BAE Systems has unveiled a prototype of an upgraded M88A3 Heavy Equipment Recovery Combat Utility Lift and Evacuation System (Hercules) that is intended to be able to handle the heavier weights of modern main battle tanks (MBTs).
The M1A2 Abrams MBT System Enhancement Package version 2 (SEPv2) has a combat weight of approximately 74 tons, while the Abrams SEPv3 will increase the combat weight even further by 5 tons, according to the Pentagon's Department of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) 2017 annual report. In a February 'notice of intent', the army estimated that, "with all force protection kits applied, the weight of the M1A2 is tracking approximately 80 [tons]".
The M88A2 "is currently unable to safely perform single vehicle recovery [SVR] of the Abrams tank due to incremental weight increases of the Abrams over the years," according to the DOT&E 2017 annual report.
To remedy this, the army is pursuing an engineering change proposal (ECP) for the M88A2 so the vehicles can again perform an SVR on the heaviest Abrams tanks. This is planned to include improvements to the M88A2's powertrain, suspension, and track. It could also improve the vehicle's speed, hoisting and winching capacity, survivability, and reliability.
BAE Systems has been working via internal funding on an M88A3 demonstrator for about two years, Jim Miller, the company's director of business development for combat vehicles, told Jane's .
The demonstrator is an upgraded M88A2 with a seventh road wheel to help alleviate ground pressure and new hydropneumatic suspension units (HSUs) that enable the track to be locked out, Miller said. The M88A2 requires a soldier or marine to exit the vehicle and use objects (typically wood blocks) to lock out the track. The intent is to upgrade existing M88A2s to the A3 configuration.
BAE Systems is recommending that the vehicle's air-cooled engine be replaced with a commercially available, liquid-cooled, 1,300 hp caterpillar diesel engine; its transmission would be replaced with a modified Abrams tanks transmission.
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