The U.S. construction market may be stalled, but JCB Construction Equipment continues to tap into its military-industrial roots to create new opportunities.
The result is a combat-ready backhoe loader — the High Mobility Engineer Excavator (HMEE) — and a $230 million procurement contract with the U.S. Army (the largest equipment order in the company’s history).
The first nine of the approximately 800 JCB HMEEs to be produced were deployed with the Army to Afghanistan.
“This deployment is an important milestone for JCB and particularly for our North American operations,” said Chairman and CEO John Patterson. “The HMEE represents a tremendous accomplishment and is a strong example of JCB’s continued commitment to innovation and motivation. We are proud to have met and exceeded stringent U.S. military requirements for speed, strength and durability. Because we are a private, family-owned business, we have the agility and flexibility to research, design and bring premium quality products to market much faster than the competition.”
With the globalization of the military theater, the JCB HMEE has been purposefully designed to meet a variety of transportation requirements, whether by land, sea or air. This first round of HMEEs were loaded onto military C-5 aircraft at U.S. Airforce base in South Carolina and transported to Bagram, Afghanistan. What’s more, the HMEE has equal weight distribution on all axles and all wheels ride low enabling transport by an even smaller C-130, the turboprop military transport aircraft. Never before has a military construction vehicle met on road regulations and safety standards, allowing the HMEE to travel on civilian roads without the need for a trailer. This unit also meets global rail specifications and has roll-on, roll-off capabilities allowing the HMEE to load itself on and off a ship. This unmatched transportability means no job site is inaccessible to the JCB HMEE.
The all-terrain HMEE is armor-plated for crew protection, has significant towing capacity and most importantly can maintain “convoy speed.” The HMEE has a life span of 25 years, more than double that of a civilian construction machine, and is capable of achieving more than 60 mph. This capability enables the HMEE to keep up with fast-moving military units and provide real-time combat engineering support. The HMEE provides strategic capabilities increasing: mobility – opening up roads; counter-mobility – creating obstacles for the enemy; and, survivability — providing water and supplies, building berms and laying electrical lines.
Chris Saucedo, general manager of the JCB Military Products Division in North America, said, “I am proud to stand behind such a quality product. Having served overseas as a member of our armed forces, I am excited about this product being released into the theater.”
The HMEE was put through its paces by the military to make sure it not only met, but exceeded their stringent standards for quality. “The Army wanted this machine because it’s unique and innovative. They have shot at it, blown it up, run it through the mud, run it through muck. And after all the rigorous testing, JCB has received the highest reliability scores ever recorded for this type of machine,” Saucedo said.
The 35,000-lb. (15,900 kg) HMEE, purpose-built for the U.S. Army at the company’s Savannah plant, is the result of several years of R&D and hands-on testing with the Department of Defense and military experts. Its features include ABS braking technology, computer diagnostics, run-flat tires, roll-over protection and a two-man air-conditioned cab.
For more than 60 years, “construction yellow” has been the signature hue of equipment produced by the company, but military paint schemes, such as the Chemical Agent Resistant Coating (CARC) Tan used for the HMEE represent a different facet of JCB’s business. As the changing nature of warfare and the global terrorism threat increase the need for dual-mission, military-ready construction vehicles, JCB created its Military Products division expressly to meet that market demand.
From this point forward, at least a half a dozen HMEEs will be delivered every two weeks to various military installations around the globe. In addition to the original agreement, JCB has earned a contract to service HMEEs in the field for two years with an exercisable option to extend. To fulfill that commitment, JCB has embedded field service representatives into units operating in southwest Asia to help support the machines while in the field and to train personnel.