October 10, 2015: Strategy Page
A Russian firm recently offered for export a new armored bulldozer design. This is the 21 ton B10 commercial bulldozer with armor added and a few other changes. This results in a 25 ton vehicle that is similar to the Cold War era BAT-2, a larger, 40 ton armored bulldozer. The militarized B10 is apparently more cost-effective than the BAT-2, which was an improved version of the World War II era BAT-M.
Most nations turn older tanks into “combat engineer vehicles” by removing the turret, adding an armored box for the operator plus a bulldozer blade and other items. But if you just want to shove stuff around while under fire you are better served by armoring a large commercial bulldozer. That is what Israel has been doing since the 1960s.
By 2009 Israel realized armor wasn’t enough and began converting all its D9 armored combat bulldozers to operate by remote control. Israel has been using the armored D9 bulldozer since the 1960s. For the United States the 62 ton D9 armored (via an Israeli armor kit) bulldozer has been an important tool for urban warfare after 2001.
Although the Israelis pioneered the use of special explosives to blast entry holes through walls, so troops can quickly get to their objectives, the D9 proved an even more effective solution. The D-9 lets you bash through walls, and buildings, much faster. The D9 can even shake the enemy out of some buildings. Thus the D9 proved very effective in urban combat. The Israelis often mounted a machine-gun on the D9s, to provide protection from the increasing number of attacks on these vehicles. The D9s are pretty sturdy, often surviving large roadside bombs and several RPG hits. But the D9s are not invulnerable and have increasingly become a target for enemy attack. Despite the armor kit and machine-gun, D9 drivers sometimes get killed or wounded, and the vehicles put out of action. Thus the need for a remote control option.
The remote control version of the D9, called "Black Thunder", was developed in 2006 as a secret program that was only revealed because so many troops were now aware of it. Even the Palestinians were talking about it, having been confronted with "Black Thunder" D9s during the 2009 war in Gaza.
"Black Thunder" D9s retain the armor kit, but instead of an operator, the cab contains the electronics and radio gear needed to run the dozer remotely. Several cameras and other sensors are mounted on the outside. An operator, sitting in a nearby armored vehicle or truck, views several flat screen displays, and operates the controls. Any soldiers with lots of video game experience can quickly master the remote operation of a D9.
In early 2003, the U.S. bought nine 62 ton D9 armored Caterpillar bulldozers into Kuwait for the Iraq campaign. The D9s, and their Israeli made armor kit, were purchased because of the Israeli success with the dozer in urban warfare against Palestinian terrorists. America had used the D9 during the 1960s in Vietnam, but after that only used the smaller (35 ton, with armor kit) D7. The D9 was not needed for urban fighting in Iraq during 2003, but was found very useful (much more so than the smaller D7) for combat engineering tasks. The D9 quickly cleared highways of debris and built temporary roads for combat vehicles. D9s was eventually used in Iraq for combat operations in places like Fallujah. The U.S. has also developed remote control systems for several types of armored vehicles.
Russia apparently will offer their B10 at a cheaper price than competing Western models as well as many additional options.