April 2, 2009:
Israel is converting all its D9 armored combat bulldozers to operate by remote control. Israel has been using the D9 bulldozer for combat operations since the 1960s. The 62 ton D-9 armored (via an Israeli armor kit) bulldozer has been an important tool for urban warfare. 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 get killed or wounded, and the vehicles put out of action.
The remote control version of the D9, called "Black Thunder", was developed three years ago. This was 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 recent 22 day 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. is aware of "Black Thunder", and is also experimenting with the remote control of a number of different armored vehicles.