M88 Recovery Vehicle

U.S. Marines with 1st Tank Battalion watches as one of the last Hercules M88 recovery vehicles are loaded up on a tow truck at Twentynine Palms, Calif. on July 28, 2020. As a part of Force Design 2030, the Hercules M88 recovery vehicles are being divested from the Marine Corps in an effort to accelerate modernization and realign capabilities, units and personnel to higher priority areas. (U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Justin Evans)

The M88 Recovery Vehicle is one of the largest all weather armored recovery vehicles (ARV) currently in use by United States Armed Forces. There are currently three variants, the M88M88A1 and M88A2 Hercules. 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. The current M88A2 replacement cost is around US$2,050,000.

  • M88 - 1961
  • M88A1 - 1977
  • M88A2 Hercules - 1991

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. 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).

The M88A2 is slightly larger than its predecessors (8.6 x 3.7 x 3.2 m compared to 8.3 x 3.4 x 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.

However, 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 M88A1's were required to tow the new M1 Abrams tank that the decision was made to upgrade to the M88A2 in 1991.


One of the main issues afflicting the current M88A2 is the high rate of winch failures, which is mainly caused by continued winch operation after the cable has wrapped around the drum incorrectly, leading to damaged hub bearings. 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.

Weight M88/M88A1: 50.8 t (112,000 lb)
M88A2: 63.5 t (140,000 lb)
Length 27.13 ft (8.27 m)
Width 11.25 ft (3.43 m)
Height 10.25 ft (3.12 m)
Crew 3
Armor Hull and cab armored to protect against small-arms fire up to 30mm direct fire weapons
M2 .50 cal heavy MG with 1,300 rounds
Engine M88/M88A1: Continental (now General Dynamics) 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)

Transmission XT-1410-5A cross-drive (3 speed forward, 1 speed reverse)
Suspension Torsion bar suspension
Ground clearance 17 in (0.43 m)
M88/M88A1: 450 km (280 mi)
M88A2: 322 km (200 mi)
Speed M88/M88A1: 42 km/h (26 mph)
M88A2: 48 km/h (30 mph)


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