The US Army still lacks a multifunctional Combat Engineer Vehicle based on its current MBT the Abrams, where as the German Leopard 2 and British Challenger 2 do have such vehicles in service. However the US Army does have The US M9 Armored Combat Earthmover aka M9 ACE.
Though it lacks the multifunctional tools such as a knuckle shovel arm used for digging and lifting, heavy winches, fascines and other engineer tools, it does have a large and rather unique front shovel.
The vehicles small size and light weight is required so that it can keep up with other Armoured Fighting Vehicles such as Abrams & Bradley, which is the reason why the M728 CEV is no longer in service. It’s light weight creates the issue of a lesser traction when the blade digs in to the ground.
To combat this problem, the frontal blade section AKA the apron, lifts up in to the air to reveal an empty compartment. The vehicle uses a hydropneumatic suspension system, so the front of the vehicle is lowered to the ground, it drives forward scraping up earth in to the compartment, thus increasing the vehicles over all weight and improving its traction when dozing. This also allows the vehicle to serve as a front end loader as it can then dump the earth else where.
The vehicles development stretches back to the mid 70’s. Originally manufactured by BMY Combat Systems (which was owned by United Defense LP and this company was then bought by BAE Systems, Ground Systems in 2005) this platform entered service in the late 1980’s.
The US Army first used it, but the US Marine Corps subsequently placed an order and its believed between 470 to 490 are in US Service.
The US M9 Armored Combat Earthmover aka M9 ACE Spec’s
Weight – 24.4 metric tons, or 36,001 lbs
Length – 6.25m
Width – 3.2m
Height – 2.7m
Crew – 3
Armour – Aluminium structure with appliqué steel panels resistant to shell splinters and small arms fire, NBC protection & smoke screen generator.
Engine – Cummins V903C, 8 cylinder, diesel 220 hp (220 kW)
Suspension – Hydropneumatic
Operational range – 322km or 200 miles
Speed – 48km/h or 30m/h
The vehicle is used to dig scrapes for AFV’s to lay up in defensive position, only exposing their most heavily armoured turret, clearing area’s for river crossings and clearing obstacles.
It served in the 1991 Gulf War and 2003 Invasion of Iraq.
The vehicle is still marketed by BAE and has been going through a prolonged upgrade process to working parts of the vehicle.