ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. --A new M88 Winch Test Facility in the Nichols Industrial Complex makes testing the recovery winch capacity on the M88A1 and M88A2 safer and more efficient.
A test of the winch capability is a vital part of final testing for the vehicles because the M88 is a recovery vehicle. Load limits must be tested before the vehicle is sent to Soldiers. The M88A1 has a nearly 90 thousand-pound capacity and the A2 has close to a 140 thousand-pound capacity. “The M88 goes out and retrieves other combat vehicles that are stuck or stalled,” said Earlvin Wood, supervisor of the winch test facility. “Think of it like a wrecker but on a bigger scale.”
The new 12,800 square foot semi-enclosed facility replaces a previous test method that was outdated. “We were getting the test done,” Wood said. “But it was taking too much time.”
The test was also unsafe.
To prevent further safety hazards and to save time, engineers determined the solution was to utilize a $500 thousand 100-ton anchor winch in a separate facility to conduct the test. Randy Houck, an engineer in the Directorate of Production Engineering, who helped develop the solution said, “The winch just made sense.”
The previous test required nearly 10 people and consisted of daisy chaining multiple vehicles together and connecting them, via cable, to the M88. This method took several hours of trouble shooting on the test track, which closed the track to other users.
Tim Smith-Lindsey, an engineer who worked on the construction of the $1 million facility and installation of equipment, stressed that safety was the primary reason for the change. “When you have multiple vehicles hooked together that means you have several people who could get hurt,” Smith-Lindsey said. “That’s a very dangerous way to test.”
Now, an M88 is driven down into a pit in the facility and connects, by cable, to the anchor winch; a test that only requires three employees and two hours. The anchor winch then tests the pressure and capacity at different intervals to ensure the M88’s pull capacity meets quality standards. Smith-Lindsey said this change saved roughly $38 thousand in annual labor costs alone.
The facility also features five suppressions, LED lighting throughout the facility, and a built in air compressor for shop tools. “We really created the space to be a multipurpose facility,” Smith-Lindsey said. “And it’s great to have the flexibility to use it for other missions as well.”