Dozens of new D-9 armored bulldozers have begun arriving in Israel, for use by the IDF's Engineering Corps, the IDF Website reports.
Caterpillar, the American company that manufactures the D-9, reportedly froze a deal to supply the bulldozers 16 months ago, following pressure by the ultra-leftist International Solidarity Movement. However, the Defense Ministry told Arutz Sheva Thursday Caterpillar had never frozen the sale.
In October 2010, Channel 2 television news reported that Caterpillar announced it will delay supplying Israel with the D-9 until the Rachel Corrie trial ends. Corrie, a member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), was killed in Gaza after being struck by an IDF bulldozer while kneeling as a human shield in front of a local Arab structure that was being demolished in an anti-terror operation. The foreign anarchist's parents filed a civil lawsuit against the IDF in a Haifa court.
The Defense Ministry said Thursday that the report regarding the freeze of the sale was untrue.
The new bulldozers will arrive in the course of the next six months, writes IDF Website's Yarden Eliezer, who notes that while the purchase process began two years ago, the vehicles were only manufactured and covered with armor in the past few months.
The new bulldozers are expected to be equipped with better armor than the D-9s presently in IDF use, and will include internal equipment storage compartments, for operators' personal equipment, food etc.
The monster bulldozers were one of the IDF's most important tools in the heavy urban counter-terror campaigns of the 2000s, which involved clearing paths for IDF fighters and tearing down structures under enemy fire.
As the new bulldozers arrive, the older ones will be transferred to reservist battalions.
"In the new D-9 models, we tried to implement the small lessons we encountered while using the older models," the Head of Heavy Mechanical Equipment Section in the Combat Engineering Corps, Lt. Col. Avi Ilouz told the military website. "We realized that the crews who are inside the bulldozer during operational activity sometimes spend over 36 hours inside it, and any sortie from it could be mortally dangerous. Therefore it is important that the equipment compartment be internal and not external. This change, alongside the upgrading of the bulldozer's armor, is very meaningful for the soldier."
Battalion 601 has already received some of the new D-9s.
The driver of the bulldozer that killed Corrie testified that he did not see her drop to her knees in front of the bulldozer shovel, due to the extremely limited line of vision afforded by the cab in which he sat.