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Small Emplacement Excavator (SEE)

The high-mobility Small Emplacement Excavator (SEE) is a small earthmoving machine used to rapidly dig combat emplacements such as crew-served weapon positions, command posts, trenches, bunkers, trash burial sites, and individual fighting positions (foxholes). With its standard front loader and backhoe, SEE is used for excavating, loading, lifting, and grading. The vehicle is equipped with auxiliary air tools including a chain saw, pavement breaker, and hammer drill. With interchangeable additional attachments substituted for the front loader bucket and/or the rear mounted backhoe, SEE can be fitted for other tasks such as snow plowing. It is capable of rapid deployment at convoy speeds for constructing positions and multiple other tasks for the tactical force.

In addition to general utility excavation activities, the Small Emplacement Excavator has been used by the US Army and Marine Corps for unexploded ordnance (UXO) retrieval.

Unimog-Freightliner Small Emplacement Excavator (SEE) near the destruction at the west side of the Pentagon, Washington, DC, 13 September 2001. An M929 Truck, Dump: 5-ton, 6x6 is behind the SEE
Unimog-Freightliner Small Emplacement Excavator (SEE) near the destruction at the west side of the Pentagon, Washington, DC, 13 September 2001. An M929 Truck, Dump: 5-ton, 6x6 is behind the SEE.

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23 Oct 1942 2nd Battle of El Alamein, Egypt begins; British successfully driving the German Afrika Korps out of Egypt [23 Oct-4 Nov].
23 Oct 1944 Naval Battle of Leyte Gulf begins in the Philippines, protecting US 6th Army Leyte beachheads from sea based attack [23-26 Oct].
23 Oct 1944 Palawan Island, Japanese armada detected on route to Leyte; American submarines sink two Japanese cruisers.
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Small Emplacement Excavator (SEE) History

LCPL A.W. Chatman of the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion operates the backhoe at the rear of a SEE (Small Emplacement Excavator) as he helps dig protective positions for the vehicles and equipment of Task Force Breach Alpha during Operation Desert Storm, February 1991
LCPL A.W. Chatman of the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion operates the backhoe at the rear of a SEE (Small Emplacement Excavator) as he helps dig protective positions for the vehicles and equipment of Task Force Breach Alpha during Operation Desert Storm, February 1991.

The Small Emplacement Excavator (SEE) is based on the Unimog FLU-419 (also called FLU10144), modified by Freightliner Corp. (Charlotte, NC) for US military specs (FLU = Freight Liner Unimog). With the SEE specific equipment it is known as the Model 419-101. Procurement by the USMC and US Army began in FY 1985, following success with the Unimog 406 based J.I. Case MB4/94 in an evaluation program. Freightliner got an initial order for 922 vehicles. Fielding to the US Army began in 3Q 1988. Freightliner received the last SEE contract in January 1989 for 491 vehicles. Approximately 2,500 vehicles were brought into the US military by the mid-1990s. The Small Emplacement Excavator (SEE) life cycle officially ended in FY 2005, but vehicles remained in inventory until about 2010.

The SEE -- sometimes called See-Tractor or See-Trac -- has been deployed widely with the US military. It has served in the Gulf War, Bosnia and Kosovo, Operation Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan among others.

Where deployed, the SEE was a scarce item and heavily employed. In overseas areas, a few hours of SEE operations could often be bartered for local commodities, labor or services. However, the SEE was often not liked by user units. They were slow, hard on the operator, and had s tendency to roll over. Maintenance issues kept the readiness of the SEE at too low a level.

Small Emplacement Excavator (SEE) Description

The SEE is basically a small Unimog Model 406 truck fitted with a rear-mounted folding CASE backhoe and front-mounted 3/4-yard bucket loader (Schmidt Engineering FL4). The SEE tractor is also the most versatile snowplow in the U.S. Army inventory. It can plow off-road as easily as it plows paved and unpaved roads, staging areas, storage sites, or any other requirement.

The SEE has been fielded to provide a highly mobile excavation capability to support combat operations in the forward battlefield, especially in a light forces deployment. The SEE facilitates rapid deployment by external helicopter sling and internal airlift. It can self-deploy in convoy with combat forces at up to 45mph on hard surface roads or, with limits, off-road.

The formal nomenclature for the SEE is: Model No. FLU419 (or FLU10144) Tractor, Wheeled, 4x4 Diesel Engine Driven (DED) Small Emplacement Excavator (SEE) with attachments. The NSN is: 2420-01-160-2754. Manuals for the Small Emplacement Excavator are numbered TM 5-2420-224-xx where the xx represents the maintenance level.

Find additional photos and hi-res versions of the Small Emplacement Excavator (SEE) at the Olive-Drab Military Mashup:

Two Marines from the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, talk to the driver of a Small Emplacement Excavator (SEE) as positions are prepared for Task Force Breach Alpha on Hill 231 during Operation Desert Storm, 18 January 1991.
Investigators take a break from their grim task near the destruction at the west side of the Pentagon, Washington, DC, 13 September 2001. Equipment visible  includes the Unimog-Freightliner Small Emplacement Excavator (SEE) (center) and an M929 Truck, Dump: 5-ton, 6x6.
1988 Unimog Freightliner Small Emplacement Excavator (SEE), model FLU419. February 2012. Courtesy: Government Liquidation LLC
US Army Freightliner SEE (Small Emplacement Excavator) Tractor drives along the Kandahar International Airport, during Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, Kandahar, Afghanistan, 19 January 2002.  The SEE Tractor comes equipped with a Front End Loader and a Backhoe.
Staff Sgt. Lonnie Cain uses a Small Emplacement Excavator (SEE) to uncover a weapons cache in Iraq.  Cain is a platoon sergeant and heavy equipment operator assigned to Company B, 65th Engineer Battalion, 25th Infantry Division. Part of the Hawaii-based light infantry division is deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and another portion recently deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Unimog vehicle with front bucket loader and rear backhoe attachments, Ft. Belvoir, VA, 28 July 1983. Eight of these vehicles were acquired by the U.S. Army Mobility Equipment Research and Development Command for evaluation as a small emplacement excavator (SEE).  This unit is probably a J.I. Case Corporation MB4/94.

Small Emplacement Excavator (SEE) Characteristics

EngineUnimog 110hp OM 352, 346 cu in. 6cyl, 4-stroke diesel, direct injection
Overall Length250 in. (6.35 m)
Overall Height102 in. (2.60 m)
Overall Width96 in. (2.44 m)
Wheel Base93.7 in. (2.39 m)
Turning Circle Diameter35.8 ft (11.7 m)
Angle of Approach40 degrees
Angle of Departure32 degrees
Maximum Highway Speed50 mph (80 km/h)
Fording Depth30 in. (0.76 m)
Ground Clearance17 in. (0.43 m)
Tire Size12.5 R20xLPR 12 on 11.00-20 rims

Small Emplacement Excavator (SEE) Photo Gallery

Two Marines from the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, talk to the driver of a Small Emplacement Excavator (SEE) as positions are prepared for Task Force Breach Alpha on Hill 231 during Operation Desert Storm, 18 January 1991
Two Marines from the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, talk to the driver of a Small Emplacement Excavator (SEE) as positions are prepared for Task Force Breach Alpha on Hill 231 during Operation Desert Storm, 18 January 1991.

US Marines assigned to Charlie Company, 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, use a Small Emplacement Evacuator (SEE) to dig a trench during Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, Camp Coyote, Kuwait, 3 March 2003
US Marines assigned to Charlie Company, 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, use a Small Emplacement Evacuator (SEE) to dig a trench during Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, Camp Coyote, Kuwait, 3 March 2003.

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