Along with 31 M1 Abrams tanks, 8 M88 armored recovery vehicles will also be sent to Ukraine in the latest US military aid package.
M88 armored recovery vehicles are designed to haul tanks and other vehicles off the battlefield. It is rated to be capable of towing the heavier M1 Abrams tank, as well as the smaller M2 Bradley armored fighting vehicle.
It is not clear which variants of the Abrams tank or the M88 would be provided, but the M88A2, developed in the 1990s, is “focused on the Abrams tank,” according to the US Army. Recovery operations to make sure that the Ukrainians will be able to keep these Abrams up and running.
The M88A2, which itself weighs 70 tons, has a crew of three and room for four passengers. It can hit 26 mph while hauling a 70-ton load and is armed with a .50-caliber M2 machine gun. In addition to refueling and defueling other vehicles, including Abrams tanks, it has a spade that can be used for “light earth moving to prepare a recovery area,” according to the Army.
The design of this vehicle was based on the chassis and parts of the automotive component of the M48 Patton and M60 tanks. The M88’s primary role is to repair or replace damaged parts in fighting vehicles while under fire, as well as extricate vehicles that have become bogged down or entangled. The main winch on the M88A2 is capable of a 70-ton, single line recovery, and a 140-ton 2:1 recovery when used with the 140 ton pulley.
The M88 employs an Auxiliary power unit (APU) to provide auxiliary electrical and hydraulic power when the main engine is not in operation. It can be used to slave-start other vehicles, provide power for the hydraulic impact wrench, as well as a means to refuel or de-fuel vehicles as required. The M88 series of vehicles can refuel M1 tanks from its own fuel tanks, but this is a last resort due to the possibility of clogging the AGT-1500s fuel filters.
The US Army received its first M88A2 in July 1997, and the vehicle has seen action around the world, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. The US announcement that it would send Abrams tanks to Ukraine comes after the US and other European partners announced that they would be sending other armored vehicles to Ukraine in the near future. Earlier this month, France became the first country to agree to send Western-made armored vehicles to Ukraine by approving the transfer of the French-made AMX-10 RC, a 16-ton armored combat and reconnaissance vehicle. This opened the door for other countries to send armored combat vehicles to Kyiv.