Humvees, the all-terrain, multi-purpose vehicles that replaced the Jeep as a symbol of military transport, may soon follow its civilian counterpart into the scrapheap of history.
The Army did not include any new orders for the Humvee in the service’s recent budget proposal and Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, an Army spokesman, says the 2,620 vehicles currently under order from Mishawaka, Ind.-based AM General are the last.
The Army, Cummings says, is moving on to newer technology and other vehicles.
The decision ends a 30-year run that saw the military vehicle become both a military icon and a symbol of affluent popular culture.
Humvee stands for “High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle” and came to life when the Army decided to Jeeps in the 1970.
In 1981, AM General — a spin-off of Jeep — won a prototype contract created the boxy vehicle that was more than seven feet wide and made up in utility for what it lacked in aesthetics. AM General has produced 240,000 Humvees.
Arnold Schwarzenegger persuaded AM General to make a civilian version, and it became a must-have status symbol for car lovers until rising gas prices and the recession sent sales plummeting.
Developed as a light utility vehicle and not an armored car,the lumbering, low-riding vehicles became an easy target for insurgents who attacked U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan with increasingly powerful improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, hidden along roadsides.
A mounting death toll from IEDs — more than 1,700 in Iraq alone as of January 2010 — sparked calls for better protection for soldiers. The Army ordered armored versions of the Humvee but the fixes did not mesh well with the vehicle.
Davis, of Angola, Ind., said the Humvees were fine during his first deployment in 2003. “We rode in the back of the open Humvee at night because the IEDs weren’t a real threat,” he said.
Cummings said the Army is moving to the larger and more heavily armored Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs.
The Army budget released last week still includes $989 million for maintaining the existing Humvee fleet.
AM General, the sole manufacturer of the Humvee, says it is talking with the Army and hopes to maintains vehicle production into 2011.
AM General also makes the Humvee’s civilian counterpart, the H2 Hummer, as a contract assembler for General Motors. GM plans to sell the brand to a Chinese company.