Humvees cross a floating bridge in South Korea in 1988, three years after the Army began fielding the vehicle. (Army)
From the archive: August 1981
Interview: Lt. Gen. Donald R. Keith
Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Research, Development, and Acquisition
AFJ: Former Secretary of State Dean Rusk was recently quoted in Newsweek on the HMMWV (High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle): “I’m willing to bet it will cost $50,000 per unit.” Your staff has testified that for about 56- to 57,000 vehicles, the cost would be $26,671. Comments?
Gen. Keith: I was tempted, when I read that, to write to Secretary Rusk and tell him that I would refrain from commenting on foreign affairs if he would not speculate on hardware.
My staff was correct. Those calculations are based on our best estimates, interaction with industry, but not the final bids yet. We have just selected the three competitors who will build hardware for test.
It’s important to note that the HMMWV is not simply a replacement for the jeep. Some people describe it as a “super jeep.” It’s not that. We have looked at our whole wheeled vehicle fleet of the future, and are trying to design the most efficient fleet that we can. Our plan was higher cost, high mobility, militarized vehicles up in the division where they belong, and uses cheaper commercial vehicles in support where we can. We are looking at reducing the numbers of vehicles. If we can get a higher payload vehicle replacing a couple of vehicles and trailers, then that’s an efficient way to do it.
The first Army application for this vehicle will be to carry the TOW. The TOW section now has two jeeps and two trailers. One HMMWV will satisfy that requirement. Most people don’t realize — but they ought to — that an M-151 jeep costs about $15,000. They think more in terms of a $5,000 jeep. We’re looking for maximum efficiency in our total fleet, and that’s all the way from this five-quarter-ton on one end up through the new five-ton and the new ten-tons.
[Editor's note: The first HMMWVs rolled off the AM General assembly line in 1984, under a $1.2 billion order for 55,000 vehicles. Two years later, the GAO reported that prices ranged from $19,000 to $37,000 apiece, depending on configuration.]