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Publicity photo of the HUMVEE SABER [© AM General]

The AM General HUMVEE SABER is a redesign of the original High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle or HMMWV, writes Bob Morrison.


First produced for US Forces 40 years ago the HMMWV, which was soon nicknamed the Humvee* by military personnel, is the product of a 1979 US Army requirement to replace the M151 MUTT and CUCV (Commercial Utility Cargo Vehicle) 4×4 light utility fleets plus the M561 6×6 Gama Goat. Three companies were awarded contracts to produce prototypes for testing with AM General being the eventual winner.

Roll forward to the 2020s and the latest derivative of the US Army light utility workhorse has now been redesigned as HUMVEE SABER which, according to AM General, “is a vehicle that offers increased levels of protection in a truly agile light tactical vehicle”. The manufacturer also claims the latest evolution redefines survivability with: 360° kinetic energy threat protection; under-vehicle blast threat protection; blast seats; and floating and transparent armour.

The IDEX 2021 defence and security in Abu Dhabi was the first time that what was then called the HUMVEE NXT 360 was displayed outside of the United States (see:- IDEX 2021 ~ AM General Showcasing HUMVEE NXT 360) but unfortunately international travel restrictions imposed by a spike in COVID 19 early that year prevented us attending. It would be DSEI 2021 in London, seven months later, before we first had eyes-on (see:- AM General HUMVEE NXT 360 European Début).

By the following June the initial results of the Russia invasion of Ukraine just a few months earlier, and its failed attempt to capture the capital city of Kyiv, had alerted defence analysts and manufacturers alike to the rise of the drone. At Eurosatory 2022 what was now being called the HUMVEE SABER was fitted with a Counter Unmanned Aircraft System (C-UAS) from Elta North America, designed to track, identify and defeat drones while the vehicle was in motion.

Roll forward to IDEX 2023 in Abu Dhabi, which unlike the previous edition of the expo we were able to attend, and the HUMVEE SABER was now presented in the Blade Edition Concept version with both a French HORNET counter-UAS unmanned turret and AeroVironment Switchblade 300 and Switchblade 600 loitering munition launchers. At DSEI 2023 in September the HORNET C-UAS remote weapon station was still fitted but only the SWITCHBLADE 300 launchers (two each side of the cargo compartment) were displayed.

Up to this point we had only seen the HUMVEE SABER as a static display vehicle, but that was to change at WDS 2024 in Riyadh this February. Each afternoon the nice clean 6400kg GVW SABER would briefly venture off its outdoor stand in the central courtyard to be put through its dusty paces as part of the Land Mobility Display, to prove it is more than just an expo stand queen.

For those interested in the technicalities, SABER is powered by a 6.5 litre V8 turbocharged diesel engine developing 205hp through a 4-speed electronically controlled transmission and 2-speed transfer case. Range is 400 km or 250 miles on a 95 litre fuel tank. Angle of approach and departure are given as 48° and 37° respectively, ramp breakover angle is 25°, grade and side slope capabilities are 60% and 30%, and a 305mm or 12” vertical obstacle can be tackled.

With the US Army having awarded the JLTV A2 production contract to AM General (see:- AM General Wins $230 Billion JLTV Contract) and the original Oshkosh JLTV batch gradually replacing the HMMWV in US service, it is probably unlikely that the HUMVEE SABER will enter service with mainstream US Army and/or US Marine Corps formations. However it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that US Special / Special Operations Forces might adopt this new version. A substantial market probably also exists for the SABER, which is about two thirds of the GVW of the JLTV and almost certainly substantially cheaper, among several of the 60+ nations who use the original Humvee and may be looking to replace or upgrade ageing fleets.

Comparison image of typical unarmoured four-door US Army Humvees on the Hohenfels training area in Germany in 2020 [©BM]

* In the early days the Humvee was sometimes referred to by its commercial Hummer name, mostly outside armed forces circles, and in the early 1990s AM General (previously a subsidiary of American Motors Corporation) marketed civilian versions under this name. At the end of that decade General Motors, now GM / GM Defense, bought the Hummer brand name and started using it for a family of civilian SUVs.

Library image of an up-armoured four-door hard top Humvee used by Polish troops deployed on the NATO eFP mission in the Baltic States [©BM]

[images © Bob Morrison unless noted]


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