The D9 Bulldozer in IDF Serice

Accessed 09-JUL-2018

D9 Armored Bulldozer[1] (known in the IDF as the Doobi/"Teddy Bear" and known to the rest of the world as the IDF Caterpillar D9) it is a piece of earthmoving equipment (heavy construction) that serves as an armored vehicle in the service of the IDF Combat Engineering Corps. It is an armored military version of the Caterpillar D9 heavy tracked bulldozer.

The Israeli Engineering Corps has been operating heavy bulldozers since the War of Independence. Caterpillar built the first D9 in 1954 and soon it found its way to civil engineering in Israel and from there to the ranks of the IDF. Today the IDF has many D9 bulldozers in several different models - L (with 460 hp), N (with 400 hp), R (with 405 hp) and the T (with 410 hp). The Army installs on them armor cladding, vehicle armor, a fire extinguisher system, a communications system, and a machine gun can also be installed (7.62x51 mm MAG NATO) and smoke launchers (produced by IMI) when necessary. An armored D9R bulldozer weighs about 56 tonnes.

The bulldozers are operated by the Combat Engineering Corps, by soldiers who have taken special training courses at the School of Military Engineering, and active in a variety of tasks and fields in times of routine and in times of war. The bulldozer team consists of two soldiers: an operator and a commander. The operator drives the bulldozer and works the controls while the commander serves as a liaison and observation officer and also as a machine gunner when necessary.

The objectives of the Engineering Corps bulldozers in war are:

In low intensity combat, when fighting in a built-up area and fighting terror, the armored bulldozers also destroy buildings and booby-trapped houses where armed terrorists barricade themselves, such as a pressure cooker tactic.[9][10] The armor of the D9 gives it resistance to gunfire and explosive devices, and it is therefore favored over other heavy construction equipment tools (such as an excavator and a front-loader) when there is the danger of gunfire and explosive devies from the building.

In routine times, the bulldozers are used for routine security activities, military clearance, earthmoving, construction of protective barriers and walls, assistance in construction and fortification work, roadwork, fire suppresion[11][12] and engineering activity alongside other heavy equipment. The heavy bulldozers are also used to clear old minefields within peaceful borders. The D9 bulldozers are also used by the Bomb Disposal Units (S"P) of the Combat Engineering Corps, including the Explosive Removal squads (HAS"P) and YAHALA"M which are also equipped with the remote-controlled D9T bulldozers.

The importance of the D9 grew during Operation Peace for the Galilee and during the occupation of the security zone in south Lebanon from 1982 to 2000, as the bulldozers often found themselves on the front lines tasked with breaking through blocked roads and handling both explosive devices and anti-tank mines. It popularity increased further as did recognition of its military importance during the Second Intifada (2000-2005) where the D9, in addition to opening roads, was also used to clear areas of explosives and rescue vehicles - also to combat terrorism by demolishing structures while under fire and defeating terrorists. Since then the D9 has become one of the main tools used in counter-terrorism activities.

The main use today of the D9 is in the confrontation with Palestinian terrorist elements, in the use of earthworks and engineering, in the rescue of armored tanks and armored vehicles, and in the routine security acitivy within the borders of Israel. Due to its great weight, it is the preferred engineering vehicle for engineering activites along dangerous borders, such as the Huberes Route (the security route parallel to the perimeter fance around the Gaza Strip) and the northern border with an emphasis on the section near Mt. Dov.[13]

As a result of the IDF's great success using the armored D9 bulldozers, other armies, including the US armed forces, also began using armored version of the Caterpillar D9 bulldozer with the protective kit developed in Israel. Caterpillar also offers an armored version of the smaller D7 bulldozer that is designed for military purposes and mine clearance. In the conflicts in Syria and Lebanon, improvised bulldozers were used inspired by Israel's use of bulldozers. However, left-wing organizations criticized both the IDF and Caterpillar for using the bulldozers to demolish homes in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and build the separation wall in Judea and Samaria.

Table of Contents

Structure and Engineering

The IDF D9 bulldozer is based on the civilian CAT D9 heavy crawler tractor manufactured by the American Caterpillar Company on which a blade is installed on the front and a ripper on the rear (NB: the Hebrew is hand and sterilizer respectively). After the shielding is installed, the D9 is painted in uniform camouflage colors ranging from grey to olive green, between brown and desert khaki. On different vehicles you can see different shades.

(NB: Whoever wrote this has no clue whatsoever. What they tell us is what color they look like in the field, not what color is used to paint them. Among modelers there is always a discussion about what color to paint IDF combat vehicles, particularly tanks. The IDF seems to be fairly mum about this, no doubt the military censors, but modelers and the firms that make the paints they use know it as Israeli Sand Gray, and not just any sand gray but the sand gray that first started being used in 1982 with the Lebanon war. The best answer is, it depends. Just look here and see what that means. Paint fades in the sun, it is changed by the color of the undercoat, and a host of other factors, the angle of the sun and the time of day, was it cloudy or clear. As for the other colors mentioned, tanks pick up a lot of dust and dirt as they move about. So much so that the actual color of the tank's paint is obscured. The same holds true for the IDF D9. What color is a D9 operating outside the Gaza Strip in 2003? Is starts out as 1982 Sand gray and over time it is repainted with a liberal coating of the local Gaza dust and dirt. If the paint wears off then you might even be treated with a glimpse of the Caterpillar yellow the units are painted in at the factory. Color and the perception of color is a whole other discussion that better belongs somewhere else.)

Technical Specification

The IDF uses the latest generation of the bulldozer, the D9T with 410 hp (310 kW and /469 gross hp) and the D9R with 405 hp (302 kW/474 gross hp). Both weigh about 48 tonnes (106,000 lbs) without armor and about 56 tonnes (123,000 lbs) with armor. Their height is 4.1 meters, the length is 8.7 meters and the width is 4.5 meters. The bulldozer is powered by a Caterpillar diesel engine, the 3408C HEUI in the D9R, and the CAT C18 ACERT in the D9T. These engines are more efficient than their predecessors and have both better fuel consumption and are more environmentally friendly. They have the "high drive" configuration were the drive sprocket is above the road wheels which reduces the wear on the final drive from shocks, extending the life of the bulldozer. The transmission has three gears. (NB: Three gears in forward and reverse.)

The D9N and D9L models are still in use with the reserve. The D9L is the largest armored bulldozer used by the IDF, weighing 62 tonnes with armor and powered with 460 hp (340 kW).

Operator's Compartment

The D9 cab is available in an open cinfiguration with Israeli armor installed. The operator's cab includes a chair in the center surrounded by a dashboard and handles for control: two hand controls, a gear handle, clutch pedals and brakes, a handle to operate the blade and a handle to operate the ripper. Above and to the left is the commander's chair. Inside the cab there are places for radios, storage spaces for weapons, an automatic fire-fighting system for emergencies and air-conditioning. On the roof of the operator's cab is the commander's shelf (a skylight in the ceiling that allows the commader to access the roof)(NB: do they mean the hatch?) and next to it is a machine gun. The commander shoots the machine gun while standing on his chair exposing only the upper part of his body just as a tank commander would. Outside of the cab there are additonal places for storage.

With the latest D9T configuration, the external storage has been moved inside so it can be accessed from inside the cab. In addition, a firing slit was added to the commander's door to allow the bulldozer team to defend against terrorists firing at the vehicle. This firing slit is also gradually being installed on the older D9R bulldozers.


Starting in the 1980s, the IDF began putting armor on bulldozers to provide protection for operators who were often on the front lines. The armor included a passive armor shell, armored windows and armored tracks, giving them protection from gunfire or explosive devices. Smoke grenade launchers and a machine gun were installed on the bulldozers when needed. The various protection packages were highly successful, giving the D9 a high level of protection against threats. Today, protection for the D9 is being developed and manufactured in Israel and installed by Israeli officials (the IDF and Israeli defense inductries) without any involvement in the process by Caterpillar.

The bulldozer has gone throught four generations (NB: phases) of different protection schemes. After experimenting with armor for the D9F and D9H, starting with the D9L series in 1986 armor became a regular feature. The first two generations were developed by the Yiftach Unit of the Combat Engineering Corps and IMI Systems, funded by the IDF and in cooperation with the Caterpillar Company. The armor protection was planned by a team headed by Yigal Kosher and produced at the Yefe-nof factory of IMI Systems. The third generation was manufactured by the IDF and Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) at their Ramata location, while the Generation 3.5 improvements (primarily the slat armor cage and piston shields (NB: the pistons that are used to raise and lower the front blade) were manufactured by the Ordnance Corps (specifically MASH"A) of the IDF. The fourth generation was manufactured by the Ordnance Corps and is an enhanced version of the 3.5 shielding, which included a slat armor cage and enhanced armor. Every time that the IDF purchased a new model or a new version of the D9, at the same time a new generations of improved shielding was developed for it that incorporated improvements based on the lessons learned from previous ones.

Generation 1 Armor

The protection for the D9L included an armored cab with a domed commander's turret (this is a domed-shaped armored commander's shelf like the one on an M113 cupola) usually with a machine gun beside it (most often the NATO MAG 7.62x51 mm), armored windows, armor plates instead of the original tin plates and armored tracks. (NB: I have encountered the phrase 'commander's shelf' before but cannot understand what exactly it means. Here they seem to be referring to the armored tank hatch cover that often has vision ports. How is this a shelf?? Now the NATO MAG machince gun. It is the Belgian FN MAG 7.62 mm that uses 7.62x51 ammo. So, 7.62x51 refers to the ammo the gun uses and not the gun itself.) On some the units the front pistons are protected with armor. A number of smoke grenade launchers manufactured by IMI Systems are installed on the outside of the armored cab. The cab also includes two armored doors, one on each side: one for the commander and one for the operator. The cab is large and air conditioned for the comfort of the team. Around the outside and inside of the cab many bins and shelves are installed that can hold personal equipment, supplies and ammunition.[15] This first generation was installed on the D9L and was very successful, although it did restrict the vision of the operator. In the 2010s a slat armor cage was added beginning with the D9L bulldozers, most of which were then being used by reserve units.

Generation 2 Armor

The second generation began with the D9N and included improvements based on the experience gained, as well as improved human engineering. These improvements included changing the layout of the windows on the left side from a square to a zigzig pattern to increase vibisibility for the vehicle commander, the headlights were moved to the pistons (instead of on top of the front radiator where the front blade partially hid them) as well as the addition of armor shielding to the pistons (which was later added to the D9L).[15] Armored doors on each side of the cab were added. A machine gun and smoke grenade launchers were added as needed. All around the operator's cab there were numerous bins and shelves to store equipment, supplies and ammunition.[15] In the 2010s, a slat armor cage was also added to the D9N bulldozers.

Generation 3 and 3.5 Armor

The third generation was first installed on the D9R, and was developed by the Ramata Factory of Israel Air Industries (IAI) together with MASH"A, and Rafael and Zoko (זוקו) joint venture using the D9L and D9N as a starting point. This included large chagnes while keeping the advantages of the previous generation. The primary changes are: a smaller cab - to reduce its vulnerability to inaccurate anti-tank rockets; (NB: ???? If they are inaccurate then why are they a threat??) the windows were made larger and closer (NB: because the size of the cab was reduced) to increase visibility for the operator; the right door was replaced with a window; improvements in human engineering (NB:ergonomics); a new commander's hatch replaced the commander's cupola with a pedastal to mount a machine on (usually a MAG 7.62x51 mm NATO); and other shields such as those on the pistons.[15]

In 2005, a new improved generation 3 shielding (dor/generation 3.5) was introduced with the main improvement being the addition of a slat armor cage ('cage armor', slat armor, also called 'statistical armor' by the IDF) around the operator's cab in order to protect against the hollow warheads (HEAT) of anti-tank missiles and rockets. Although the cage armor is not a complete shield, it proved itself a lifesaver in Operation Summer Rains and in the Second Lebanon War, and its development by MASH"A, the Land Techonology Division and MANTA"K received the 2006 Ground Forces Commander Award.[7][16][17] In addition, the pistons and headlights were reinforced with additional armor.

Generation 4 Armor

In 2012, new D9R bulldozers were purchased and in addition the sophisticated D9T began to enter service in the Engineering Corps. The new bulldozers were fitted with an improved fourth generation armor and other changes to improve the survivability of the vehicle and the crew: a gun slit in the commander's door to allow the bulldozer team to protect itself when attacked and internal storage bins (instead of external ones) to allow the crew to stay inside of the armored cab for extended periods. The new bulldozers also had better human engineering.[18] These bulldozers were very similar to the D9R with generation 3.5 shielding and are difficult to distinguish. They also had the slat armor cage protection and reinforced piston protection. Some of the bulldozers, especially those operating the Hubares Route (NB: the road paralleling the Gaza separation barrier) a warning system was installed on the roof against anti-tank fire which enables the bulldozer operators to take defensive measures.[19] The D9 bulldozers with fourth generation protection began to be integrated into the regular construction equipment units in 2012 with Heavy Equipment (ZM"A) unit 601 (the Assaf Battalion) receiving them first and the older D9 bulldozers being transferred to reserve duty.[18]

Survivability and Durability

The IDF's armored D9 bulldozers have proven themselves to be well protected against many of the threats posed by Palestinian terrorist organization and by Hezbollah, such as sniper fire, machine gun fire, IEDs, mines and even heavy roadside bombs

The D9 is considered to be the most durable tool the IDF has to use against mines, buried explosives including roadside bombs. Col Pini Dagan, a senior engineering officer in the reserves, describes the D9 as "the ultimate bomb handling tool."[20] Both during and after the Second Intifada, the D9 would roll over bombs weiging 100 kg or more and survived almost all of them without injuring the operators and most without any significant damage to the vehicle,[21] even when running over them with armored tracks and not with the blade which was used, among other things, to detonate explosive devices. During the Second Lebanon War, a D9 drove over an IED with 500 kg of explosives and survived the explosion without harming the crew and without significant damage to the vehicle.[22]

The armor on the D9 provides partial protection against anti-tank rockets and missiles with HEAT warheads, and in more that a few cases both anti-tank rockets[23] and missiles were fired at the bulldozers. The protection 'cage' on the D9R bulldozers presented at 2005 LIC (NB: an exhibiton in the Tel Aviv convention center organized the IDF for the Second International Conference on Low Intensity Conflict. ) which has since been installed on most of the vehicles (in recent years, the 'cage' has gradually been installed on the older D9L and D9N models), providing the bulldozer operators with an additional layer of protection against rockets and anti-tank missiles, and even though it does not guarantee 100% protection, the cage does increase survivability of the bulldozer and in many instances prevents injuries to the crew. In the IDF, the cage is called "statistical armor" because it does not guarantee 100% protection but more in the area of 50%.[24] Many D9 operators call the protection cage the 'fifty-fifty grid' : either it stops an anti-tank missile or it does not.[25] For the life-saving protection of the cage, its developers won the Land Forces Commander's Award.[16]

During their military activity in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, no D9 operators were killed during the 14 years of conflict (the Second Intifada and the fighting in the Gaza Strip until Operation Tzuk Eitan) but a number of them did suffer light to moderate injuries from standard anti-tank rockets and missiles. But despite their great resilience and heavy defenses, the bulldozers were not as heavily armored as modern battle tanks (such as the Merkava tank): in January 2004, an IDF D9N was hit while operating along the northern border removing an explosive when Hezbollah fired a Sager anti-tank missile that destroyed the bulldozer's cab, killing its commander and seriously injuring the operator.[26] During the Second Lebanon War, an operator and a commander (from the HaChatz Battalion 605) were killed by an anti-tank missile, and an engineering officer on a bulldozer was also killed by an anti-tank missile. During Operation Tzuk Eitan, the Palestinians succeeded for the first time in killing D9 operators (by firing anti-tank missiles).[27]

The D9 is considered one of the most protected and durable vehicles in the IDF[28] and serves as a defensive shield for combat engineers and the troops and armored vehicles of other combat units (infantry, armor and special units) that are assisted by its services. In 2014, the IDF D9 was named the world's most protected fighting bulldozer by the Guiness Book of Records.[29][30]

The Remote Control D9

Following the transformation of the D9 into a tool used as the forefront of the fighting that works intensively in the most dangerous and threatening areas, and in view of developments in the technology of unmanned vehicles, the IDF decided to develop an unmanned remote-controlled version of the D9 with the aim of reducing the risk to the lives of the operators.

In 2004, Technion and the IDF announced the development of a remote-controlled D9N bulldozer. The unmanned bulldozer, which was given the name "Thunder of Dawn" (רעם השחר ra'am ha'sha'char/"thunder of dawn") by the IDF,[31] was initially activated by the robotics division of the special engineering unit of YAHALA"M.[32] At the end of 2008, courses at the School of Military Engineering began to train senior non-YAHALA"M operatives how to operate the remote-controlled Thunder of Dawn.[33] The Thunder of Dawn bulldozers enjoyed great success in Operation Cast Lead.[34]

"Winnie the Pooh" (פו הדוב pu hadov/winnie the pooh) is an unmanned bulldozer based on the CAT D9T bulldozer and computerized command and control systems. It is designed to be operated either by remote control or manned from within, depending on the needs of the mission. In addition, the IDF is also working on a sophisticated semi-autonomous control system for the D9T that will allow automated responses of the blade and autonomous pre-programmed operations. The system is called "smart bear" (דוב dov chakam ) and is currently under development with the goal of improving the performance of "Winnie the Pooh".

According to the original plan implemented by the Ministry of Defense, the Ramata factory of Israel Aircraft Industries and Zoko Enterprises, the first unmanned D9T was supposed to be operational at the end of 2007.[35] The first unmanned D9T was introduced in September of 2009 at the Third Latrun Conference. In 2012, the unmanned D9T began an AGAM"I experiment in the IDF. (NB: I searched in vain for over an hour to find the meaning of the acronym אגמ״י AGAM"I. Its meaning will have to remain a mystery.) In the end, an improved model called Panda was introduced. (see below)

In 2014, the IDF began introducing a series of unmanned vehicles, military robots, robotic weapons and new bomb and bomb disposal vehicles into the ranks of the ground forces and, in particular, the combat engineering corps. These devices include robot mini-loaders designed to open paths in narrow alleys where is minimal space for maneuver. Beside them unmanned D9 bulldozers should also be used to make paths and clear dangerous areas of explosives.

In 2017 permission was granted to report in the press about the existence of 'Panda' (NB: פנדא) - an unmanned D9 bulldozer with remote control. The vehicle is based on the CAT D9T bulldozer and converted into an unmanned military configuration by Israel Aircraft Industries. It is an improved version of "Winnie the Pooh". The Panda includes a number of day/night cameras, dozens of new sensors, a new armored engine compartment (smaller than the previous models) and shielding for the bulldozer's mechanical systems. It can be controlled both remotely - from a safe control vehicle or from a control position within an APC (via wireless communication) - and by an operator if necessary. In addition to remote control, the Panda also has autonomous capabilities, including navigation.[36][37] The Panda is currently in service with the IDF being operated by the YAHALA"M company units and by Tsm"a operators who have undergone special training. (NB: Tsm"a - heavy construction equipment צמ״ה - ציוד מכני המלעיל)

On 13 May 2018, Israel Defense reported that the IDF was operating a large number of unmanned D9T bulldozers on the Hubares Route during the confrontations on the Israeli-Gaza border (2018).[38]

D9 Operators in the IDF

The D9 is operated by combat engineers who have completed a two-month training course at the School of Military Engineering. Their military profession (NB: similar to US Army MOS) is defined as combat soldier.[39]

The heavy equipment combat units are organized into companies that belong to combat engineering battalions (regular or reserve) or to regional divisions as well as the heavy equipment battalions of reserve commanders.

For many years, the D9 operators, like the operators of other heavy construction equipment, had a bad image in the IDF. They were labeled as discipline problems and engaged in the boring and unimportant task of moving dirt. However, with the increased use of bulldozers in the war on terror, especially after their decisive contribution to the battle in the Jenin refugee camp and elsewhere during Operation Defensive Shield, there was a significant change in how they were viewed with the D9 operators being seen as combat troops in every respect.[39][40][41][42][43]

Following the Second Intifada, their level of combat and rifle training was raised and today the D9 operators are trained and qualified as Rifleman 05 and Heavy Equipment Operator 07. Those who continue on in the regular army leave for advanced courses to train on wheeled heavy equipment as well as courses to train them as work managers.

The training and heavy equipment operating skills are also useful in the civilian sector with many military heavy equipment operators also working as operators in civilian life where they gain even more experience and skill operating the equipment and in detailed work. Many of them serve in the reserves where they use their experience from the army and in civilian life operating the D9 along other heavy equipment that requires expertise and experience such as excavators, road graders, boring machines (drillers), as well as mentoring younger heavy equipment operators.[44]

History and Military Activity

The D9 Bulldozer in Israel's Wars (until the 1990s)

In the War of Independence, the IDF used bulldozers mobilized from civilian companies and equipments abandoned by the British Army, and in 1954 the D9 was was introduced and soon found its way into civilian engineering in Israel and went from there to the ranks of the IDF.

During the Six Day War, D9 bulldozers of the G-type were deployed to clear roads and prepared positions for tanks. The D9 power boosters and G-type shields were not successful in the Yom Kippur War - during this war, the D9 bulldozers were the ones that broke through obstacles and dragged the Roller Bridge as part of the crossing of the Suez Canal. The bulldozers also broke through the embankments around the Suez Canal and cleared the minefields laid by the Egyptians to hinder the passage of Israeli tanks. An Israeli D9 bulldozer was the first motorized vehicle to reach the peak of Mount Hermon when it made a path for a convoy of supplies for the infantry soldiers who seized control of the strategic summit.

Three D9 bulldozers were involved in Operation Flying Dutchman to rescue the INS Ga'ash (type Sa'ar 3 missile boat) that accidentally grounded on a beach in Saudi Arabia in September of 1981. The bulldozers were brought after a D7 bulldozer and REO truck failed to move the ship. Finally, the three D9 bulldozers pushed the ship with 220 tonnes of force to move it off the beach and rescue it.

In Operation Peace for the Galilee (the First Lebanon War) the bulldozer opened roads though the mountains of Lebanon and cleared them of roadblocks and obstacles. They also prepared routes throught the mountains and hills, and paved alternate roads for the IDF forces to use. Because they were on the front lines, the bulldozers sometimes worked under fire, and this situation created the necessity to come up with a plan to add protection to the bulldozers.

In 1986, the first armored D9L bulldozers entered service. Some of them are still in active service, but most were transferred to reserve duty and to the emergency warehouses.

While in the security zone in southern Lebanon (1982-2000), the D9 bulldozers were used to build outposts in dangerous areas, open roads, and clear explosives from areas. For this difficult and dangerous work, the bulldozers crews were greatly appreciated.

D9 Bulldozers During the Second Intifada

Following the outbreak of the Second Intifada in October of 2000, the IDF began to use bulldozers extensively to open routes, clear areas of explosives, rescue stolen vehicles and even to assist elite units in the IDF again the armed Palestinians and terrorists.[45]

As the fighting intensified, the bulldozers began to play an ever increasing role support the infantry and armor operations in the heart of Palestinian cities and refugee camps. As part of this activity, the bulldozers demolished houses whose owner Israel declared to be terrorists, the houses of suicide bombers (making the claim that this would deter future terrorists from such attack by destroying their families)(NB: collective punishment), buildings booby-trapped with explosives and hidden mines (booby traps), as well as strutures of the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian terrorist organizations. (NB: What if the British had used these tactics agains the Stern Gang?? Would there even be a state of Israel??) The bulldozers also destroyed buildings during the fighting (buildings from which IDF forces and Isreali civilians were targeted) including the pressure cooker procedure where IDF and YAMA"M (NB: an Israeli police counter-terrorism unit ימ״מ - יחידה מרכזית מיוחדת/Special Central Unit ) would surround a building where terrorists were suspected and if they did not surrender, use the bulldozers to collapse the buildings down on them.[9][46]

The increase in the number of explosive charges and shooting ambushes, especially along roadwys, prompted the Combat Engineering Corps to carry out extensive clearing operations in which the structures and vegetation used as shelter or firing positions by Palestinian militants were flattened or uprooted. Most of these clearing operations were carried out by D9 bulldozers (many of them in the Gaza Strip), with a sharp drop in roadside bombs and ambushes along the routes. The bulldozers were also used to clear roads of heavy explosives. The bulldozers also cleared areas of the Gaza Strip to allow the Israeli Air Forces to more easily identify Qassam rocket lauching locations and destroy them. These actions caused extensive damage to Palestinian infrastructure destroying numerous houses and orchards, and for this they were criticized by left-wing circles and organizations such as B'Tselem.

In the major operations in the territories from Operation Defensive Shield onward, the armored bulldozers became an important part of IDF combat doctrine for warfare in built-up areas and in low-intensity confrontation in situations where the enemy is well entrenched and and set traps in the area. The bulldozers decided the battle in Jenin (see below). During Operation Rainbow (May 2004) in Rafah, bulldozers operated extensively in clearing explosive charges, opening roads, creating roadblocks and demolishing houses under fire, and they were one of the main reasons that the operation eneded with losses to the IDF. The Southern Command (reserve) battalion, which operates armored D9 bulldozers and other heavy military construction equipment in the Gaza Strip, received a Medal of Excelence attended by the President of Israel in 2005.

D9 bulldozers operated daily on the Philadelphia route in order to destroy smuggling and terrorist tunnels, demolish houses identified by the IDF as terrorist controlled (such as houses used as firing position or as hiding places for tunnels), and to open roads and expose vegetation that made it difficult to locate explosives. According to human rights organizationa, bulldozers demolished thousands of houses that were adjacent to the road. One of the most prominent events along the route was the death of Rachel Corrie, an ISM activist (NB: ISM is International Solidarity Movement) who was killed by a D9R bulldozer in an accident after she tried to block it.(NB: This was a very controversial accident. ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant. )

Even after the withdrawal from Gaza, the D9 bulldozers continued to operate near and sometimes even within the Gaza Strip. Their job was to prepare the area of the Hubares route that encircled the Gaza Strip by clearing vegetation that blocked the view of the fence and clear the area of explosive devices planted by the Palestinians. In addition, the bulldozer server as a portable protective shield for the engineering and fortification teams operating along the route.

A number of military experts[47] claim that the armored D9 was one of the main factors responsible for the relatively small number of casualties the IDF suffered during the Second Intifada.

The Battle in the Jenin Refugee Camp

The D9 became the focus of public attention following the battle in the Jenin refugee camp during Operation Defensive Shield in April of 2002. The Jenin refugee camp was surrounded by thousands of explosive devices (many were camouflaged as innocent objects) with the IDF forces - most of which were from Brigade 5 (reserve), Shayetet 13 and infantry battalions - meeting difficult resistance. During the battles heavy losses were inflicted on the IDF forces, and in fact it was the use of the D9 that ultimately decided the battle.

Initially, the bulldozers were use primarily to clear explosives from routes [48] and to open booby-trapped doors. They opened routes for armored vehicles and infantry, sometimes bringing food and equipment to the troops that was inside their huge, protected cabins. Following an ambush in which 13 reserve soldiers were killed, it was decided to comply with the demands of the forces in the area to use the bulldozers to demolish houses the IDF has identified as sources of hostile fire. Faced with slow progress and mounting losses, Ofek Buchris, the commander of 51st BN of the Golani Brigade, devised a relatively safe method to advance forces: the D9 bulldozers would lead and clear explosives from the road and punch holes into the walls of buildings allowing soldiers to safely enter houses when they exited from the rear of an Achzarit (a heavy IDF APC).

"Lt Col Buchris stuck to aggressive fighting ... and extensive use of bulldozers. It was in his sector that the method was developed ... a bulldozer bangs into the corcer of a house to open a hole in it, and then an Achzarit arrives to unload soldiers into the house where they are relatively protected ...."
"And from then on, all of the forces advanced using the Buchris tactic, and the troops advanced only after the huge bulldozers had cleared the area of explosives sweeping away everything in front of them."

- Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, "The Seventh War: How We Won and Why We Lost the War with the Palestinians," pp.255 and 257.

The bulldozers had a significant impact on the outcomes of the battle: it was an d( bulldozer that killed Mahmoud Tawalbeh, head of Islamic Jihad and commander of the Palestinian forces in the camp.[49] In addition, the bulldozers demolished houses while under fire and at the height of the battle they "shaved" the center of the Hawashin neighborhood, following the assessment by Israeli security sources that most of the Palestinian gunmen were in the area and so were most of the explosive traps prepared by them. Two days later, the battle was over with no further losses of IDF soldiers and no D9 was damaged.

The military historian Dr Yagil Henkin summarized the battle's outcome and wrote:

"In the evening of that day,[50] the IDF began large scale operations with D9 bulldozers, which in many ways changed the face of battle. The bulldozers, which were almost invulnerable to the fire of Palestinian snipers and explosive charges, cleared a path for the armored vehicles and systematiclly demolished the buildings that were the source of heavy fire directed at the troops. The use of bulldozers in the Jenin refugee camp may have caused considerable local damage but did not seem to take as heavy a toll on human life. In fact, it may have greatly acclelrated the surrender of those who were trapped and brought an end to the fighting. TIME magazine described a scene that was typical of the last days of fighting in Jenin: "The D9 tore down a wall from the house, and stunned fighters came out with their hands up." Indeed, most of the Palestinian fighters, who were helpless before the crushing power of the heavy construction equpiment, preferred to surrender to the IDF and not to be buried alive."

Dr Yagil Henkin. "Kosovo, Somalia, Jenin: Comparative Analysis." Tchelet (Journal), 2003.

The work of the bulldozers was highly praised by the rest of the fighting forces in the camp, including the Shayetet 13 fighters:

At four in the morning, the wonderful teddy bears begin to erase the infected compound. They're right on the front line, they are shot at and bombs are thrown, but the teddy bear is immune, nothing can hurt him. Teddy bear Assaf, teddy bear Amnon, teddy bear Kurdi, they fought among themselves over who would do the job, just like elite reconnaissance personnel.

- Yaron, Team Commander,reserves, in Shayetet 13, quoted in the article "To the dirt", Yediot Aharonot, 10 May 2002.

According to the Palestinians who fought in Jenin, the influence on morale of the bulldozers and the inability to stop them, using large explosive charges and a anti-tank rockets[23] made them surrender. Thabet Mardawi, a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander, told CNN of his decision to surrender:

He finally surrendered when the infantry forces disappeared and the armored bulldozers appeared. "The huge bulldozers arrived, and we were in the demolished houses. There were no soldiers or tanks ... there was nothing that I could do against this bulldozer."

-- interview with Thabet Mardawi, Palestinian terrorist who fought in Jenin[51]

The battle ended with an Israeli victory. In a Palestinian document that records the battle in Jenin that was translated from Arabic to Hebrew by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center:

What Tipped the Balance and Decided the Campaign
The determination of the fighters in the campaign held until the last stage when the last resistance in the camp stood against clearly superior Israeli forces that were equipped with bullet-proof bulldozers. The decision to surrender was made after the fighters concluded telephone consultations with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nusrallah, Islamic Jihad leader Ramamdan Shelah, organization leaders and political figures among Israeli Arabs. One of the Hamas activists who fought in the Jenin refugee camep admitted that the Israeli armored bulldozers had decided the battle because the Palestinian fighters had not been able to find an effective solution to neutralize them. According to him, even the anti-tank launchers, including the RPGs, which were in the hands of the fighters proved to be ineffective against the bulldozers that were even more effectively protected than the Israeli tanks. He said that Abu Jandal, of the fighters in the camp, had fired an RPG at one of the bulldozers but it had no effect.

-- Palestinian document translated by the Intelligence and Information Center[23]

The bulldozers left a great deal of destruction in the refugee camp (some 140 houses, according to human rights organizations), which aroused worldwide concern. According to Israel, the destruction was necessary because of the large amount of explosive (over 15,000), some of which were hidden in civilian homes.

The D9 operators were criticized for the destruction they left behind in the camp even though, according to the unit commander and some of the operators, they acted with restraint and always gave a warning before they started demolishing a house. The bulldozers were operated by reserve soldiers from a Central Command unit. The unit received a unit citation from the commanding officer for its action in battle.[52]

D9 Bulldozers in Operation Summer Rains

Following the abduction of Gilad Shalit, D9 bulldozers were sent to the Gaza Strip to open roads for the ground forces and also to expose areas in order to locate explosive devices. At the start of the operation, one of the bulldozers was hit by and anti-tiank missile and it operators were wounded. Following the incident, the IDF decided to quicly install cage armor protection on most of the bulldozers operating in the Gaza Strip. Ordnance Corps personnel went down and install the cage armor on the bulldozers under field conditions using pits that the bulldozers themselves dug.[17] (NB: What I think is going on here is that the techs did not need lifting equipment and ladders to attach the armor, working instead at ground level with the bulldozer in a pit.) Within a day, most of the bulldozers has been armored and for this the developers and contractors were given the Ground Forces Commander's Award. The fighting in the Gaza Strip developed into Operation summer Rains. During this operation, the Second Lebanon War ignited and many of the armored bulldozers with cage armor were transferred to the northern sector.

D9 Bulldozers in the Second Lebanon War

At the start of the Second Lebanon War, bulldozers destroyed Hezbollah outposts and bunkers along the Israel-Lebanon border and the Hezbollah presence in Maroun al-Ras and Bint Jbeil. The bulldozers opened important advance routes for the forces and built positions for tanks. They also rescued equipment and tanks that were damaged during the fighting. In one case, a bulldozer operator under heavy fire rescued a soldier from the Galani Brigade who was trapped under the turret of a tank that had been hit.[53] In another instance, an operator directed a complex rescue operation of two tank and received a Brigade Commander's citation.[54] The bulldozers proved to be very resilient, a bulldozer ran over an explosive charge of half a tonne of explosives but left unharmed.[22] In another case, the bulldozer ran over a 200 kg device and was only lightly damaged with no injuries to the crew. Despite their heavy armor, a bulldozer in the HaChatz Battalion (605) was hit by an anti-tank missile and both crew members were killed. Also, Maj Nimrod Hillel, an officer in the heavy equipment company of Engineering Battalion 8173 (Chariots of Steel Brigade), was killed[55] by an anti-tank missile fired at his bulldozer and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.[56] During the war, an emergency procedure was used to install cage armor on many bulldozers, a move that began during Operation Summer Rains in the Gaza Strip.

D9 Bulldozers During Operation Cast Lead

In Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the D9 led the forces opening routes for the engineering forces, infantry and armor while absorbing a large number of hidden explosives, anti-tank mines, anti-personnel mines, RPG-7s and anti-tank missiles. In most cases, no significant damage was caused and no serious injuries to the crew. During the operation, no D9 operators were killed.

In addition to opening routes and clearing explosives, the armored D9 bulldozers destroyed hundreds of buildings used for terror (many of them were captured and found to contain explosives and explosives devices), greenhouses (NB:??) and booby-trapped tunnels (in total, the Engineering Corps destroyed some 600 structures, some of them using explosives but most by means of bulldozers).[57] The heavy equipment companies of some regular battalions took part in the operation, Knights of Steel (also called Gaza Strip)(NB: part of the Gaza Div - 143), and the Southern Command Engineering Equipment battalion (reserve battalion).

During the operation there were a large number of "Thunder of Dawn" bulldozers, unamnned D9N bulldozers operated by remote control. According to the engineering officers, the unmanned bulldozers performed extraordinary work and made it unecessary to put human lives at risk. In light of the positive experience gained in the operation, the Ground forces plan to double the number of unmanned bulldozers in IDF service.[34]

The heavy equipment operators of the IDF were honored by Southern Command along with the rest of the Combat Engineering Corps: the head of Southern Command, Brig Gen Harel Knafo, admitted, "The reserve soldiers of engineering that used heavy equipment, were the first to enter battle and the last to leave. You cannot measure the actions of the engineers whose main purpose is to protect the rest. The Engineering Corps is the only corps that was split up to the platoon level, everyone begging to be given their own engineering power."[58]

D9 Bulldozers and the 2010 Carmel Fire

In December 2010, a large forest fire broke out on Mount Carmel. (NB: Close to Haifa in northern Israel.) Among other things, the IDF also directed bulldozers and heavy equipment be used to try and help stop the fire.[59] Armored D9 bulldozers and other bulldozers opened paths for the firefighters to enter the area and help extinguish the fire.[60] In addition, the D9 bulldozers dug up vegetation and uprooted tree to prevent the fire from spreading.[61] (NB: They built firelines or firebreaks to stop flames from spreading by removing fuel for the fire by clearing vegetation and trees in the path of the fire.) An example of this was when activists rescued the Carmel Forest Hotel from flames at the last minute when burning trees were uprooted near the hotel using D9 bulldozers.[61]

D9 Bulldozers in Operation Tzuk Eitan

On 8 July 2014, the IDF launched Operation Tzuk Eitan in the Gaza Strip in response to massive mortar and artillery rocket fire at southern communities surrounding Gaza. On 17 July, an infiltration by terrorists through underground tunnels into Israeli territory was thrwarted followed by the start of IDF ground operations into the Gaza Strip. One of the main goals of this ground incursion was to locate, expose and destroy all the underground tunnels from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory, and the Combat Engineering Corps played a central role in these efforts.

At the beginning of the operation on 8 July, the crew of an armored D9 bulldozer, including the commander, Capt Salman Hayhi, and Sgt Oz Ezra[62][63], was involved in stopping an infiltration by the sea that the Hamas naval commando unit carried out on Zikim beach. The bulldozer charged the terrorists, was hit by small arms fire and grenades from a range of about 5 meters, the assault continued when the command of the bulldozer killed two terrorists at close range firing from inside the vehicle.[42] For this he received the Medal of Excellence from the Chief of Staff.[43][62]

When the ground operation began on 17 uly, the D9 bulldozers took part by clearing routes, clearing areas of explosives and the military clearance and demolition of buildings. The bulldozers were used to destroy structures used for terror (such as buildings that were booby-trapped or buildings that contained tunnel shafts or ammunition depots) and tried not to hurt the innocent. Because of the extant to which Hamas and other terrorist organizations used civilian and private buildings for terrorist purposes, the bulldozers had to demolish many houses and even entire neighborhoods that had been contaminated.[64] According to the operators:

"There were several neighborhoods that became sandboxes, homes that were destroyed only after it became clear that Hamas was using them and operating from them and there was no other choice." According to him, there were places where they were not given permission to act for fear of harming those not involved. "All of our work was done after there was intelligence and identification. There were cases in which we found animals inside and released them so as not to harm them."

-- interview with a D9 operator in an article by Omri Efraim, a D9 activist: "We have turned neighborhoods into sandboxes", Ynet website, 29 July 2014.

During the destruction of the terrorist infrastructure, the armored D9 bulldozers killed terrorists when they destroyed buildings and tunnels that the terrorists had barricaded themselves inside (including during the difficult battle in Shaja'iya).[65]

The D9s also took part in locating and clearing tunnels. They would clear the area around the entrance shaft, build walls around them using dirt and debris to help secure the area, then 349 excavators or drillers were sent to open up the tunnel and YAHALA"M troops would come and search and later destroy the tunnel.

During this operation, the Palestinians for the first time succeeded in killing a D9 operator after 14 years of fighting. On 27 July, during the battle for Khirbet Ahza, an anti-tank squad of ten fired an RPG at a bulldozer, killing one of the crew, Staff Sgt Moshe Duino, and injuring the other seriously.[27] The squad fled to a nearby house and another D9 from the 603rd BN knocked the building down killing eight, and the two surviving terrorists were apprehended and taken for interrogation.[66] The crew of the D9 that destroyed the building was awarded a citation by the commander of the division.[67][68]

On 30 July, another anti-tank missile hit a D9 bulldozer and lightly wounded the two soldiers.[69][70] In another case, a bulldozer went up in flames after an electric power pole fell on it with a transformer filled with oil that flared up, and both the operator and commander emerged from the flames but with severe burns.[71]

Evidence of the importance of the IDF's heavy construction equipment during the operation, and the D9 bulldozers in particular, can be found in the decorations and citations that were awarded: the Chief of Staff's Citation was given to the Central Command's heavy equipment battalion for their action during the operation, particularly against teerorist tunnels[72] and in addition, two D9 operators received Division Commander Citations,[67][68] a heavy equipment officer received a medal of excellence from the Chief of Staff[43][62], and a reserve equipment operator received the Chief of Staff commendation medal.[44][73][74]

Public Actions Against Caterpillar for IDF Use of D9s

The IDF's use of bulldozers to demolish Palestinian homes and build the separation fence, as well as the death of Rachel Corrie after being hit by a D9, led to call for a boycott of the Caterpillar company, supported by left-wing organizations including Gush Sahlom, the Commmittee Against House Demolitions and Jewish Voice for Peace. In addition, a number of radical leftist movements, human right's groups and pro-Palestinian groups called on Caterpillar to immediately stop the sale of equipment and spare parts to Israel to fight the Palestinians.[75]

The management of Caterpillar, which sells bulldozers and other heavy equipment to the IDF as part of US foreign aid to Israel, categorically refused and rejected the demand to stop selling equipment to Israel. It was also their position that while they were "worried about the difficult political situation in the Middle East", they do not get involved in politics and 'do not have either the means nor the right to restrict how their equipment is used." Despite the demonstrations and calls for boycotts, Caterpillar's profits grew. In addition, following the success of the D9 bulldozers in Judea and Samaria, Caterpillar began to supply them to the US military while Israel sold protection packages to the Americans. On 14 April 2005, the Caterpillar shareholders rejected a resolution calling for a halt to the sale of bulldozers and other equipment to Israel. The proposal which was raised by extreme left-wing organizations and a number of Christian churches, received only 3% support.[76]

In 2006, the Anglican Church decided to withdraw its investments in the company to protest the IDF's use of their products to demolish homes and build the separation fence.[77]

In October 2010, it was reported that a deal to sell several dozen D9 bulldozers to Israel had been suspended, apparently due to a trial in Israel where the Corrie's family brought suit against Israel.[78] The Ministry of Defense denied the report and said that sales were never frozen. In 2012, new and improved D9T bulldozers began to arrive in Israel with improved protection.[79]

Rachel Corrie's parents filed lawsuits against the Ministry of Defense and against Caterpillar in the United States and in Israel, but all were rejected. In August 2012, the District Court in Israel rejected the family's claim, determining that Corrie's death was an accident that resulted from, amont other things, limited mirrors due to the heavy armor of the bulldozer and the small windows in the operator's cab, and and negligence of corrie and the ISM activists who knowingly risked themselves.[80][81][82] In 2015, the Supreme Court rejected the Corrie family's appeal regarding the circumstances of her death.[83]

However, the US Armed Forces were impressed by the effectiveness of the D9 in Judea and Samaria so in 2003 they purchased a number of D9R bulldozers from Israel along with defense kits from Israel Aerospace Industries to use in the war in Iraq. According to documents from the US Marine Corps, the bulldozers received very positive reviews from the soldiers who used them.[84]

The D9 in Culture

The perfomance of the D9 bulldozer in the service of the IDF led to its discovery as a tool with a great ability to destroy and which could not be stopped, making the word 'D9' an synonym in Israel for bulldozer, and a metaphor for an efficient and effective tool that can move things that have become stuck and solve complex problems through the use of brute force. Media reports about the D9 and its operators have focussed on the contrast between its destructive power and its IDF codename of 'dubi' teddy bear.

In particular, following the battle in Jenin (2002) in Operation Defensive Shield, the D9 became one of the IDF's main tools for fighting terrorism and the reputation it gained led many in the public to call for the massive use of D9 bulldozers in confrontations with the Palestinian in order to defeat terrorism. For example, Knesset member from Yisrael Beiteinu Robert Ilatov said, "Hamas, with all its arms, has the goal of destroying Israel. Sharon found the answer to the eradication of terror when he sent the D9 to Jenin. Now the IDF needs to send the D9 into Gaza."

On the other hand, the destructive power of the D9 and its use to bring buildings to the ground and turn them into dust, brought about the expression "run over it with a D9" as a metaphor for the destruction of a structure or system that is seen as defective in order to rebuild it. The demolition of the Darineuf homes in Beit El on 29 July 2015 after a High Court of Justice ruling, led Knesset member Moti Yogev of the Jewish Home party to use the metaphor, "the High Court of Justice must face the blade of the D9, and we as a legislature will take action to curb the legal authority of the country, the tail that wags the dog."[85] On 13 August 2015, Ma'ariv published an editorial cartoon by Uri Fink in which an armored D9 bulldozer was in the parking spance of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked along with the cars of the other senior officials of the Justice Ministry, an image that corresponds with the words of Moti Yogev, a member of the same party, as Shaked criticized the High Court of Justice and her desire to carry out significant reforms of the judicial system.[86]

Among the radical left (NB: And the Jewish Home party is not the radical right??) and the Palestinians, the D9 became synonymous with the destruction in Judea and Samaria carried out by the IDF and the state of Israel. The IDF D9 was called "Killdozer" (a portmanteau combining killer + bulldozer) the name of a feature movie which featured a D9 bulldozer that went on a killing rampage at a construction site.

Other Armored Engineering Vehicles in the IDF

The IDF operates various types of heavy construction eqipment (TSM"A), including bulldozers, excavators, and front loaders from Caterpillar, as well as backhoe loaders, mini loaders, road graders and trucks. While some of this heavy equipment is intended fro construction and manitenance work in rear bases, others were designed to operate in bases in conflict zones and even at the front, including participation in combat and so are adquately protected. The primary armored vehicles of the Combat Engineering Corps are the bulldozer (Caterpillar D9), wheel loader (Caterpillar 966) and the excavator (Caterpillar 349). In the media, they often get confused and they refer to all of them as "D9". The following table summarizes the differences between them:

NameD9 Bulldozer (doobi/teddy bear)Protected Wheel LoaderProtected Excavator
TypeArmored Tracked BulldozerProtected Wheel LoaderProtected Tracked Excavator
ModelCAT D9(L/N/R/T)CAT 966(E/F/G/H)CAT 330
CAT 349E

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See Also

Further Reading

External Links