JCB will be supplying high-speed backhoe loaders to the U.S. Army under a $50 million contract. The High Mobility Engineer Excavators (HMEEs) will be manufactured at JCB’s North American plant in Savannah, GA, and will be delivered by 2017.
The Army was the first military organisation to purchase HMEEs when in 2005 it ordered 636 of the machines—a JCB contract that was worth $206 million and which today remains the biggest single order in JCB’s 68-year history. Since then the company has gone on to sell the machine to armed forces in the U.K., Sweden, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, New Zealand, and other allied nations.
Engineered in Britain, the 16-t (17.5-ton) HMEE is said by JCB to have revolutionised the way military engineering tasks were tackled. Capable of speeds of up to 60 mph, the HMEE is able to keep up with military convoys on the road, eliminating the need to transport the machine using a truck and a low-loader.
As a result roads can be cleared, obstacles removed, and routes for the opposition blocked. This is achieved by combining the digging and loading capabilities of a traditional JCB backhoe loader and the high-speed JCB Fastrac tractor, the only tractor to have full suspension and anti-lock brakes. The HMEE also features blast protection systems.
The machine being supplied under the new contract is the HMEE-1 model complete with brand new air delivery capability by C-17 aircraft. It is also air transportable in a C130 Hercules aircraft. The contract also includes the provision of training and service support. The machines supplied will be a mix of A-kit unprotected models and B-kit models with full crew protection.
The HMEE-1 feature a 6.7-L diesel engine and is four-wheel drive and four-wheel steer. It can lift 1.8 t (2 ton) and dig to a depth of around 13 ft (4 m). It is offered in a base model, a full-crew protection model, and a much-enhanced protection NATO Theater Entry Standard model.