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The first version of modern forklifts were introduced in 1906. These were electric-powered vehicles that were used to move luggage on train platforms.
Soon, however, this technology took off and the US military — recognizing these vehicles’ unique ability for transporting heavy loads easily and relatively safely — quickly adopted them as part of their standard support vehicles.
While these vehicles didn’t exactly resemble the forklifts we know today — twin forks used to lift pallets weren’t introduced until the 1930s — their ability to lift heavy loads using a crane-like extension and chains was essential to improving productivity.
Forklifts Used in WWI
By the time the First World War broke out, these lift trucks began to play a central role in the war effort. Because there so many men were needed for front-line combat roles, the military came to depend on the vehicles to compensate for the labor shortage.
Thanks to their versatility and dependability, when the war ended forklifts were embraced by industry and began being used in many industrial applications.
Universally Used by Second World War
Given the scale and scope of the Second World War, materials and supplies were required literally around the globe. As a result, the presence of forklifts at shipyards, warehouses and factories became practically universal.
After the war, forklifts began taking on specialized shapes for different uses. To improve efficiency, warehouse aisles became more narrow. So narrow aisle forklifts were developed and put into use. Technological and safety improvements also were added, including the load back rests and operator cages.
By the 1980s, forklift designers started to include ergonomic features into their new models, improving driver comfort and extending the vehicle’s use and range.
Enter the MMV
Today, forklifts for military use have reached their apex with the Millennia Military Vehicle, or MMV, which was first developed by OmniQuip International (now known as JLG Industries) and contracted for production by the US Marine Corps in 2001.
The MMV is a commercial all-terrain forklift with modifications for military use. They have a load capacity of five tons and include telescopic boom attachments that give them deep access into shipping containers, trucks and cargo helicopters.
The MMV is ideal for lifting and carrying heavy loads over multiple obstacles. It’s maximum reach is 9 meters and its maximum lift height is 13 meters. It can be modified with various attachments, including a fork-mounted bucket and a personnel platform.
Currently, there are 730 MMVs being used by the Marines, with another 270 being used by the Navy. The US Army also uses the MMV forklift. They were used as support machines during combat operations in Iraq.
Designed for Use in Hostile Situations
Although the MMV has no defensive armaments, it does include safety design features to improve its functionality during “hot” scenarios, including additional cab support to protect against rollovers and falling objects and full-time all-wheel drive and high ground clearance that allows it to operate over rough terrain and unimproved surfaces.
The MMV can move easily through mud, snow and sand. It has three steering modes: two-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, and crab steering, which is used in tight spaces such as close to walls or other barriers.
The MMV is designed to be easily airlifted by the C-130 Hercules cargo jet as well as the CH-53 Sea Stallion heavy-lift transport helicopter, so it can be deployed practically anywhere it is needed.
The MMV is just the latest in a line of forklifts that have a long and storied tradition in supporting our troops in combat situations.