You may be used to seeing Hummer SUVs in the street, but some people may not know that there is a rich history behind this vehicle outside of its civilian use and street cred among the upper crust. The Hummer is actually based on the military Humvee, or the M998 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (the military can be creative with acronyms, huh?).
Plans for an HMMWV were conceptualized by the US military in the late 1970s, with the need to replace militarized civilian trucks and jeeps they had been using then. By 1979, a final design was already in place and prototypes had been created by the American Motors Corporation by 1980. The military granted AMC a contract for delivery of 55,000 by 1985, and the Humvee first saw action in the 1989 US invasion of Panama. They are still being used by the military for land ops to date.
The Humvee was not designed for heavy combat, but instead for personnel and light cargo transport behind the front lines. There are at least 17 variants of the Humvee in service, and these include being retrofitted as weapons platforms, missile launchers, and ambulances. The Humvee could also ford up to five feet of water (with an optional deep water fording kit installed), and could tow or carry up to 6,000 lbs of weight or supplemental armor. Some variants can also be mounted with MK 19 grenade launchers, M2 heavy machine guns, M240G/B machine guns, and M249 surface-to-air missiles. The Humvee could also run on flat tires for up to 20 kilometres.
In the Second Gulf War in Iraq, one of the criticisms of the US military was the use of standard-issue Humvees without the additional heavy armor kits, which were in limited production runs. This meant that the Humvee was vulnerable to high caliber weaponry and explosives.
With the “up armor” kits, though, the Humvee would be fitted with ballistic windshields and reinforced steel doors, which could withstand attacks by assault rifles (such as the AK-47) and even incendiary explosive devices. However, the Humvee would still be vulnerable to land mines and other explosive attacks from underneath.
The military is currently developing potential replacements for the Humvee. But for now, the Humvee has earned its place in history by being an omnipresent figure whenever there are armed conflicts or peacekeeping missions (so this can be taken in both a good and bad light). And of course we civilians can still dream of buying ourselves a Hummer or two!