Van E. Harl
IT’S HUMMER TIME
It was cold and rainy. The trails we were operating on were slick and it made driving a challenge, but then that is why we were there. There, is the US Army base of Fort Knox, Kentucky. Fort Knox is the home of armor (tanks) and they have hundreds of miles of ruff traveling tank trails that present frustrating obstacles for any wheeled vehicle.
It was the fall of 1984 and the Army was conducting fielded trials for the then new High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle. The acronym was HMMWV, but it very quickly became pronounced, HUMVEE and then just Hummer. The Hummer officially entered US military service in 1985. The US Army was the lead agency for the development and procurement of the Hummer, but my branch of the service, the Air Force had a need for this new all-terrain vehicle. I was sent to Fort Knox to be the Air Force, Security Police representative at the field trials.
Remember the old Timex commercials where they strapped John Cameron Swayze and wristwatch into some type of dangerous mechanical device and then appeared to beat the sam-hill out of Mr. Swayze. In the end both him and the Timex watch took a licking and kept on ticking. That is kind of how I felt at the end of each test day at the Fort Knox Hummer trials.
The vehicles were driven all day non-stop. The four soldiers in the vehicle would rotate into the driver’s position to keep the Hummers moving. We were testing the model M1045 Tow Carrier. This is the classic Hummer you see on the news.
There are 11 variants of the Hummer, everything from Troop/Cargo carrier to Ambulances. Our M1045 had four doors and a turret in the roof for mounting the TOW missile. TOWs are wire guided anti armor missiles that are used to kill tanks. The rear third of the roof on the M1045 slopes downward (kind of like the old “fastback” cars of the late 1960s) designed to accommodate the back-blast from the TOW missile as it was being fired.
The Hummer was designed and brought into service as a replacement for a number of small: what the military calls M-series vehicles. The M-series vehicle that the US military wanted to replace the most was the M-151 Jeep. The biggest problem with the M-151 was it had a horrible safety problem with rollover accidents. Also the M-151 Jeep had a small four cylinder 78 HP engine and had only an 800 pound off road pay load.
The Army and the Marine Corps wanted to be able to kill tanks with something other than another armored vehicle. This fast moving, thin skinned, tank destroyer mission was being less than perfectly accomplished by a four man crew, using two M-151 Jeeps plus trailers, with a TOW missile mounted on one of the M-151s. The military wanted to consolidate this tank killing process into one vehicle that could do it all and not flip over on its back in the middle of a combat zone.
The Hummer is much larger than the M-151 Jeep. It is 15 feet long and over seven feet wide. Wide is the optimum word here. The Hummer is so wide, if it had a bench front seat you could easily accommodate four people. It has a 6.2 liter V-8 diesel engine (the same as in General Motors pick up trucks.) The payload is 3042 pounds and it can tow a loaded trailer up to 4200 pounds. With the M1045 TOW Hummer you now can reduce your tank killing mission to one, wheeled vehicle. It can travel up to 65 mph and has a range of 350 miles.
Development for what was to become the Hummer started in 1979. It was officially in US military service in 1985, but there were early productions of Hummers floating about the Army as early as the fall of 1983. The Hummer can do water-crossings up to 30 inches deep. The Marines have need for deeper water crossing capabilities so with the “deep-water fording kit” (snorkel) the Hummer can plow through 60 inches of water. Now mind you the Marines will be soaked and water will be running everywhere inside, but they will not have to get out of the vehicle and expose themselves to enemy fire or swim. When you stand next to a Hummer it seams a rather large vehicle to replace the little Jeep, but it is not that heavy. It weights in at only 5200 pounds because of the lightweight composite materials that are used in the construction. Keep the weight down to ensure the easy air transportability. The lighter they are, the more you can fit inside an Air Force cargo aircraft.
Next year in 2005 the Hummer will be officially 20 years old and it needs to be a well-celebrated birthday. Hummers are used in some fashion by most NATO member military organizations. The wide-open spaces of the Iraq desert during the first Gulf War were the real proving grounds for the Hummer and the vehicle preformed marvelously. So well, that Toyota even makes a Land Cruiser, Hummer copy for their domestic use.
Over the years there have been a lot of corporate name changes and restructuring, but if you take the time to sift through it all, you will find the people who made the WW II famous Willys-Jeep are the same ones who make the Hummer. Now that the Hummer is battle proven it is tactical to practical time.
If you want your own civilian Hummer there are out they’re waiting for you. Once you get past the sticker shock and buy a Hummer, you will have a vehicle that can handle anything you throw at it, including the shopping mall parking lot.
©Copyright March 6, 2004 by Van E. Harl