High Mobility Engineer Excavator (HMEE)

The High Mobility Engineer Excavator (HMEE) is an armored backhoe-loader that is able to self-deploy at highway speeds compatible with military convoys while maintaining off-road mobility. However, HMEE is not intended for large earthmoving blade work, obstacle reduction, or assault breaching.

US Soldiers use High-Mobility Engineer Excavators (HMEE) to search for the remains of US and British service members near Amarah, Iraq, 21 July 2011. The Soldiers are assigned to Bulldog Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division
US Soldiers use High-Mobility Engineer Excavators (HMEE) to search for the remains of US and British service members near Amarah, Iraq, 21 July 2011. The Soldiers are assigned to Bulldog Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division.

Today in WW II: 15 Sep 1944 US Marines invade Peleliu, beginning a long and tough battle to wrest the island from the Japanese [15 Sep-27 Nov].   

High Mobility Engineer Excavator (HMEE) History

The High Mobility Engineer Excavator (HMEE) replaced the Small Emplacement Excavator (SEE) in the US Army inventory. The SEE reached the end of its intended life cycle in 2005 and was not designed to meet the requirements of medium to heavy forces.

The HMEE was defined in an August 2000 Operational Requirement Document. The HMEE development and acquisition program began in 2003. Four variants of the HMEE emerged, described in the following sections:

Interim High Mobility Engineer Excavator (IHMEE)

US Army PFC Timothy Morrison, A Company, Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, digs a hole with an interim High-Mobility Engineer Excavator, outside Combat Outpost Ahmad Khan, Zharay district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, 19 October 2011
US Army PFC Timothy Morrison, A Company, Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, digs a hole with an interim High-Mobility Engineer Excavator, outside Combat Outpost Ahmad Khan, Zharay district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, 19 October 2011.

While the HMEE program ramped up, an interim version was designated based on the High Mobility Engineering Vehicle (HMEV), a COTS vehicle manufactured by ADI Limited (later merged with Thales Australia). The Interim High Mobility Engineer Excavator (IHMEE) provides an immediately available, high-speed, all-terrain, multipurpose engineering vehicle fitted with a Front-End Loader and a backhoe. To expand its versatility, the IHMEE can be fitted with attachments such as a forklift or towing accessories.

The IHMEE suspension and transmission enable the IHMEE to maintain average speeds of 30 mph (48 km/h) on primary roads or 25 mph (40 km/h) on secondary roads or cross-country. The cab is fully enclosed and air-conditioned, with seating for the operator and one passenger.

The Interim High-Mobility Engineer Excavator (IHMEE) was motivated by the immediate and critical excavation needs of the Stryker brigades. With its attachments, the IHMEE is capable of executing a variety of mobility, survivability and countermobility missions, perform rapid excavation tasks and quickly self-deploy to the next mission site at convoy speed.

The IMHEE weighs approximately 24,000 pounds. While it can attain highway speeds exceeding 50 miles per hour, speed is limited operationally to 30 mph. The IHMEE can be transported by the C-130 and is one of two engineering construction systems in the Stryker brigade.

The IHMEE began fielding to the Stryker brigades in the third quarter of FY 2003. Forty units were initially ordered by the US Army with a total of up to 62 planned.

The Operator's Manual for the Interim High Mobility Engineer Excavator (IHMEE) is TM 5-2420-230-10. IHMEE can be identified with NSN 2420-66-148-7692.

HMEE Type I (Heavy)

A High Mobility Engineer Excavator Type 1 moves excess dirt and ground from one part of the Western Bypass road to be placed at another section of the road, Victory Base Complex, Iraq, 6 April 2009. SPC Juan Castillo, from San Antonio, a heavy equipment operator, of the 277th Engineer Company, attached to the 46th Engineer Battalion, 225th Engineer Brigade, operates the HMEE so adjustments can be made to flatten the road
A High Mobility Engineer Excavator Type 1 moves excess dirt and ground from one part of the Western Bypass road to be placed at another section of the road, Victory Base Complex, Iraq, 6 April 2009. SPC Juan Castillo, from San Antonio, a heavy equipment operator, of the 277th Engineer Company, attached to the 46th Engineer Battalion, 225th Engineer Brigade, operates the HMEE so adjustments can be made to flatten the road.

The High-Mobility Engineer Excavator Type I (HMEE-I) is a non-developmental, military-unique vehicle that will be fielded to US Army brigade combat teams and other selected engineer units, to meet medium and heavy unit requirements. The HMEE-I replaces the 1985-vintage Small Emplacement Excavator (SEE or SeeTrac), whose life cycle ended in FY 2005.

HMEE-I is a pneumatic-tired, all-wheel-drive tractor designed to maintain pace with maneuver units, having a top highway speed of 60 mph and up to 25 miles per hour on secondary roads. Off-road, the HMEE-I is capable of handling rough terrain and construction sites.

The HMEE-I is a diesel-engine-driven, self-propelled, four-wheel-drive vehicle with hydraulically-operated, front-mounted 1.5-cubic yard loader bucket and rear-mounted 0.28-cubic yard backhoe bucket. The HMEE-I has a 14-foot digging depth.

HMEE-I is a C-130 transportable 26,000-pound unit with mission-driven attachments. At approximately twice the size and weight of the Small Emplacement Excavator (SEE), it is designed with a stronger bucket breaking force to support missions of the heavier mechanized forces. Attachments such as a 6,000-pound forklift, sweeper, snowblower, sandbag filler, and plow are available. It has a hydraulic tool suite with chainsaw, air hammers, rock drills, augers, and other pioneer-related tools. The base model is built by JCB Inc. (named after its founder. J.C. Bamford) in Pooler, GA.

The HMEE has a climate-controlled cab that can be armored using a removable crew protection kit (CPK) capable of providing protection from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and small arms fire. The CPK is produced by ADSI (American Defense Systems Inc., Hicksville, NY).

The US Army placed an order for 800 HMEE vehicles in 2005, worth a total of $230 million. Production of the HMEE-I began in October 2008 and JCB delivered more than 350 HMEE-I vehicles by 2012, mostly for deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan.

High Mobility Engineer Excavator Type I (HMEE-I) Characteristics

Crew 2
Cab ROPS, FOPS, armored
Engine Cummins ISB 02 diesel, 200 hp (140 kW) @ 2,300 rpm
Transmission ZF Ergopower 6WG160
Steering Selectable 4-wheel
Drive Selectable 4-wheel w/ soft-engage differential locks
Operational Length 362.4 in. (9.21 m)
Operational Height 152 in. (3.86 m)
Width, Stabilizers Deployed 128.7 in. (3.27 m)
Weight, Combat Loaded 30,450 lb (13,812 kg)
Angle of Approach 36.6 degrees
Angle of Departure 31.5 degrees
Ground Clearance, Minimum 12.7 in. (0.323 m)
Maximum Highway Speed 60 mph (100 km/h)
Maximum Secondary Road Speed 25 mph (40.2 km/h)
Fording Depth, Maximum w/wake 40 in. (1 m)

The formal nomenclature for the HMEE Type I is High-Mobility Engineer Excavator Type I (HMEE-I). The NSN is 2420-01-535-4061. Manuals for the HMEE are numbered TM 5-2420-232-xx where the xx represents the maintenance level.

HMEE Type II (Light)

The High-Mobility Engineer Excavator Type II (HMEE-II) is designed to meet the specialized needs of airborne and air assault units. The HMEE Type II will perform similar missions to the HMEE I but meet the transportability requirements that will allow it to be used by airborne, air assault, and light units. Specifically, the TACOM procurement objectives for HMEE Type II state that the vehicle shall be C-130 Air Droppable, Self Deployable (40 mph objective), Air Assault (CH-47 transportable) - Single Lift, and Air Assault (CH-47 transportable)-Two Lifts.

HMEE Type III

Backhoe Loader System (BHL) with commercial, non-armored crew compartment.  BHL was formerly the High-Mobility Engineer Excavator Type III (HMEE-III)
Backhoe Loader System (BHL) with commercial, non-armored crew compartment. BHL was formerly the High-Mobility Engineer Excavator Type III (HMEE-III).

The High-Mobility Engineer Excavator Type III (HMEE-III) Backhoe Loader (BHL) is a commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) backhoe loader with minor military modifications intended for units that are relatively stationary and do not require the speed and rapid deployability of an HMEE-I. Its maximum speed is 23 miles per hour on improved roads, and 7 miles per hour off-road. The HMEE-III Backhoe Loader is used by Combat Support Brigades in general construction tasks. It is employed by Horizontal and Vertical Construction Units and other non-engineer units. such as Military Police and Quartermaster. The HMEE-III manufacturer is Case New Holland, Racine, WI, with armor provided by BAE (Columbus, OH).

What started out as the HMEE Type III program was renamed the the Backhoe Loader (BHL), a vehicle originally introduced by Caterpillar Inc. during the 2003 vendor solicitations to provide an existing tractor to the US Army. BHL is a modern version of the John Deer 410-D backhoe of the late 1970s, a non-self-transportable digging asset in the field used to support lines-of-communication installation, to counter emplaced mobility obstacles, to support mobility, and for general construction excavation. Case Inc. received the final contract during solicitations to produce approximately 700 systems over a 5-year period starting in 2006.

The BHL requires a tractor-trailer to transport it to the job site and has a maximum effective road speed of 20 miles per hour if it must be driven from mission location to location. The BHL program manager added an armored Crew Protection Kit to meet Coalition Forces Land Component Command requirements for use in Operation Enduring Freedom; BHL systems were used to support Operation Iraqi Freedom/New Dawn.

As of May 2012, BHL systems have not met acquisition requirements for full material release due to shortfalls in supportability.

High Mobility Engineer Excavator (HMEE) Photos

Find additional photos and hi-res versions of the High Mobility Engineer Excavator (HMEE) at the Olive-Drab Military Mashup.

High Mobility Engineer Excavator (HMEE) Photo Gallery

Training on the High Mobility Engineer Excavator (HMEE) at Grafenwoehr, Germany, 25 June 2010
Training on the High Mobility Engineer Excavator (HMEE) at Grafenwoehr, Germany, 25 June 2010.

US Soldiers with Alpha Company, 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, look on as a High Mobility Engineer Excavator (HMEE) digs a hole outside Combat Outpost Ahmad Khan, in the Zhari district of Kandahar province, Afghanistan, 19 Oct 2011
US Soldiers with Alpha Company, 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, look on as a High Mobility Engineer Excavator (HMEE) digs a hole outside Combat Outpost Ahmad Khan, in the Zhari district of Kandahar province, Afghanistan, 19 Oct 2011.

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