Staff Writer (Updated: 2/14/2016):
The Hercules series originally appeared as the M88 model of 1961 with the classification of "Medium Recovery Vehicle" and went on to see combat service during the Vietnam War (1955-1975). This variant featured the automotive working so of the M48 "Patton" Medium Tank. The M88 was followed by the improved M88A1 model of 1977 and was re-classified as "Heavy Recovery Vehicle" with its automotive components now based on the chassis of the M60 "Patton" Main Battle Tank. The current form in service is the dimensionally larger M88A2 "Hercules" of 1991 which showcases a host of improvements - at a cost of decreased operational range - and brings the standard crew complement down to three from the original five. The M88A2 model is cleared to tow the M1 Abrams main battle tank, a task that originally required two M88A1 models to accomplish.
The Hercules crew are protected from small arms and artillery spray in-the-field. Self-defense is through a single 12.7mm (0.50 caliber) heavy machine gun with 1,300 rounds of ammunition are typically carried. 12 x Smoke grenade dischargers provide a self-screening technique.
The M88 Hercules is used by a host of global powers and American allies including Brazil, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Pakistan and Turkey. Nearly 1,600 of the type have been produced since 1961 with combat exposure seen in a myriad of 20th and 21st Century conflicts. The United States Army procured some 629 examples while the U.S. Marine Corps followed with 69 of their own.