The Humvee has been a symbol of the US Army since the early 1980’s. Known in the military as the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), it has been an ever present element to US military conflict throughout the world. First sent to battle in Panama during Operation Just Cause, the HMMWV has seen action in Somalia, the Balkan conflict, use in the Middle East during the first Gulf War, Iraq, and even Afghanistan. It has been a staple of American power overseas, and now it’s time has come to an end.
The application of the HMMWV has been as varied as the locations it has been employed. The original contract was awarded to AM General, which designed 11 different prototype versions of the HMMWV. Six of these employed weapon systems as their primary defense and five were designed as utility vehicles for transporting personnel or equipment. Their premise was simple: design a vehicle which could work in nearly every environment, and that was reliable. The HMMWV was used in the Arctic and the desert, through mountains and across rivers up to 60 inches deep.
The HMMWV’s use in combat is an emotional one. Built to be reliable, it performed well during the Gulf War, but as demonstrated through the storied Blackhawk Down incident in Mogadishu, was not built to protect its occupants from machine gun fire and RPGs. In non-conventional warfare, the HMMWV simply could not stand up to the enemy threat. Never was this more apparent than in the Iraq war.
Soldiers maneuvered into battle with HMMWVs down main roads and dirt trails. Although after a few years of conflict, the up armored variant had been added to the fleet of vehicles, the asymmetrical nature of the war continued to evolve faster than the HMMWV could keep up. Soon, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) would leave their mark as the chief weapon of use by the enemy. The HMMWV, ill-equipped to defend against the explosive power of the IED resulted in the deaths of countless servicemen and women.
This spelled the beginning of the end for the HMMWV. In Afghanistan it was slowly replaced by the MRAP and M-ATV, vehicular variants which afforded more personnel space in the MRAP and more off-roading capabilities in the M-ATV. Both were designed and able to adapt with V-shaped hulls to protect the occupants in ways that the HMMWV never could. In all, over 300,000 HMMWV’s were built over the years by AM General, with more than 160,000 being used by the US Military. The final order for a last batch of HMMWVs came on June 5, 2015 for 25 up armor HMMWV’s.
The next generation of vehicles is set to be announced in the coming months. The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) includes a $53.3 billion program for 49,099 vehicles for the Army and 5,500 for the Marine Corps. While this does mark the end of a long tradition, it is an opportunity for the military to continue its advancement and development towards a more capable, defendable, and accessible vehicle platform. Only time will whether the JLTV will be the vehicle of the future, but it does have big shoes to fill in terms of both history and tactical capability.
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