A Dozen Armored Cars Better Than The Humvee
At some point in 2015 a hundred High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV) were delivered to the beleaguered Ukrainian military by the US government. These surplus Humvees, presumably kept in storage for years, were almost useless for the Ukrainians because of faulty tires and zero armor protection.
It was the latest blow to the iconic vehicle’s crumbling reputation. Like the equivalent of a Swiss knife for trucks AM General‘s nearly 300,000 Humvees were designed and built to perform multiple jobs wherever American soldiers set foot from 1985 until the present. So popular was the Humvee that it spawned a handful of imitators among US allies.
But the Humvee is now on the verge of obsolescence. So many countries are building their own bespoke 4x4s with capabilities superior to it and with extra firepower. While technology isn’t just a steep gradient–farm tractors and jeeps are still going to war today–it’s obvious the Humvee, even with decades of service left in it, is getting edged out by serious competition from Europe, Asia, and beyond.
The ongoing armored car glut means the world’s armed forces have no shortage of ass kicking trucks to choose from. Here are 12 of them.
(Australia) Thales Hawkei
In 2009 the Australian subsidiary of the French defense contractor Thales unveiled a next generation tactical vehicle named after a poisonous snake. The Hawkei was a demonstrator for a vast program to modernize the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) aging Mercedes Benz fleet.
The most striking part of the Hawkei’s design is its low profile despite its high ground clearance. The Hawkei packs a 300 horsepower diesel engine that can travel 1,000 kilometers on a full tank–easily twice the range of a Humvee.
Australia’s government ordered 1,100 Hawkei’s for the ADF in October 2015. Thales’ plans for further Hawkei sales have yet to be announced.
(China) Dongfeng EQ2050
The best account of the EQ2050’s origins claims Chinese state-owned energy companies acquired civilian Hummer H1’s during the 1990s. At some point before the turn of the century the conglomerate Norinco managed to reverse engineer it.
Production of the Hummer derivative was soon taken over by two state-owned firms. Truck maker Dongfeng‘s EQ2050 is recognizable for the shape of its bumper and grille. Since 2002 the vehicle has been converted to a SAM carrier, a mortar carrier, and other variants. Its current production numbers are unknown but the EQ2050 has been widely exported.
Its international customer list includes Bangladesh, Belarus, Turkmenistan, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe. Wait, how is it superior to a Humvee? It’s probably cheap-er.
(France) Renault Sherpa
If the Sherpa looks indistinguishable from its peers take comfort from knowing it’s a French Humvee with sexier branding. This doesn’t mean it’s licensed from AM General. The Sherpa is a conceptual sibling with “modular” touches rather than a clone.
The Sherpa came to be in the mid-2000s and has since grown to five basic variants, including a mortar carrier and a commando taxi bristling with machine guns. It has proven itself internationally thanks to strong exports in four continents. This early and the Sherpa is being manufactured under license in Canada and is a bestseller in the Middle East.
(Germany) KMW AMPV
As the offspring from a collaboration between two leading German defense contractors the Armored Multipurpose Vehicle (AMPV) is a proper European response to the American Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) program. As a matter of fact the AMPV is a better JLTV than the actual contenders for the US Army’s Humvee replacement.
The AMPV is transportable by helicopter and C-130. Its 272 horsepower engine affords it lots of armor and its troop carrier variant is quite spacious. Let’s not forget it’s designed to carry a lot of heavy weapons. Who’s buying the AMPV? On this score it has yet to prove itself and make a real splash.
(Italy) Iveco LMV
European countries always preferred building their own military vehicles. It’s good for the domestic economy anyway and leads to lucrative exports; both are desirable goals. Not to be outdone by the Germans, Spaniards, French, and Swiss the LMV is Iveco‘s world-beater.
On paper the LMV doesn’t appear too exceptional and variants other than a basic squad transport haven’t been developed. This hasn’t stopped international customers from loading up on these 4×4’s. Even Russia managed to buy and then manufacture a substantial fleet of LMV’s. With around 4,000 built and in service it’s Europe’s tactical 4×4 of choice by a wide margin.
(Poland) AMZ Tur 2
The vast transformation of Poland’s military could see the debut of the Tur 2 and its adoption beyond Europe. Or not. With so many Humvees in the Polish army’s vehicle pool the chances for the Tur 2, an improved variant of the original Tur, are still slim.
International customers haven’t placed orders either. It’s understandable given the competition posed by familiar Renaults and Ivecos. This doesn’t mean the Tur 2 is a laggard. It’s a little faster than a Humvee, a little better protected, certainly newer, kind of modular, and is as good as the rest of Europe’s tacticool 4×4’s.
Maybe the Tur 2 just needs stronger marketing.
(Russia) GAZ Tiger
Never dis wheeled armored vehicles made in Russia. They’re extremely tough, reliable, and are designed to support heavy weapons that can blow the enemy’s shit away. Alleged “superior” Western analogs aren’t made the same, full stop.
Indeed, the Tiger (“Tigr” in Russian) sort of resembles a Humvee–maybe it’s the pre-sanctions Cummins engine–and this stems from its multipurpose talents.
Aside from being the Russian Army’s 4×4 of choice since 2006 and a fixture in Red Square parades the Tiger carries Kornet missiles, electronic warfare equipment, radar, Russian commandos, and can even work for the police. Its versatility is killer and the Chinese PLA likes it too.
(South Korea) KLTV
East Asia loves American weapons and equipment. Japan uses them, China copies them, and prosperous South Korea improves on the originals. So it is with the Kia Light Tactical Vehicle that’s obviously a fresh spin on the Humvee.
Like other vehicles of its class the KLTV runs on a diesel engine and its capabilities emphasize ballistic armor and modularity. When it comes to actual performance the KLTV presents a marginal improvement over the Humvee and is on par with its European cousins.
The KLTV, however, has yet to enter service for the ROK Army and isn’t advertised in Kia’s military trucks catalog.
(Turkey) Otokar Cobra
As the product of a brief dalliance between AM General and a Turkish automaker it’s not surprising to learn how successful the Cobra has become. With robust exports to more than a dozen countries and a handful of wars that have tested its mettle the Cobra is by far a deserving heir to the Humvee’s crown.
They shares the same chassis and engine anyway, albeit the Cobra’s armor is tougher. Otokar’s darling has since gained a sequel that retains the original’s amphibious capability and crew friendliness–it’s got lots of space together with an optional remote control main armament.
In short, the Cobra is a doozy.
(UAE) Tawazun Group Nimr
This Arabian leopard is at the forefront of a growing vehicular family. A decade since its inception as a special project by the Bin Jabr Group the Nimr is a certified bestseller used by five Arab militaries, including the UAE’.
The Nimr’s capabilities are a marginal improvement over the Humvee’s. It wins when it comes to use. There are two distinct variants, the Ajban and the Hafeet, with nine configurations between them, including a lightweight precision rocket artillery system.
The last count of the Nimr’s orders put its production at 1,800 units so far. More could be coming. Not bad at all.
(USA) Oshkosh M-ATV
This one’s a bit of a cheater since its weight and function is closer to an MRAP. But its less cumbersome sibling the JLTV emerged victorious against AM General and Lockheed Martin for the lucrative contract to replace the Humvee. So there must be something special about it, right?
The M-ATV is well-protected, air transportable, and is a mean machine in unfriendly foreign climes. It has been abused and bloodied in Yemen’s civil war and customer demand is growing, i.e. Saudi Arabia and the UAE. To think its young career is just several years old and now the M-ATV will soon run alongside thousands of JLTVs.
(USA/Switzerland) MOWAG Eagle
It’s no wonder General Dynamics snapped up MOWAG in 2003. The Swiss manufacturer builds superior armored vehicles. The Eagle is proof of this and successive upgrades over the years have turned it into a dependable truck loved by European militaries.
The original Eagle started out as a Euro-Humvee analog that ran on a 250 hp Cummins diesel engine. It peaked in 2012 with the arrival of the Eagle IV featuring extra backroom, armor, and maybe a fearsome remote weapon station. But Eagle production so far is below 1,000 units and it’s doubtful it’ll blaze new trails in markets outside Europe.