United Defense LP, M88, M88A1, M88A1E1 and M88 IRV Armoured Recovery Vehicles


The standard ARV in the US Army immediately after the Second World War was the M74, designed by Bowen-McLaughlin-York (later BMY and now part of United Defense), which produced over 1,000 vehicles. BMY was awarded a contract to build three prototype vehicles under the designation of T88, to use as many components as possible of the M60 tank. These prototypes were followed by 10 preproduction vehicles for troop trials. The production contract was awarded to BMY in 1960 with the first production M88s completed in February 1961. Final vehicles were completed in 1964, by which time 1,075 had been built. The M88 was powered by a Continental (now General Dynamics Land Systems) AVSI-1790- 6A, 12-cylinder, air-cooled, supercharged, fuel injection petrol engine. In April 1972, BMY received a contract from the US Army to design significant improvements for the M88. The basis for these improvements was to change the engine from petrol to diesel fuel, corresponding with the US Army's move towards converting all of its armoured vehicles to diesel engines. In 1973 an M88 was fitted with a variant of the engine fitted to the M60 MBT. The Teledyne Continental Motors (now General Dynamics Land Systems) AVDS-1790-2DR 12-cylinder diesel engine produced 750 bhp at 2,400 rpm and had a power take-off to facilitate operation of the hydraulic system. Trials demonstrated an increase in operating range from 360 to 450 km. This vehicle also had a modified transmission, a diesel-fired personnel heater and auxiliary power unit, and stowage space for a small quantity of LAW anti-tank weapons. The hydraulic system was redesigned to allow the auxiliary power unit to operate the main winch cable as well as stow the boom and spade to prepare the vehicle for recovery, should the hydraulic system fail. The converted vehicle was designated the M88E1 and BMY built five prototypes for accelerated evaluation. The M88A1 was type classified in March 1975. Due to an increased need for medium recovery vehicles and a desire to improve those already in the field, the US Army contracted in 1975 to reopen the M88 production line at the BMY plant in York, Pennsylvania.

Most of the original M88s (878 of the 1,075 produced) were returned to BMY's production facility for overhaul and conversion. Beginning in 1977 this overhaul/conversion process ran in parallel with new production until early 1982. Production of new M88A1s continued, with a total of 2,167 completed when production ended in early 1989. When production ended at that stage, and taking into account the overhaul/conversions, the total of M88s was 3,244. Of these, 199 were basic M88s, most in service with overseas armies. Although most of the M88A1s are in service with the US armed forces, some 496 were then in service with NATO and allied countries. In November 1990 it was announced that orders placed by a Far Eastern nation for the M88A1 would involve the reopening of the production line. During 1981 an Independent Research and Development (IR&D) programme was initiated to investigate improvements necessary for the recovery support of the M1-series Abrams MBT. An initial result was the development of the M88AX automotive demonstrator (see under Variants in this entry), which led to the acceptance by the US Army of a revised version of the M88A1 known as the M88A1E1 (see also under Variants) following testing completed during 1988. The M88A1E1 was expected to be type classified as the M88A2. The US Army reprogrammed, with Congress approval, $8 million from FY86 Research and Development funds; further Research and Development funding, bringing the total to $25 million, was scheduled for FY87 to FY89. A FY88 request for $24.1 million advance procurement funding was made to cover the procurement of long- lead items such as engines, winches and hull components. The first production funding of $79 million was scheduled for FY89, when 80 vehicles were projected. There was no FY90 funding, leading to further work on the M88A1E1 being terminated from April 1989 until early 1991. It was expected that between 500 and 1,300 new M88A2s would be produced by BMY with no conversions from existing vehicles being involved. The M88A2 was to have been used to support US Army M60A3, M1 and M1A1 units. Existing US Army M88A1 assets were to have been transferred to supporting the Bradley Fighting System and M109 series self-propelled 155 mm howitzers. In October 1991 it was announced that the US Army Tank Automotive Command (TACOM) had awarded BMY Combat Systems Division a contract worth $12.8 million to complete the development and testing of the M88A1E1 Improved Recovery Vehicle (IRV). The five existing M88A1E1 prototypes were reconditioned and improved in a number of key areas. Testing restarted during 1992 and continued into 1993. A contract, eventually worth $30.6 million, was placed in October 1994 and involved 13 vehicles. The award was for Low Rate Initial Production and was completed by January 1996. The US Army plans to reclaim hulls from current M88A1s and build up as new to the IRV.

DESCRIPTION : The hull of the M88 and M88A1 is of cast armour and rolled armour welded together, with the crew compartment at the front and the engine and transmission at the rear. The driver and mechanic are seated at the front of the hull, each with a single-piece hatch cover and periscopes. The commander was originally provided with a cupola with an internally mounted 12.7 mm machine gun but this was subsequently replaced by a simple cupola with a pintle-mounted 12.7 mm machine gun. There is an entry door in each side of the hull. The suspension is similar to that used on the M60 MBT and consists of six roadwheels, with the drive sprocket at the rear and the idler at the front. There are three track-return rollers. Hydraulic shock- absorbers are provided for the first, second and sixth roadwheel stations. At the front of the vehicle is a hydraulically operated blade, which stabilises the vehicle when the winch is being used and assists in bulldozing operations. An A-type boom pivoted at the front of the hull can lift a vehicle weighing up to 5,443 kg without using the blade or suspension lockout at the front, or 18,160 kg using lockout without using the blade. The vehicle can lift 22,700 kg when using the blade. The two winches are in the lower part of the hull. The M88 is not provided with an NBC system (a kit exists for an M88A1 system incorporating a ventilated facepiece) and has no amphibious capability. A fording kit is available for use in water up to 2.6 m deep. Infrared driving lights are provided and the driver can replace one of his day periscopes with an infrared periscope. Standard equipment includes tools, towbars and an auxiliary fuel pump, allowing the vehicle to transfer fuel to other AFVs at 95 litres/min. The M88A1 is fitted with an Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) powered by an Onan 10.8 hp (8.1 kW) diesel, two-cylinder, four-cycle engine. The APU powers an auxiliary hydraulic system which can be used to power the boom, spade and main winch and hoist cables if the main hydraulic system is inoperative. It also provides power for the refueling and fuel transfer pump, which allows the M88A1 to act as a mobile filling station. The hydraulic system also provides power to operate a 19 mm drive hydraulic impact wrench, used for track maintenance and other maintenance and recovery tasks.

Next generation of armoured recovery vehicles

M88AX/M88A1E1/M88 IRV/M88A2


In order to determine the growth potential of the basic M88A1 components, BMY developed an M88AX automotive demonstrator in 1984-85. The demonstrator was an up-powered and up-weighted vehicle powered by a 960 bhp Teledyne Continental Motors (now General Dynamics Land Systems) AVDS-1790-8DR diesel engine mated to a slightly modified transmission, the XT-1410-5X. The final drive ratio was changed from 4.63:1 to 4.00: 1. During US Army tests held at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, the 65 tonne M88AX demonstrator recorded a top speed on level ground of 56.8 km/h and towed a 65 tonne load at 46 km/h over the same course. It was also able to tow a 65 tonne load up a 30 per cent slope at 3.38 km/ h and to tow a 65 tonne load over the 6.11 km Churchville `B' unpaved/ hilly course at an average speed 51 per cent greater than an M88A1. The primary purpose of the M88AX was to validate engineering predictions in connection with the US Army search for an armoured vehicle to recover the M1A1/M1A2 Abrams MBT. In late 1985 the US Army decided to establish a Product Improvement Programme (PIP) that capitalised on BMY's initial efforts. This programme was overtaken by the introduction of the M88A1E1. The US Army awarded BMY a research and development contract in January 1987. The fixed-price contract covered the design, construction and testing of five prototype vehicles plus a separate hull for ballistic testing. The prototype vehicles were designated the M88A1E1. The M88A1E1 was the follow-on from the M88AX programme and featured a 1, 050 hp AVDS-1790-8CR diesel engine coupled to an Allison XT-1410-5A transmission. Improved brakes were fitted along with a brake booster and the sprocket mounting was improved. One of the main changes introduced was a new main winch with a continuous line pull of 63,504 kg, provided with a nominal 100 m of cable. A 2,722 kg lead winch was incorporated to allow a single crewman to deploy the main winch cable. The hoist had a capacity (spade down and with a four-part line) of 31, 752 kg and was used in conjunction with an A-frame, lengthened by 0.84 m to increase the lift height. The lengthened A-frame involved the introduction of increased diameter staylines and an increase in length to 8.65 m with the boom stowed. Combat loaded weight was 63,050 kg, with most of the weight increase introduced by the addition of overlay armour to the existing M88A1 hull armour, providing ballistic protection against up to 30 mm calibre direct fire and 152 mm indirect fire fragmentation. Ballistic skirts were also provided. The suspension torsion bars, shock-absorbers and snubbers were upgraded to cater for the weight increase. Maximum rated speed was 40.2 km/h and the fuel capacity was increased to 1,628 litres. The draw bar pull was increased to 48,535 kg compared to 40,824 kg for the M88A1.

The M88A1E1 was selected again by the US Army after competitive testing in 1988. Developmental testing was nearly complete and over 11,260 km of durability testing had been logged when further work was cancelled by budget cutbacks. Five of the six prototypes produced were used to support activities at Aberdeen Proving Ground. In January 1991, at the request of the US Army Tank Automotive Command (TACOM), BMY submitted a Phase I M88 IRV (Improved Recovery Vehicle) proposal. This would involve the tear-down and inspection of the five M88A1E1 prototypes and some limited engineering to further improve selected areas of the design. Phase II would complete the overhaul and upgrade of the prototypes, conduct the required testing and complete a Technical Data Package. In October 1991 it was announced that the US Army Tank Automotive Command (TACOM) had awarded BMY Combat Systems Division a contract worth $12.8 million to complete the development and testing of the M88A1E1 IRV. The five existing M88A1E1 prototypes were reconditioned and improved in a number of key areas. Approximately 18,000 km of government testing was successfully completed by September 1993, demonstrating that the M88 IRV fully met all M1A2 Abrams MBT support requirements. Subsequent contract modifications totalling $6.3 million were awarded to United Defense LP, Combat Systems Division (formerly BMY) to define interface drawings with Anniston Army Depot and complete Integrated Logistics Support activities (provisioning, training and technical manuals) that had been deferred due to lack of funding. The US Army plans to reclaim hulls from current M88A1s and build up as new to the IRV. At a Special In-process Review conducted in January 1994 the US Army decided to move the programme into limited production. A contract award was made in September 1994 with first vehicle deliveries in early 1996. Type classification of the M88A1E1 to the M88A2 was scheduled for late 1996. Subsequent modifications to this contract were made in 1995 and 1996 which brought the total production quantity of M88 IRVs up from 13 to 63 vehicles of which 14 of these are for the Kuwait land forces.

Israeli M88


Israeli M88 ARVs are fitted with a Blazer reactive armour package and additional anti-personnel weapons for self and local defence.

Weight (combat) 50,848 kg
Length: (dozer blade raised) 8.267 m
Width: 3.429 m
(with MG) 3.225 m
(top of commander's hatch) 2.97 m
Ground clearance: 0.776 kg
Track: 2.717 m
Track width: 711 mm
Length of track on ground: 4.61 m
Ground pressure: 0.776 kg/cm{2}
Max speed: (road) 42 km/h
Range: 483 km
Fuel capacity: 1,514 litres
Fording: 1.42 m
Gradient: 60%
Vertical obstacle: 1.07 m
Trench: 2.61 m
Engine: AVDS-1790-2DR, 12-cylinder, air-cooled, supercharged fuel injection diesel developing 750 bhp at 2,400 rpm
Transmission: XT-1410-4 cross-drive
Electrical system: 24 V
1 x 12.7 mm M2 HB MG
2 x 6 smoke grenade dischargers
Ammunition: 12.7 mm - 1,500 rounds
Armour: (estimate) 12.7-50 mm

STATUS : In production. The M88A1 is in service with Bahrain (4), Egypt (221), Greece (66), Israel (25), Jordan (32), South Korea (38), Kuwait (10), Morocco (18), Norway (3), Oman (2), Pakistan (52), Portugal (6), Saudi Arabia (139), Spain (1), Sudan (2), Taiwan (33), Thailand (21), Tunisia (6) and the USA (US Army 2,470, Marine Corps 81). The M88 IRV is in production for Kuwait (14) and the US Army (49).

COMPANY NAME : United Defense LP