U.S. Army orders $50 million worth of HMEE high-speed backhoes from JCB

Updated Jun 25, 2014


The group responsible for the largest order in JCB’s history just asked the British heavy equipment maker to re-up its supply of high-speed backhoes.

The U.S. Army has ordered $50 million worth of High Mobility Engineer Excavators (HMEE) from JCB. These 17.5-ton backhoes are capable of reaching speeds up to 60 miles per hour thanks to a 6.7-liter engine. The machines also feature four-wheel drive and four-wheel steer, can lift two tons and dig to a depth of around 13 feet.

The U.S. Army was the first to order the machine back in 2005 when it ordered 636 HMEEs in a contract worth $206 million—the largest order in JCB history. Since then, JCB has sold the machine to armed forces in the UK, Sweden, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, New Zealand and other allied nations.

Thanks to the HMEE’s high top speed, it can travel inline with military convoys without needing to be hauled. Troops use the machines to clear roads, remove obstacles and block the opposition’s routes and can do so in relative safety thanks to blast protection systems. JCB says the blast protection has saved the lives of numerous operators who have encountered improvised explosive devices (IEDs) while working.

The model being supplied under the new contract with the U.S. Army is the HMEE-1. This latest model adds a bit more flexibility in terms of getting the machine into combat as it can now be delivered by the much larger Boeing C-17 military transport plane. In the past, the machines could only be transported by the smaller Lockheed C130 Hercules.