ARMOR ON THE MOVE
As allied troops advance across the Saudi border into Kuwait, one of the biggest challenges will be crossing the thousands of ditches, berms and obstacles constructed by Iraqi troops. Since invading Kuwait on August 2, the Iraqi forces have feverishly built a network of anti-tank ditches, minefields, ten-foot earth berms and other impediments to slow down the allies. If the allies try to go around the ditches, they will travel into the deadly killing zones, where Iraqi troops are dug into heavily armed fortifications.
To combat this strategy, the allies have assembled a unique fleet of engineering vehicles and tools to go thru and over these obstacles.
Each armored division has at least one engineering batallion that is responsible for operating armored earth-moving and bridging equipment. These batallions feature armored vehicle-launched bridges, bulldozers and mine clearing line charge equipment.
Mechanized bridges may be used to span larger ditches. One of the principal vehicles is the M60 tank with a hydraulically operated unfolding scissors bridge spanning 59 feet and can be deployed in three minutes. It can be recovered in 10 to 60 minutes.
M-9 COMBAT EARTHMOVER
To penetrate the 10 foot tall sand berms, the army has developed the M9 Armored Combat Earthmover. This combat bulldozer completely protects the operator in front line combat and has a nine foot earth moving blade to move sand and other obstacles.
It is important to knock holes in the the berms rather than driving over them, where the underbelly of a tank would be exposed to enemy fire as it came over the top.
One of the main advantages of this vehicle is that it is able to travel as fast as the high speed M1 tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles that it supports in combat.
PLASTIC TUBING (FASCINE)
To cross Iraq’s anti-tank ditches, the allies will create a stable road bed across smaller ditches by dropping bundles of plastic tubing (fascine) from the back end of tanks. The tanks can then travel over the piping safely without exposing the top hatches or underbelly of the tanks to enemy fire.
M-88A1 RECOVERY VEHICLE
One of the most important tasks in front line tank combat is to recover and repair demobilized tanks. Many tanks are not destroyed when hit by enemy missiles. Special vehicles, such as the M88A1 Armored Recovery Vehicle can retrieve damaged tanks that have toppled over, thrown tracks,or suffered engine/commputer problems.
A large part of the Israeli tank inventory is made up of Soviet built tanks recovered by Israeli troops during their war with Egypt following tank battles on the Sinai peninsula.