U.S. Military M274 Truck, Platform, Utility 1/2 Ton, 4X4
The U.S. Military M274 Truck, Platform, Utility, 1/2 Ton, 4X4 or "Carrier, Light Weapons, Infantry, 1/2 ton, 4x4" aka "Mule," "Military Mule," or "Mechanical Mule" is a 4-wheel drive, gasoline-powered truck/tractor type vehicle that can carry up to a 1/2 ton off-road. It was introduced in 1956 and used until the 1980s. Now it is a military vehicle collectors' item.
The M274 Mule was introduced in 1956 to supplement both the 1/4 ton trucks ("Jeeps") and 3/4 ton trucks (Weapons Carrier Series and M37 series) in airborne and infantry battalions. The M274 evolved from improvements to a vehicle designed at the end of World War Two by Willys-Overland as a medical evacuation litter carrier from areas and terrain that would even be a problem for its famous Jeep to access. Further tests by the US Army at Eglin Field, Florida proved it also useful as carrier for both supplies and men. In 1948 the US Army purchased a small number of these test vehicles with the designation the Jungle Burden Carrier for evaluation in jungle warfare and with airborne forces. There were 11,240 Mules produced between their introduction and 1970, when production ceased. They were used throughout as platforms for various weapons systems and for carrying men, supplies, and weaponry/ammunition during the Vietnam War and in other U.S. military operations until the 1980s. As a completely open and exposed vehicle, they offered absolutely no protection to the driver, yet that was relatively unimportant as they were mainly used as cargo carriers and medium-range infantry support vehicles, rather than tactical vehicles. They were phased out from military usage in the 1980s with the introduction of the HMMWV series vehicles. The HMMWV was, however, unable to fulfill the role of the Mule, so the M-Gator, a military variant of the popular John Deere Gator vehicle, was introduced.
The M274 Mules were often outfitted with a wide array of weaponry, especially in the Vietnam War. They could be modified to carry virtually any type of conventional weapon that could be mounted on a truck. Most commonly, the M274 was outfitted with:
- M60 7.62mm NATO light machine guns
- M2HB .50 Caliber machine guns
- 106 mm Recoilless Rifles
- TOW anti-tank missile systems
- M134 Minigun
Powerplant, Drivetrain, and Speeds.
The M274 Mules were all powered by internal-combustion gasoline engines. The variants of the M274 with respective powerplants are listed below:
- M274- 4 Cylinder Willys 4 Cycle
- M274A1- 4 Cylinder Willys 4 Cycle
- M274A2-5 2 Cylinder Continental-Hercules 2 Cycle air cooled, variants M274A2 through M274A5
All Mules had 3-speed manual, non-synchromesh transmissions with 2-speed transfer cases, and were 4-wheel drive vehicles. All Mules except the A5 variants had 4-wheel steering. Only the A5 variants had Electric Ignition as standard. They had no suspension aside from the low-pressure tires and the seat cushions.
The lower speeds and high power (17 hp) of the Mule make it a versatile off-road vehicle. It can climb over logs, go up steep slopes, and cross rivers in 1st gear.
Low Range 1st-1 mph 2nd-4 mph 3rd-9 mph
High Range 1st-7 mph 2nd-18 mph 3rd-25 mph
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to M274 Mechanical Mule.|
- US Army Transportation Museum page on the M274 Mule
- Olive-Drab website on the M274
- Bill Watson's M274 Mule website
- "Jungle Buggy Packs A Load" , May 1948, Popular Science vehicle from which M27 evolved
- Vehicle lunarization study, US Army M-274 'Mule' vehicle. Volume 2, part 1: Technical discussion
- Vehicle lunarization study, US Army M-274 'Mule' vehicle. Volume 2, part 2: Appendix