It has often been said that militaries are there to break things and blow things up. There have been a number of tools over the years developed to help make the breaking easier and the explosions bigger. Russia brought back an oldie but goodie at this year’s Russia Arms Expo: their first armored bulldozer since the BAT-M developed during World War II.
The armored bulldozer is a little known piece of military hardware. Not nearly as glamorous as the latest jet fighter or as intimidating as a full-blown tank, it may actually be the cutting edge land forces need in today’s increasingly urban combat zones. Missiles, tank rounds and mortar fire are great for hitting large masses of enemy forces, but lack the finesse required to reduce collateral damage in close quarters. In today’s warfare, often fought in popular opinion and political posturing, as much as on the battlefield, reducing civilian casualties while still protecting troops is the holy grail of fighting.
The armored bulldozer, used for decades by militaries across the globe, is the land force answer to strategic strikes. They are used to raze buildings in hot zones that are hiding enemy troops and providing perches to enemy snipers. This allows troops to move into an area and secure it without being fired on by the enemy from covered positions that are almost impossible to clear in some of the more densely packed urban environments.
The world may see the new Russian model deployed in the continuing battles raging in the Ukraine. But, it already sees how effective bulldozers can be in combat zones with the deployment of modified D9s by Caterpillar used by the IDF in dealing with terrorist nests launching attacks against Israel. They were instrumental in the 2003 war in Iraq to clear insurgent strongholds and limit civilian casualties. The heavy armor on the bulldozers keeps the operators safe from enemy fire while they clear a path.
Obviously breaking things can lead to population displacement, and even collateral casualties. But, the armored bulldozer is a lot easier than a missile to see coming and get out of the way. They can even help clear the rubble and start the rebuilding when the war is finally over. The bulldozer is a scalpel every military should consider for their toolbox as wars get more urban every day.