AM General has debuted its Humvee Saber, an evolution of the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) that provides greater mobility, protection and modernised payload opportunities at the DSEI 2023 exhibition in London
“We noticed an emerging need, primarily with our international customers, for a vehicle better protected than the original HMMWV, but not quite as expensive as the JLTV,” John Chadbourne, the Executive VP and Chief Business Development Officer at AM General told EDR on 12th September.
“This all really started in Iraq and Afghanistan, we sent HMMWVs out into combat that they were never really designed for,” he explained. “The logical answer was the MRAP, they weren’t transportable or particularly mobile but they were well protected – I always felt safe leaving the FOB in mine,” Chadbourne explained.
The MRAP programme eventually led to the JLTV, which is recognised as a very capable and well-protected vehicle, but it is generally an expensive choice for many nations that currently operate the original HMMWV. “This is why we developed Saber, work started about three years ago, and we have spent that time testing it to de-risk the design and make sure it is technically sound,” Chadbourne said.
To minimise supply chain disruption the Saber’s employs the Humvee 13-series chassis, and shares around 70% commonality with the automotive components of the original HMMWV, the remaining 30% is mostly composed of non-serviceable parts. It is powered by a 205 hp 6.5 L turbocharged diesel engine coupled to a 4 speed electronically controlled transmission. The Saber is also fitted with semi-active suspension, which improves ride comfort and handling by adjusting the amount of damping according to measurements taken of the road and vehicle handling conditions. “The semi-active suspension means that not only does the Saber have a greater gross vehicle weight (6,396 kg) than the HMMWV, but its off-road mobility is actually better”, Chadbourne said.
The fuel tank has a capacity of 95 litres providing an operational range of 402 km. The angles of approach and departure are 48° and 37° respectively. It can climb a 60% gradient and maintain traction on a 30% side slope as well as overcome a 30.5 cm vertical obstacle.
Protection is also dramatically improved over the original HMMWV and built into the base design, which employs a patented steel monocoque cell at the centre of the vehicle with an off-set W shape at the bottom, which serves to divert blast energy away from the crew. Blast seats, a floating floor and 360 degree kinetic protection complete the survivability package.
The concept was presented at DSEI with a Hornet Air Guard RWS modified to provide a C-UAS capability, as well as AeroVironment Switchblade loitering munitions to demonstrate its ability to host different payloads suitable for modern warfare. Additional features include the ArmorVision transparent armour system from ArmorWorks, which uses cameras installed in the rear passenger doors to provide external situational awareness. Thermal imaging and CCD cameras can be installed as required and provide a feed to screens inside the vehicle.
The production contract for the original HMMWV was awarded to AM General in 1983. At that time the vehicle was not expected to be a workhorse for frontline combat. It was used during the 1989 US Operation Just Cause in Panama, was extensively deployed in the 1991 Gulf War and performed a major role in Mogadishu in 1993. Mogadishu demonstrated the need for greater ballistic and blast protection, which was further emphasised by the IED threat in Iraq from 2006. In the 34 years since the HMMWV was first deployed operationally, the ability of non-state actors to deploy IEDs, conduct coordinated small-unit tactics and counter large conventionally armed forces have become ubiquitous. Because of this, very lightly protected vehicles like the original HMMWV are less appealing than better protection options like the Saber.
Photos courtesy AM General, Sam Cranny-Evans and P. Valpolini