JCB's HMEEs travel 55 miles per hour and boast four-wheel drive, four-wheel steering. They're used in engineering tasks including earthmoving, fortification construction and ground clearing. Photo: JCB

U.K.-based construction equipment manufacturer JCB’s North American operation in Savannah has won a contract worth more than a quarter-billion dollars to supply nimble excavators for the U.S. military.  

It calls for the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps to spend up to $269 million over the next eight years to procure up to 400 of what the company calls High-Mobility Engineer Excavators, which can lift more than two tons, dig down to nearly 13 feet and travel at speeds of up to 55 miles per hour. This “convoy speed” eliminates the need for a truck and trailer for transport. JCB will provide parts support and service and will make an armored version available.  

The deal follows an initial $209 million production arrangement that kicked off in 2005 after the company worked three years with the military to develop a prototype of the specially designed backhoe loader. The HMEEs are made in Savannah.

JCB sees the reorder of the machines as demonstrating the military’s trust in the company thanks to the long-standing partnership.  

“To win this eight year contract is fantastic news for JCB’s North America Headquarters, which has been manufacturing HMEEs here for the past 13 years,” said Richard Fox-Marrs, JCB North America president and CEO, in a statement. “The U.S. military has shown tremendous confidence in this JCB product which speaks volumes for the team behind its design, engineering, manufacturing and after sales support.” 

Graeme McDonald, who took over as the CEO of the global company in 2013, echoed that sentiment, saying the U.S. is showing “great faith in the product.”

British firms have long been key suppliers to the U.S. military, especially in aerospace, given the close ties between the allies. The JCB deal was announced the Monday after the July 4 Independence Day.  

Founded in 1945, JCB is based in Rocester, United Kingdom, a village in Staffordshire between London and Manchester. Now a top-three global equipment manufacturer, it employs 12,000 people around the world, including 6,500-plus in the U.K. and more than 3,000 in India, one of its top markets.

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...