April 18, 2024


The M88A2 Armored Recovery Vehicle is a behemoth used by the Marines to rescue other vehicles in difficult situations.

Bryan McKay, hailing from Mount Vernon, Ill., is the head artisan responsible for the M88A2 project at Production Plant Barstow, Marine Depot Maintenance Command in California.

“The ’88 is also known as the Hercules, an acronym standing for Heavy Equipment Recovery Combat Utility Lift Evacuation System,” McKay explained.

The Hercules is built by the British company BAE Systems and has been in use in one form or another by the Army and Marine Corps since 1959, he said.

McKay said the cost of a new Hercules is about $3 million, “… but when you compare it to the cost of the Abrams it could save, it’s well worth it,” he said.

The Hercules is capable of towing 160,000 pounds, or 80 tons, and its boom and winch can lift 35 tons, or 70,000 pounds.

“The Hercules is really a massive hydraulic lift on tracks and is the only vehicle the military has that can, on its own, pull an M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank out of the mud or dirt even if the tank is buried up to its skirts,” McKay said.

“The Abrams tank itself is not designed to tow another tank because the track on them is totally different than on the ‘88s,” he said. “The Hercules treads are designed to dig into the surface to provide the pulling power needed to get a tank unstuck whereas a tank’s treads would just slip in place, so the M88s perform a crucial role on the battlefield.”

McKay said the Hercules is not a simple vehicle to work on.

“The biggest challenge to repairing the ’88 is identifying and routing the hoses and cables to make sure they get to the right place, because the Hercules is nothing more than a big hydraulic pump on tracks,” he said. “You have to make sure all of the hoses are not kinked or blocked, and that everything is clean … very clean, because if you have any residual contamination in the system, it can wreak havoc on very expensive parts inside.”

Williams, Ariz., native Jim Stradling is a 34 -year employee at PPB, who works on the engine powering the M88.

Stradling said the engine is huge, a V12 diesel with twin turbos capable of churning out 1,100 horsepower.

“The whole engine is a challenge because it’s so massive,” Stradling said. “We do all of the testing on the engine prior to it being taken to the Tracked Vehicle Test Area.”

David Jones, a PPB employee for ten years and a former Marine, is the lead artisan who maintains the cupola containing the Hercules command weapons station.

“The Hercules has one .50 caliber machine gun on a powered cupola on top of the ’88 controlled by a joystick from inside the vehicle,” Jones said. “The joystick and the powered cupola are an upgrade from the hand crank that was used to control the movement of the cupola and machine gun.”

“What we do is tear it down, send the various parts out to the shops, then rebuild it and test the cupola,” he said.

McKay said they then test the completed Hercules for its pulling and lifting ability.

“That’s something special we do here that other repair facilities don’t do. We load test all of the ‘88s once they’re completed, out at our lift and pull area, which is something I’ve never seen in my 29- year career,” he said.

Whatever their tasks are, all of the artisans working on the M88A2 Hercules at PPB echo the same sentiment.

“Doing a quality job for the Marines, that’s what I get out of it when it goes out to Fleet, and the Marines are happy with it,” McKay said.