Israel Defense Force uses armored Caterpillar D9 bulldozers to destroy IEDs


The IDF Caterpillar D9 is operated by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Combat Engineering Corps for combat engineering and counter-terrorism operations. This bulldozer enables the neutralization of IEDs, among other threats. The Israeli army is broadcasting a video showing such use.
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IDF Caterpillar D9T fitted with the 4th generation armor (Picture source: Wikipedia)


The IDF Caterpillar D9 — nicknamed Doobi (for teddy bear) — is an armored bulldozer used by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The Israeli armored Cat D9 was heavily modified by the Israel Defense Forces, Israeli Military Industries and Israel Aerospace Industries to increase the survivability of the bulldozer in hostile environments and enable it to withstand heavy attacks, thus making it suitable for military combat engineering use.

The D9R, the latest generation of Caterpillar D9 bulldozers in IDF service, if fitted with a 405–410 horsepower (302–306 kW)diesel engine and has a drawbar pull of 71.6 metric tons (about 702 kN). Older generations, such as D9L and D9N are still in service, mainly in the reserve forces. The D9 has a crew of two: an operator and a commander. It is operated by the Tzama (mechanical engineering equipment) units of the Combat Engineering Corps.

The main IDF modification is the installation of an Israeli-made armor kit which provides protection to the mechanical systems and to the operator’s cabin. The operator and commander are protected inside an armored cabin ("the cockpit"), with bulletproof glass windows to protect against bombs, machine guns, and sniper fire. The IDF also developed and installed a slat armor add-on to deflect rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) rounds. The fitted armor package adds roughly 15 additional tonnes (17 short tons) to the production-line weight of the D9. The modified D9 bulldozers can be fitted with disparate features, such as crew-operated machine guns, smoke projectors, or grenade launchers. The Israeli armor and durable construction of the D9 make it impervious to landmines, IEDs and large belly charges.

The IDF uses the D9 for a wide variety of combat engineering tasks, such as earthworks, digging moats, mounting sand barriers, building fortifications, rescuing stuck, overturned or damaged armored fighting vehicles (along with the M88 Recovery Vehicle), clearing land mines, detonating IEDs and explosives, handling booby traps, clearing terrain obstacles and opening routes to armored fighting vehicles and infantry, as well as structures demolition, including under fire.


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Armored Caterpillar D9s parked near an IDF outpost (Picture source: Wikipedia)


During the early 2000s, the new D9R entered IDF service, equipped with a new generation armor designed by the IDF's Masha, Israel Aerospace Industries and Zoko Shiloovim/ITE (Caterpillar Inc. importers in Israel). Due to the increasing threat of shaped charge anti-tank rockets and anti-tank missiles, the IDF introduced in 2005 a slat armor, installed in large numbers on the IDF D9R dozers in 2006. The slat armor proved to be effective and life-saving; its developers and installers won the IDF's Ground Command award.

The IDF also operates armored remote-controlled D9N bulldozers, called "Raam HaShachar" (Hebrew: רעם השחר, lit. "thunder of dawn") often incorrectly referred as "black thunder". The remote-controlled bulldozer is used when there is a great risk for human life, mainly when opening dangerous routes and detonating explosive charges.

Armored D9R bulldozers and unmanned "Raam HaShachar" D9N bulldozers played an important role in the Second Lebanon War (2006) and Operation Cast Lead (2008–2009). Both bulldozer types were involved in opening routes, clearing explosives and IEDs, building sand mounds to protect AFVs and infantry camps, and demolishing structures such as rigged buildings, HQs, warehouses, outposts, bunkers and tunnels – often concealed in civilian structures. In total, 100 D9s were deployed during Operation Cast Lead.

Armored D9R bulldozers took part in the effort to extinguish 2010 Mount Carmel forest fire. The armored bulldozers opened routes to fire trucks and firefighters into the heart of the fire. They also created fire breaks by clearing shrubbery and pushing up soil barriers in order to prevent the fire from spreading. They also helped extinguish fires by burying them in dirt and soil.

In 2014 the IDF Caterpillar D9 was recorded in Guinness World Records as the most armored bulldozer in the world.

In 2018 the Israel Defense Forces Combat Engineering Corps started to deploy and operate the "Panda" – a remote-controlled version of an armored Caterpillar D9T bulldozer. In 2018, Israel Aerospace Industries announced that it had signed a contract to equip the IDF with more D9T Panda dozers.

In 2019, Elbit Systems won an IMOD contract to install the Iron Fist active protection system on the IDF's armored D9 bulldozers, to give them extra protection from anti-tank missiles.


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IDF Caterpillar D9 fitted with slat armor for protection against some antitank weapons (Picture source: Wikipedia)


Defense News July 2023