Good news for Caterpillar
The IDF Ground Forces Command plans to double the number of unmanned D9 armored bulldozers in the Engineering Corps arsenal after the vehicle provided exceptional results during Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip in January.The D-9 is the armored version of the Caterpillar bulldozer that has been used by both the Israelis and the US. The robotic control appears to be a feature pioneered by the Israelis who have made the most extensive use of the bulldozer in clearing obstacles built by the Palestinians. It has been so effective that many terrorist support groups have protested sales by Caterpillar.
The unmanned version of the D9 bulldozer - called "Black Thunder" - was developed several years ago by the Engineering Corps and was only recently declassified.
"The unmanned D9 performed remarkably during Operation Cast Lead, clearing roads of mines and explosive devices," explained one officer in the Ground Forces Command. "There was even one that was damaged, which demonstrates how it did its job since no one was injured."
The Black Thunder looks like a regular D9 bulldozer but is equipped with a number of cameras that transmit images to the operator, who controls the vehicle with a . The unmanned D9 participated widely in Operation Cast Lead as well as in the Second Lebanon War in 2006.
"The unmanned version is important since if there is a concern that an area is loaded with mines it can save lives," the officer said, adding that in the event of a communications malfunction the vehicle can be turned into a manned vehicle and operated like a regular D9.