereas the other two use liquid cooling. GD claims its engine is more reliable than the competing models, as problems with the complex plumbing of liquid cooling systems cause 30 to 40 percent of all vehicle-related breakdowns in combat.


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