M88 Recovery Vehicle

The M88 Recovery Vehicle is one of the largest armored recovery vehicles (ARV) currently in use by United States Armed Forces. There are currently three variants, the M88, M88A1 and M88A2 HERCULES (Heavy Equipment Recovery Combat Utility Lifting Extraction System). The M88 series has seen action most noticeably in the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, the Iraq War, and the War in Afghanistan, and to a lesser extent during the Kosovo War, where they were deployed to help recover heavy armored vehicles of the Allied ground units. As of 2000, the M88A2 replacement cost is around US$2,050,000.[1]

M88 Recovery Vehicle
M88 Armored Recovery Vehicle in pm.jpg
An original baseline M88 (Bergepanzer 1) ARV of the German Army on static display at the German Tank Museum outside Munster, Germany.
TypeArmored recovery vehicle
Place of originUnited States
Service history
In service1961–present
Used bySee operators
WarsArab–Israeli conflict, Vietnam War, Lebanese Civil War, Persian Gulf War, Kosovo War, Iraq War, War in Afghanistan
Production history
DesignerBowen McLaughlin York (BMY)
ManufacturerBMY (1961–1994)
United Defense and Anniston Army Depot (1994–2005)
BAE Systems Land and Armaments (since 2005)
Unit costUS$2,050,000
No. built1690 (all variants)
VariantsSee variants
MassM88/M88A1: 50.8 t (112,000 lb)
M88A2: 63.5 t (140,000 lb)
Length27.13 ft (8.27 m)
Width11.25 ft (3.43 m)
Height10.25 ft (3.12 m)

ArmorHull and cab armored to protect against small-arms fire up to 30mm direct fire weapons
M2 .50 cal heavy MG with 1,300 rounds
EngineM88/M88A1: Continental (now L-3 CPS) AVDS-1790-2DR V12, air-cooled Twin-turbo diesel engine
M88A2: Continental AVDS-1790-8CR, V12 air-cooled Twin-turbo diesel engine
M88/M88A1: 750 hp (560 kW)
M88A2: 1,050 hp (780 kW)
TransmissionTwin Disc XT-1410-5A cross-drive (3 speed forward, 1 speed reverse)
SuspensionTorsion bar suspension
Ground clearance17 in (0.43 m)
M88/M88A1: 450 km (280 mi)
M88A2: 322 km (200 mi)
Maximum speed M88/M88A1: 42 km/h (26 mph)
M88A2: 48 km/h (30 mph)



The design of this vehicle was based on the chassis and parts of the automotive component of the M48 Patton and M60 Patton tanks. The original M88 was introduced in 1961, M88A1 in 1977, with the current M88A2 introduced in 1997.[1]


Originally manufactured by Bowen McLaughlin York (later the BMY division of Harsco Corporation) in 1961, the company would later merge with FMC Corp. to form the United Defense Industries in 1994, which was in turn acquired by BAE Systems in 2005 to become BAE Systems Land and Armaments. In February 2008 the company was awarded a $185 million contract modification from the U.S. Army to manufacture 90 Army-configured M88A2s, four United States Marine Corps-configured M88A2s and authorized spares list parts.[2]


The M88's primary role is to repair or replace damaged parts in fighting vehicles while under fire, as well as extricate vehicles that have become bogged down or entangled. The main winch on the M88A2 is capable of a 70-ton, single line recovery, and a 140-ton 2:1 recovery when used with the 140 ton pulley. The A-frame boom of the A2 can lift 35 tons when used in conjunction with the spade down. The spade can be used for light earth moving, and can be used to anchor the vehicle when using the main winch. The M88 employs an Auxiliary power unit (APU) to provide auxiliary electrical and hydraulic power when the main engine is not in operation. It can also be used to slave start other vehicles, provide power for the hydraulic impact wrench, as well as the means to refuel or de-fuel vehicles as required. The M88 series of vehicles can refuel M1 tanks from its own fuel tanks, but this is a last resort due to the possibility of clogging the AGT-1500s fuel filters. The fuel pump draws fuel from the bottom of the fuel cell, and with it, all of the sediment that has accumulated with time.[1]


  • M88 – 1961
  • M88A1 – 1977
  • M88A2 Hercules – 1991
  • M88A3 Hercules – future

The original M88 produced from 1960 to 1964 used the Continental AVSI-1790-6A gasoline engine rated at 980 HP at 2800 rpm, as well as a 10 HP gasoline auxiliary power unit.[3] The M88A1 was powered by the Continental AVDS-1790-2DR Diesel engine and had a 10 HP Diesel auxiliary power unit. While the original M88 and M88A1 are designated as a "Medium Recovery Vehicle", the M88A2 (original designation being M88A1E1) is designated as "Heavy Recovery Vehicle". They are all similar in many fundamental ways however, the later version is distinctly heavier (70 tons, compared to the original 56 tons) and uses a different engine (AVDS 1790-8CR with 1050 hp, compared to a Continental AVDS-1790-2DR, with 750 hp).[1]

The M88A2 is slightly larger than its predecessors (8.6 × 3.7 × 3.2 m compared to 8.3 × 3.4 × 3.2 m) thus retains a lower top speed (40 km/h) and a significantly lower road range (322 km compared to 450 km). There have also been improvements in braking and steering. Additionally, the M88A2 has upgraded armor protection including armored track skirts and applique armor panels, which both previous models lack. The M88 is also lacking in Nuclear, Biological, Chemical (NBC) defenses and a smoke screen generator, which the later M88A1 and M88A2 models are equipped with. Furthermore, the crew number has decreased from 5, to 3–4, to 3 through the series.[1]

The M88A3 configuration features an upgraded powertrain, suspension and tracks, increasing the vehicle’s speed, survivability and reliability. The M88A3 also features a seventh road wheel to reduce ground pressure and new hydropneumatic suspension units (HSUs) that enable the track to be locked out for greater control when recovering vehicles, say BAE in a release. “The contract is being awarded under an Other Transactional Authority (OTA) acquisition model for upgrading the M88A2 Heavy Equipment Recovery Combat Utility Lift Evacuation System (HERCULES) to the next generation M88A3 HERCULES. BAE Systems’ M88 family of recovery vehicles has provided the Army with unprecedented capability for recovering stranded or disabled combat vehicles since the 1960s. Due to incremental weight increases of the Army’s Main Battle Tank over the years, the M88A3’s predecessor, the M88A2, is currently unable to safely perform single-vehicle recovery of the Abrams. BAE Systems has invested Independent Research and Development to develop the M88A3 for three years in an effort to identify, understand, and provide solutions to return to single-vehicle recovery of the tank.”

All variants retain an M2 Browning .50 caliber machine gun, 432 mm ground clearance, 2.6 m fording depth, 1.1 m wall climb and 2.6 m trench crossing capabilities. There has been no major deviation in battlefield role through the M88 series, the later models are merely able to lift heavier loads. The M88A1 was designed around the now obsolete M60 Patton tanks, so it was in light of the fact that two M88A1s were required to tow the new M1 Abrams tank that the decision was made to upgrade to the M88A2 in 1991.[1]

On February 20, 2017, it was announced that the United States Army had contracted BAE Systems Land and Armaments a $28 million contract modification for the procurement of 11 M88A2 recovery vehicles.[4]


M88 mired as it attempted to crest a hill in heavy rain during night training in Fort Hunter Liggett, California.

One of the main issues afflicting the current M88A2 is the high rate of winch failures. The leading cause of these failures is by operating the winch without tension on the cable leading to loose wrapping and bunching up of the cable (Birdnesting). There is also concern with loss of tractive force when an M88A2 tows a heavy M1 Abrams on a slope in wet, muddy conditions. The M88A2 was extensively tested at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland and on August 10, 1998 was officially approved for the towing of 70-ton combat vehicles such as the M1 Abrams.[1]


Map of M88 operators in red

Current operatorsEdit

Former operatorEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "M88's info and specs". Federation of American Scientists (FAS). 6 February 2000. Archived from the original on 29 January 2012. Retrieved 24 June 2011.
  2. ^ "BAE Systems Awarded $185 Million Contract for M88A2 HERCULES Recovery Vehicles" (Press release). BAE Systems. 4 March 2008. Archived from the original on 18 September 2008. Retrieved 11 September 2008.
  3. ^ Armored Recovery Vehicle, In service from 1961 - present.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 19 June 2018. Retrieved 3 March 2017.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t "SIPRI arms transfer database". Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. 21 June 2011. Archived from the original on 31 January 2011. Retrieved 21 June 2011. Information generated on 21 June 2011
  6. ^ "Army officially accepts new armoured vehicles". defenceconnect.com.au. Archived from the original on 20 April 2017. Retrieved 21 April 2017.
  7. ^ "Regimento Mallet recebe M109 A5 + BR". Forte (in Portuguese). 15 October 2019.
  8. ^ "DefesaNet - Brasil - EUA - Os EUA transferem 50 viaturas blindadas ao EB". defesanet.com.br. Archived from the original on 20 October 2016. Retrieved 15 October 2016.
  9. ^ http://tecnodefesa.com.br/chegam-finalmente-ao-brasil-os-m-109a5-br-plus-modernizados-pela-bae-systems-aco/
  10. ^ Recovery Vehicles for Iraq Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine - Defense-Aerospace.com, October 8, 2012
  11. ^ "Kingdom of Saudi Arabia - M1A2S Saudi Abrams Main Battle Tanks and M88Al/A2 Heavy Equipment Recovery Combat Utility Lift Evacuation System (HERCULES) Armored Recovery Vehicles (ARV)". Defense Security Cooperation Agency. 9 August 2016. Archived from the original on 13 September 2016. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  12. ^ Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States (TECRO) – M1A2T Abrams Tanks and Related Equipment and Support
  13. ^ Pike, John. "Turkey - Major Army Equipment". globalsecurity.org. Archived from the original on 2 December 2013. Retrieved 15 October 2016.
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 11 March 2010. Retrieved 23 December 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ Zaloga, Steven J. (2003). Tank battles of the Mid-East Wars (2): The wars of 1973 to the present. Hong Kong: Concord Publications. p. 53. ISBN 962-361-613-9.


  • Military Vehicles from World War I to the Present – Hans Halberstadt, 1998
  • Patton, A History of the American Medium Battle Tank, Vol. 1 – R.P. Hunnicutt, Presidio Press, 1984

External linksEdit