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Encyclopedia > IDF Caterpillar D9
Caterpillar D9 - General Characteristics
Engineering vehicle type: Heavy bulldozer
Propulsion: Caterpillar tracks
Engine model: CAT C18 ACERT (D9T)
3408 HEUI (D9R)
Gross power: 346 kW (464 hp) D9T
354 kW (474 hp) D9R
Flywheel power: 306 kW (410 hp) D9T
306 kW (410 hp) D9R
280 kW (375 hp) D9N
343 kW (460 hp) D9L
Operation Weight: 48784 kg (107548 lb)
Length: 8.1 m
Width: 4 m (blade)
Height: 4 m
Speed: 11.9 km/h (foward)
14.7 km/h (reverse)
Blade capacity: 13.5 m (17.7 yd) 9 SU blade
16.4 m3(21.4 yd) 9 U blade

The Caterpillar D9 is a large track-type tractor (commonly referred to as a bulldozer) with caterpillar tracks designed and manufactured by Caterpillar Inc.. The D9, with 354 kW (474 hp) of gross power and an operating weight of 49 tons, is in the upper end, but not the heaviest, of Caterpillar's track-type tractors, which range in size from the D3 57 kW (77 hp), 8 tons, to the D11 698 kW (935 hp), 104 tons. The size, durability, reliability, and low operating costs has made the D9 one of the most popular large track-type tractors in the world, with the Komatsu D275A as one of its most direct competitors. The D9 recently gained high media attention due to its military applications by the Israeli Defence Forces.


Engineering and Technical Description

The D9 is a series of heavy tracked-type tractors, propelled by Caterpillar tracks and usually used as bulldozers. The D9 has undergone several generations of engineering enhancements. Each new generation is denoted with an English letter added to "D9". Until the introducing of the D10 in the 1980's, the D9 was the larget conventional CAT dozer. The D9L was the first variation of the D9 to employ "high drive" design in which the driving wheel is located above the track wheels, and not in the same row. The current versions are the D9R and the D9T models, but older models such as the D9N and D9L are still common. The L, N, R and T models of the D9 are visually very similar, differing primarily in the design of their internal systems. The D9T main difference from the D9R is the installment of the new Cat C18 ACERT engine.

The D9's primary working tools are the blade, affixed to the front and controlled by 6 hydraulic arms, and the optional ripper, which can be attached to the back. The blade is mainly intended for earthmoving and bulk material handling: pushing up sand, dirt and rubble. It also can be used to push other heavy equipment such as earthmoving scraper pans, and in military applications, main battle tanks. The dozer blade usually comes in 3 varieties:

  1. A Straight Blade ("S-Blade") which is short and has no lateral curve, no side wings, and can be used for fine grading.
  2. A Universal Blade ("U-Blade") which is tall and very curved, and has large side wings to carry more material.
  3. A "S-U" combination blade which is shorter, has less curvature, and smaller side wings.

Like many other bulldozers, the D9 can be fitted with different blades (such as size-9 SU blade and Universal blade) or other devices such as mineplows or combine harvester.

The rear ripper is intended for use in loosening rocky ground and ripping out larger stones. It can also break frozen ground and excavate small ditches.

The size, power and weight of the larger track-type tractors dictate that they are used primarily for major projects. The D9 is most commonly found in use in construction, forestry, mining, waste, and quarry operations.

Civilian incident illustrating the D9's power

Civilian D9R bulldozer

On the 4th of June, 2004 a Granby, Colorado, USA resident by the name of Marvin Heemeyer ran amok driving a modified D9 and destroyed several houses and community buildings in the small farming village of Granby. He crashed the buildings of his adversaries in a zoning dispute involving his muffler shop and a new concrete mixing plant. Heemeyer fitted makeshift concrete armor to the vehicle, turning it into a tank-like mobile fortress. The cabin, engine and tracks were protected by reinforced concrete armor that was, in places, over one foot thick. The driver's vision of where he was going was provided by video cameras outside the driver's compartment feeding three CRTs inside. Heemeyer also provided food, water, and air conditioning for himself inside the fortified driver's cabin. The bulldozer was armed with several rifles and a .50 caliber (12.7 mm) gun. The D9 itself was an old model that was no longer in production.

During the one-and-a-half hour rampage, law enforcement officers fired hundreds of bullets at the makeshift tank and set off explosive charges against it, but could not stop the D9's rampage. Finally the fortified D9 came to rest, trapped in the rubble of a collapsed building. A failed radiator brought the vehicle to a halt. Heemeyer apparently took his own life in his cockpit, while SWAT teams were using explosives and oxy-acetylene cutting torches to gain access to the driver's compartment.

Although nobody else was killed in the incident, property damage was very extensive. According to many reports, Heemeyer went out of his way to avoid killing innocents, and apparently the purpose of his rampage was solely to cause extensive property damage to his 'enemies.'

See: killdozer.

Military applications

IDF armored Caterpillar D9 bulldozers


Caterpillar Inc. does not manufacture a military version of the D9 per se, but the attributes that make the D9 popular for major construction projects make it desirable for military applications as well, and it has been particularly effective for the Israeli Defense Force (IDF).

Armored bulldozers are a standard tool of Combat engineering battalions, and the IDF has gained some notoriety for their use of armored tractors for urban warfare in the Al-Aqsa Intifada. Although the Israeli Engineering Corps had used D9 bulldozers since the 1960's (including in the Six Day War and Yom Kippur War), the D9 first rose to public attention in Operation Defensive Shield, and later in demolition of structures and shrubbery (one was ended with the consequential death of Rachel Corrie). In Israel, the D9 has gained highly favorable reviews - both by public and soldiers - for keeping IDF casualties low and for saving soldiers' lives.

The armored D9, as developed and modified by the IDF, provides armor protection to the mechanical systems and to the operator cabin. The operator is protected inside an armored cabin, with bulletproof windows to protect against bombs, machinegun and sniper fire. The fitted armor package adds roughly 15 additional tons to the production-line weight of the D9. As for many customized packages, individually modified D9s may be found with disparate features, such as crew-operated machine guns, smoke projectors, or grenade launchers.

The Israeli Engineering Corps is using the D9 for a wide variety of engineering tasks: digging moats, clearing mines, mounting sand barriers and building fortifications, as well as clearing terrain obstacles and opening routes to Armored fighting vehicles. On Yom Kippur War the D9s took part in the breaching of the Suez Canal, enabling Israeli forces to go through the canal and surround the Egyptian 3rd Army. In the northern front - an Israeli D9, who opened a route to elite infantry forces, was the first motorized vehicle to reach the heighest peak of Mount Hermon. One of the D9's primary roles is to clear landmine fields and booby-trapped areas. The heavy armor installed by the IDF allows the D9s to work under heavy fire in dangerous battle-zones and resist mine blasts. The Israeli armor kit has proven to be effective, as no D9 operator was killed during the 4-year long al-Aqsa Intifada.

An IDF armoured military D9 bulldozer.
D9s were operated by the Israeli Engineering Corps since the Six Day War, for a variety of engineering tasks, often under heavy fire.

The Israeli armored D9, a.k.a Duby (lit. teddy bear) has also been used in standoff situations with armed opponents barricaded in buildings, usually rigged with explosives and booby-traps, when no hostages are present. In order not to risk Israeli soldiers, the D9 shakes the house until the barricaded gunmen surrender. After the building is evacuated, the D9 razes the structure in order to detonate and bury any explosives that remain inside. This method was also employed in Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield after 13 Israeli soldiers were killed in an ambush, resulting in the surrender of dozens of gunmen without further Israeli casualties. In Hebron, the IDF used the armored D9 to stop the local Hamas leader, Bassal Qawasameh, whose forces shot at the D9, but he was killed when the D9 collapsed the house where he was hiding. The year after, Imad Qawasameh surrendered to IDF forces, after a D9 started demolishing his house.

Armored D9 bulldozers are routinely employed in the Gaza strip as well. Their main tasks there are to detonate large explosive charges (such as improvised anti-tank landmines,booby traps and IEDs) and clear safe paths for IDF armored fighting vehicles and troops. The D9s also demolish houses and clear shrubbery that the opposition can use as shooting or bombing cover. The D9s are an essential tool in the IDF campaign against smuggling tunnels in Rafah, which are used by militants to smuggle weapons, persons and contraband. Armored D9 bulldozers have demolished many structures in Rafah during battles with militants and operations to uncover smuggling tunnels. The destruction of hundreds of structures in Rafah is a highly controversial issue: the Israeli Defense Forces claims that the destruction of buildings and tunnels is a security necessity and that most houses destroyed were used for terrorist activity; Palestinians claim the destruction has left thousands of people homeless and is done systematically in order to create a cleared "buffer zone" between Rafah and Philadelphi Route.

Human Rights Watch published a report (http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/gaza) criticizing the mass demolition in Rafah. It claims to refute many of the IDF's justifications for destructive policies carried out by D9s. For example, it has claimed that tunnels (http://www.hrw.org/reports/2004/rafah1004/6.htm#_Toc84676183) in Rafah are being used as a pretext to demolish homes in order to create a "buffer zone" -- instead of using available and effective technologies to neutralize tunnels where they cross the border, the IDF is undertaking unnecessary and highly destructive incursions into the camp. HRW's report also demonstrates that extensive destruction of roads (http://www.hrw.org/reports/2004/rafah1004/14.htm#_Toc84676206), water, and sewage networks by D9 bulldozers makes no sense as an antimine technique, as most of the destruction is wrought using the rear blade of the bulldozer, which would do nothing to protect bulldozers from IEDs. Rather, the destruction of roads appears to be punitive and illegal. HRW has called on Caterpillar to suspend sales of D9s and related parts and services to the IDF as long as illegal demolitions continue. The Israeli position regarding operation Rainbow (http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/mfaarchive/2000_2009/2004/5/behind%20the%20headlines%20-%20rafah%20gateway%20to%20terrorism) described Rafah as "Gateway to terrorism". The IDF stressed that "... the IDF traditionally does its utmost to avoid harming the civilian population. It employs infantry forces whenever possible – as opposed to air or artillery strikes – to minimize the possibility of doing unintentional harm. At times, this humanitarian concern comes at the price of risking the lives of soldiers – two of whom were killed last week by Palestinian snipers while helping an elderly woman get food" and claimed that most demolition are carried out against houses which are used by terrorists to shot at IDF forces, and were approved by the Israeli Supreme Court of Justice: "Even though these demolitions were the direct result of terrorist activity – and were thus the responsibility of the terrorists themselves – 46 Palestinian families involved exercised their right to appeal the demolitions to Israel’s High Court of Justice this week. In ruling to allow the demolitions, the court noted that they were permissible due to the overriding need to protect the lives of Israelis."

D9s also took part in demolition of houses of suicide bombers. According to the IDF, the policy of destroying the homes of Palestinian suicide bombers has been established in response to terror groups, backed by countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia and Saddam Hussain's Iraq, offering monetary rewards to Palestinian families who have family members die as suicide bombers. Destroying those homes removes monetary gain as a motive to kill. The house demolition role has been executed with much success by D9s, excavators, and the Israeli Engineering Corps demolition experts.

Both military armored D9s and civilian non-armored D9s are being used by Israel's Ministry of Defense in the building of the Israeli West Bank barrier. The main D9 contributions to the project are earthmoving and soil-leveling, clearing a path for the security fence, and digging trenches in front of the security fence.

United States

An American armored military D9

The United States Army has purchased several D9 armor kits from the IDF and used them to produce similarly fortified D9s. These have been used to clear destroyed vehicles from roads, dig moats, erect earthen-barriers, and construct field fortifications. D9s have also been used to raze houses which hosted snipers who shot at American forces (similar to the Israeli usage). There were some reports about the use of large bulldozers against Iraqi trenches during the first Gulf War.

The US army used D9 bulldozers to clear wood in Vietnam war but after the war it replaced them with smaller and cheaper Caterpillar D7 bulldozers. D7 dozers are still very common in US combat engineering battlions, but there is a resurgent high demand to replace the lighter D7s with the newer and more heavily armored D9s.

See also

External links

Civilian D9 bulldozer

Military D9 bulldozer

  Results from FactBites:
Caterpillar faces an intifada (2490 words)
Caterpillar's management responded coolly to the Israel resolution, saying, in a statement, that while the company felt "compassion for all those affected by political strife," it had "neither the legal right nor the means to police individual use" of the equipment it sells.
The D9 and its larger cousin, the D10, are the Israeli military's construction weapon of choice in the country's conflict with the Palestinians, often accompanying other, more traditional, military equipment on raids into Gaza and the West Bank.
The Israeli government is also using Caterpillar bulldozers in the construction of the barrier Israel is building along its border with the West Bank; although the Israeli public is widely supportive of the barrier as a necessary measure to prevent terrorist attacks, Palestinians have bitterly criticized the structure for cutting into their territory.
  More results at FactBites »



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