PHOTOS: Inside and out JCB’s half truck, half backhoe HMEE Army machine, hot off the assembly line

Updated Dec 29, 2015

No. 1 Story in 2015


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The typical jobsite has little need for a backhoe with a top-speed of 60 miles per hour. But the battlefields soldiers in the U.S. Army work day-in and day-out aren’t the typical jobsite. In addition to the run-of-the-mill digging jobs, soliders need their backhoes haul heavy loads and, occasionally, haul ass.

That’s why the Army has been buying HMEEs (pronounced like the Hemi engine) from JCB since 2005. Short for High Mobility Engineer Excavators, HMEEs are 17.5-ton backhoes powered by a 6.7-liter Cummins QSB engine. In addition to reaching 60 mph on the ground, the machine can lift up to 2 tons with a dig depth of 13 feet.

Thanks to its high top speed, the backhoe can travel inline with military convoys. The machine’s versatility spurred a renewed $50 million contract from the Army last year.

JCB says the machine was originally designed to support the Army’s Stryker Brigades, combat teams formed around the Stryker, an eight-wheeled armored combat tank. It features four-wheel drive and diff lock for off-roading and comes in three configurations for higher and higher blast and ballistic protection.

Typically, the only folks who get an up-close look at these machines are soldiers and the men and women who build them at JCB’s Savannah, Georgia, facility. But on a recent tour, we got to spend some time inside and out a HMEE that had just come off the assembly line. You can check it out in the gallery above.