John Deere Dozers Join The Ranks
John Deere 450J bulldozers delivered to the Australian Defence Force
The Engineering Vehicle Program, which forms part of the Combat Support Vehicle Systems Program Office, specialises in the replacement of plant equipment, cranes, and forklifts. Hitachi Construction Machinery Australia (HCA) initially delivered four John Deere 450J bulldozers to the Construction Squadron at Holsworthy Barracks. The supply of the twenty-one unit contract has taken place over the past few months with the final delivery of nine units scheduled for May 2012.
The 450J bulldozers have undergone serious modifications to meet specific safety, quality and capability requirements of the Australian Defence Force (ADF). The integration of a split cabin allows the 450J to be loaded and despatched from a C130 transport plane and Chinook heavy-lift helicopter, and the addition of separate lift, recovery and tie down points assists in machine transportation.
A robust design enables the machine’s blade and ripper pivot points to withstand 20g (g-force) vertical loads. The 450J undercarriage has been strengthened to endure 20g vertical loads in landing, and has the ability to accommodate a 4g horizontal load in extraction from a C130 aircraft.
Incorporating the latest in military grade technology, the 450J bulldozers include an in-cab weapon rack, disruptive-pattern camouflage paint and a specialised facility for the integration of ADF communication equipment. Additional 360° lighting with blackout lighting capabilities allow for night time operational activities to be undertaken in warzone environments.
The demand for specialised attachments is in response to performance expectations of the machines on the battlefield. The capability of the 450J is fundamental to the military’s battlefield functions including mobility, counter-mobility, survivability and sustainability. The machines are usually deployed in conjunction with other plant equipment to conduct operational tasks such as road construction, airfield construction, repair and disaster relief (e.g. fire, cyclone, flood). This is in addition to general construction and maintenance associated with both domestic and international defence operations.
According to Jane Watts, Project Manager of the Defence Materiel Organisation, “The addition of the 450J bulldozers provides efficient in-service compatibility with our existing John Deere 850J units. The machines have exceeded expectations in their ripping and pushing capabilities due to the high torque engine, which increases traction and productivity. The unique ‘Hill Hold’ feature has also proved critical in helping maintain positive control on varied slope applications as well as providing a safety element.”
A state of the art transmission and an infinitely variable track control allows operators to change the speed of each track for smoother more powerful turns.
The counter rotation of the bulldozer tracks enables operators to overcome heavy corner loads and quickly reposition the blade on the move. The 450J has a power-to-weight ratio advantage over other manufacturers that allows the machine to work more effectively while conserving fuel during grading applications.
The 450J has received high praise from ADF authorities based on a six month evaluation.
The supply of these dozers has fulfilled a need by the Commonwealth to replace existing in-service capability currently used by the Combat Engineer Regiments and Construction Squadrons within the Army.
Based on historical performance, HCA has demonstrated its ability to offer ‘whole of life support’ through an extensive national branch network strategically positioned in important Defence locations.
According to Keith Bailey, Government Business Manager for HCA, “The relationship between the ADF and HCA over a long period of time has been a positive and constructive partnership. This longevity and experience with Defence contracts places HCA in a position that enables great understanding of the rather unique and special Defence requirements in both the machine supply and integrated logistic support process.”
Training and ADF tailored manuals are a key component of the 450J contract. The first stage of training activities commenced in early March and regional operator training is scheduled for completion in July 2012.