Aside from the M1 Abrams, perhaps no other American armored vehicle has represented the American Army more than the venerable Humvee series of four-wheeled vehicles. Since its inception, the Humvee has become a staple of military operations both globally and domestic. The type's straight-faced appearance, wide-stance and utilitarian functionality have endeared her to a once-suspect military community and a public always ready for the next new thing in off-road capability. The Humvee today represents the pinnacle evolution of the war time Jeep, with an origin indirectly dating back to the smallish 50-60 horsepower machines that were once the standard mode of transportation to our serving grandfathers.
In February of 1981, the US Army set forth a requirement for a new tactical four-wheel drive light vehicle to take on the designation of High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) and be capable of delivery to any given location on the battlefield via helicopter. The Army had found a tremendous amount of success with its World War 2-era series of small jeeps but the vehicle was still a design with its roots dug well into another time. Beyond that, it had experimented by militarizing civilian trucks for the same role but these conversions left much to be desired. As such, the HMMWV specification called for a universal solution to the Army's needs, one that would also peak interest from the United States Air Force and the United States Marine Corps equally. A multi-role product with commonality of parts and ease of conversion to other roles was now the call of the day. US Army requirements were high - perhaps a bit too ambitious - but the need was quite desperate.
By July of that year, the US Army had invited AM General, Chrysler Defense and Teledyne Continental to a prototype face-off, each required to build no fewer than eleven vehicles utilizing a common chassis but with conversions showcasing the type's possible multi-faceted use in the field. Prototypes would include a TOW-capable system, an unarmored base vehicle and a hardtop battlefield ambulance. The program was known as the XM998. Testing began in April of 1982 with AM General's design winning out.
Interestingly enough, AM General owed its origins to the Willys-Overland Company responsible for the World War 2-era "Jeep". Willys-Overland was purchased by Kaiser in 1953, becoming Kaiser-Jeep Corporation before indirectly evolving into AM General Corporation. American Motors Corporation purchased Kaiser-Jeep in 1970 and branched AM General as a subsidiary. Jeep Corporation now remained as a separate entity. During all this time, the companies were still fulfilling US Army needs and production of military trucks was their forte. Eventually, AM General was purchased out once again, this time by LTV Corporation in 1983. By 2004, AM General was now brought under ownership of the Renco Group.
AM General submitted a conventional four-wheel drive system with a forward-mounted diesel engine mated to an automatic transmission, a large passenger cabin and good off-road capabilities. AM General secured the Army's favor in their new system following the agreement of a $1.2 billion dollar contract on March 22nd, 1983, calling for the production and delivery of 55,000 total HMMWV examples. Additional USAF, USN and USMC orders brought the total closer to 70,000 examples.
The HMMWV development was sped along in order to enforce the ranks of the US Army. As such, the system appeared with some notable deficiencies when put through the rigors of military use. Maintenance for early HMMWVs proved a bear for Army mechanics and inherent reliability of these early vehicles left much to be desired. As such, efforts were made in part by the General Accounting Office to curtail the massive production contract awarded to AM General. The US Senate did just that on June 14th, 1984, which essentially forced the US Army to place the HMMWV design into further testing and evaluation. AM General managed to address several major and minor issues during this time and testing by the US Army, US Navy and US Marine Corps all helped to solidify the HMMWV as ready for production. The HMMWV entered service with the US Army in 1985.
The HMMWV was first fielded in anger in the 1989 US Invasion of Panama during Operation Just Cause (the operation also signified the introduction of Lockheed's F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter) in an effort to unseat dictator Manuel Noriega. Operational results for the type proved excellent as a whole, showcasing reliability and good performance under the rigors of wartime use.
The HMMWV eventually took on the A0, A1 and A2 generational designations (A0 appeared retroactively after A1 was beginning its usage in US Army terminology). A0 represented the original production Humvees, these fitted with a 6.2 liter, 150 horsepower, liquid-cooled V-8 diesel engines. The engines were mated to a General Motors THM400 automatic transmission system featuring all-wheel drive capability. In all, the A0 family of variants comprised of the M998, M1038, M1037, M1042, M996, M997, M1035, M966, M1036, M1045, M1046, M1025, M1026, M1043 and M1044. A heavy-duty version of the A0 soon appeared in September of 1992 as the M1097 HHV (Heavy Hummer Variant). This new vehicle provided for an improvement to capabilities over the original A0 model thus expanding the products reach.
The A1 appeared in 1994 with revised front seats, grille and rifle mounts and was essentially developed from the M1097 HHV. These vehicles took on the designation of M998A1. The A1 family was comprised of the M998A1, M1038A1, M1097A1, M996A1, M997A1, M1035A1, M966A1, M1045A1, M1025A1, M1026A1, M1043A1 and the M1044A1.
The A2 was another much-improved Humvee with origins in the M998A1. A new 160 horsepower, 6.5 liter diesel engine was mated to a digital four-speed automatic transmission. Rear seats were redesigned as was the heater and steering column. A2's also had provision for the CTIS (Central Tire Inflation System) to be added as an option in the field. This on-the-fly adjustability provided for direct operator control in maneuvering the Humvee through the most unforgiving off-road terrain imaginable. The A2 variant line is made up of the M1097A2 (three versions of this model - base, mover and shelter carrier), M1123A2, M997A2, M1035A2, M1025A2, M1043A2 and the M1045A2.
The Expanded Capacity Variant (ECV) proved another successful development of the A2 line. These machines sported a new 6.5 liter turbo-diesel engine of 190 horsepower with increased cargo-hauling capacity. Other variants have since come online including the unarmored shelter carrier M1113 and the "up-armored" and air-conditioned M1114. The M1116 is similar to the latter and is fielded with USAF base security personnel. The M1151 is an armament-carrier model while the M1152 is a cargo or troop hauler. These two are based on the ECV Humvee. In all, the ECH line is comprised of the M113, M1114, M1116, M1151 and the M1152.
Armament carrier Humvees perhaps remain the most interesting of the family line to the casual observer. The most pronounced is likely the TOW-carrying Humvee now featuring the TOW-2B anti-tank missile system used by both the US Army and the USMC. TOW missiles have an impressive tendency to fly straight at altitude before sharply climbing up and dropping down to strike armored vehicles at their thinnest, and therefore, weakest point - their roof. TOW-carrying Humvees can also be equipped with the armament mounting kit consisting of a weapon ring fitting atop the Humvee cabin roof. This position can therefore accept a variety of crew-served weapons such as the Browning M2HB .50 caliber air-cooled machine gun, the Mk 19 Mod 3 40mm automatic air-cooled grenade launcher, the 7.62mm M60 General Purpose Machine Gun and the 7.62mm M240 General Purpose Machine Gun. night sights are available.
The Humvee has also been spawned into an air-defense deterrent role featuring the proven and capable Stinger short-range, air-to-air missile. This Humvee is essentially an M1037 shelter carrier fitted with a powered, single-seat 360-degree traversable turret mounting 8 x infrared/ultra-violet high-explosive fragmentation Stinger missiles in two pods, with four missiles to a pod. Stinger missiles have the ability to track and engage an enemy air target from any direction, not just the hot exhausting rear of a given aircraft. A laser range finder is built into the turret system. These turret systems are known by the name of "Avenger" and can be removed and used as stand-alone weapon systems.
An improved formidable mobile air-defense system has recently emerged as the "SLAMRAAM" (or "HUMRAAM"), a similarly modified Humvee featuring the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) popularly deployed on current generation fighters. SLAMRAAM execution is provided for under the Raytheon banner and is intended to work in conjunction with the existing Avenger short-ranged systems. Six AMRAMM missiles are fitted in a staggered formation atop a rear-mounted rack system. The chassis is that of an M1113 ECH Humvee.
While armor upgrade kits (capable of defeating up to 7.62mm projectiles) became available to Humvee operators following the 2003 American invasion of Iraq, in-the-field upgrades produced a versatile armament-carrying Humvee featuring the open-topped weapon ring mount protecting the gunner along his sides and back by the addition of armor "shields". Official side door gun mounts were later made optional as well, in an effort to deter attacks on coalition convoys.
The M1114 "up-armored" Humvee has since become the standard operating Humvee in Iraq. With the base vehicle provided for by AM General, O'Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt was called upon to set up the armor protection. Though these systems improved on crew survivability, they were little match for the improving tactics of Iraqi guerilla fighters and their Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). Despite this, the M1114 still proved an upgrade over base Humvees and many-a-tale of survival still emerged (and continue to do so) of exploded Humvees and their living occupants.
SImilarly in Afghanistan, the Humvee has proven an exceptional cross-country vehicle. With lessons learned across both fronts in Southern Asia, the Humvee has proven time and again its importance to American forces in the region. Afghanistan Humvees are well represented and include the up-armored M1114 series and "light-skinned" versions for quick reaction forces.
As the HMMWV's legacy grew on the battlefield, it was within in little time that the vehicle was debuted in civilian form to a welcoming public already respecting the machines positive media coverage in past campaigns. The civilian versions were designated as "Hummer" and initially appeared with the Hummer H1 in 1992. Some of these H1's were procured via the US Army for use as VIP transports. General Motors produced the commercial Hummer H2 in 2003 followed by the Hummer H3 in 2006. While the H1 proved to have more in line with her military counterpart (including her boxy utilitarian appearance), the General Motor's products were through-and-through "civilian-friendly" systems with little in common with the official AM General products. While maintaining some level of respectable off-road performance, the H2 and H3 are a far cry from the bare-bones military HMMWVs and "upscale" H1s.
By the end of 2005, some 180,000 HMMWVs were eventually produced, with full rate production beginning in 1985. Though the designation of HMMWV is used throughout US military nomenclature, it is verbally assigned the name of "Humvee". Since this name is reserved for military HMMWV systems, the applicable naming convention for civilian HMMWV's is "Hummer" as in "Hummer H1".
Production of HMMWVs is handled at the AM General assembly plant in South Bend, Indiana. Each machine is thoroughly run and tested to ensure a sound and exceptional product in many ways forming the vital logistical backbone of the US military. The US Border patrol also operates about 100 Hummer H1's in their various sorties on the US-Mexican border.
As it stands, despite the Humvee family being developed in the early 1980s and being nearly thirty years old, it still remains a viable workhorse of many a nation, primarily to the United States of American and all her fighting branches. From the outset, she was of a revolutionary design to which AM General should be commended. She quickly earned the respect of those who operated - and continue to do so today - the vehicle with little regard, pushing the design to the limit and then some. The HMMWV should remain a US military fixture for some time to come.
In August of 2015, it was announced that the Oshkosh Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) had won a competition to succeed the storied HUMVEE line. The design beat out competitors in Lockheed and AM General. The initial order will yield 17,000 vehicles, the procurement contract totaling $6.7 billion USD. Production is slated to begin in 2016 with operational capability reached in 2018 with U.S. Army forces.