UK defence issues and the odd container or two

Two Wheel Transport

Between Shanks’s Pony and larger vehicles like Land Rovers or Jackals there sits a class of vehicle that might be regards as ‘personal transportation’ i.e. those with only 1 seat

As a result of operations in Afghanistan and general lack of funding, the Army’s All Terrain Mobility Platform (ATMP) and Harley MT350 Motorcycles are now out of service, only the Yamaha Grizzly 450 quads remain, those purchased under an Urgent Operational Requirement with Logic trailers and minor modifications by Revolve/Roush.

These replaced the Honda 450 quads purchased previously. I think the Army did end up buying some Kawasaki KLR’s and Honda XR 250/400′s for specialist users, purchased from CJ Ball but these are mostly or all gone and the MoD has even started disposing of the Yamaha quads.

motorcycle Two Wheel TransportThe use of motorcycles in a military context is hardly new, German and Russian forces in WWII made extensive use of them for reconnaissance, seeking out gaps and Israel suffered at the hands of motorcycle borne forces.

The use of quad bikes as infantry patrol logistics carriers and immediate casualty evacuation vehicles has been well established in Afghanistan and conventional motorcycles are also used for convoy marshaling and despatch rider duties although both these tasks have been largely superseded by navigation and communications technology.

Obviously they sacrifice protection for mobility but logistics requirements are tiny, especially fuel and this has seen them retained for special forces use in Afghanistan.

The image below shows one in use in Afghanistan with an Australian soldier

Australian in Afghanistan Motorcycle 640x417 Two Wheel Transport Does the Army need anything smaller than a quad for non SF use, perhaps faster and lighter?

If it does, there is no shortage of off the shelf motorcycles that could be painted green and fitted with a switch to turn the lights off!

I will look at quads in future post, but, a few options of the two wheeled variety that are not from Honda or Kawasaki…

Christini AWD 450

In 2011, the specialist US manufacturer Christini supplied 90 of their innovative 2 wheel drive motorcycles to the 82nd Airborne Division.

Christini AWD Motorcycle 640x479 Two Wheel Transport
Christini AWD Motorcycle

The Christini All Wheel Drive technology does as it says, powering both wheels, from the Christini web page

The CHRISTINI AWD Military Edition is based on the CHRISTINI AWD 450 E or CHRISTINI AWD 450 DS, and has a multitude of add on parts for  added protection and longevity.  It can be either off road specific or an on road based bike with all the options to make it extra tough!  Each bike is built to order and you can choose from the accessory parts shown on our specifications tab. The Military Edition is used by the Navy Seals and Special Forces groups overseas, as well as other branches of the military. It features a powerful liquid cooled 450cc four-stroke engine, precisely tuned suspension, and an All Wheel Drive system that provides unbelievable traction, handling and stability.

Christini AWD Military 640x425 Two Wheel Transport
Christini AWD Military

The AWD Military has been refined over a number of years in conjunction with Highground Gear, the US Army and US Navy, it features foam filled tires, GPS, anti stall automatic clutch and additional protection for vulnerable areas.

A number of SF teams have used them in Afghanistan where their light weight allows them to be carried on medium sized helicopters, providing a great deal of mobility for small teams.

KTM and Kawasaki have also developed all wheel drive motorcycles with different approaches, hydraulic and mechanical connection to the front wheel.

All wheel drive cannot substitute for skill but it does help a skilled rider although the extra weight might not be welcome.

Rokon Ranger

If serious off roading is required in a lightweight package the Rokon Ranger and Scout have been in production for decades.

Rokon Ranger 640x344 Two Wheel Transport
Rokon Ranger

 

The King Abudlla II Design and Development Bureau in Jordan has developed a specialist military version of the AB32 Rokon Desert Ranger and it is in service with Jordanian forces.

AB 23 Desert Ranger

DiBlasi

If the WWII Excelsior Welbike retro look is needed, DiBlasi have something similar.

Welbike 640x494 Two Wheel Transport
Welbike

The DiBlasi Express folding motorcycle costs less than $2,000

DiBlasi Folding Motorcycle 640x352 Two Wheel Transport
DiBlasi Folding Motorcycle

Zero MMX

If stealth is the main criteria Zero Motorcycles have developed a military version of their all electric motorcycle, the MX.

Zero MMX Electric Motorcycle 640x457 Two Wheel Transport
Zero MMX Electric Motorcycle

The press release has some very interesting information;

The MMX was developed exclusively for military use in the U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) and provides Special Operations riders with unique tactical advantages over traditional combustion motorcycles, as the electric powertrain allows for rapid movement over hostile terrain in near silence and minimal heat signature. Zero Motorcycles’ engineering team worked under military contract to develop the motorcycle. The MMX has met the most stringent standards set forth by the U.S. military, as an undisclosed number of MMX motorcycles are currently undergoing full operational testing.

2013 Zero MMX Military Motorcycle – Key Features

  • Specialized military dash for quick and centralized mainline controls
  • Keyless ignition engaged with dash toggle for quicker departure
  • Modular and quick-swappable power packs
  • Wet operational abilities in up to one meter submersion
  • Switchable headlight for night-time stealth
  • Integrated wiring to accommodate quick installation of front and rear infrared systems
  • Safety override and reserve power capabilities to extend range during extreme situations
  • Aggressive foot pegs and hand guards for optimal control
  • Tie down eyelets with integrated tow cable and rear seat strap

The 2013 MMX Military Motorcycles are built off the 2013 MX platform, which is incredibly tough and lightweight, and uses a finely tuned and fully adjustable suspension system to absorb aggressive terrain. Combined with state of the art Z-Force™ technology and an ultra-light frame design, the Zero MMX is agile and fast where it counts.

The 2013 Zero MMX features the all new Z-Force™ motor. With 54 hp and 68 ft-lbs of torque, the Zero MMX accelerates hard, with incredibly smooth throttle control, to allow riders to tackle bigger obstacles and corner faster. When rolling off the throttle, riders can take advantage of regenerative braking to both modulate speed and extend ride times. The performance characteristics of the Zero MMX are also adjustable via Bluetooth and a compatible smart phone mobile device when using the Zero Motorcycles mobile app.

The 2013 Zero MMX integrates the world’s first truly modular power pack system and is available in two configurations: ZF2.8 (one module) and ZF5.7 (two modules). The lockable modules can be individually added or removed, regardless of state of charge, in less than a minute. Charge times can be cut down to around an hour using a scalable quick-charge accessory system or with the CHAdeMO accessory (CHAdeMO charging requires a supporting charge station). Owing a Zero has never been easier as the sealed Z-Force™ motor virtually eliminates all routine powertrain maintenance and drives the rear wheel by way of a beefier 520 chain.

The low heat and noise signature provide obvious advantages but the equally obvious disadvantage is range. The single power module is said to provide 170 miles range but on difficult terrain, this would be reduced. Additional modules can be carried but that just increases the burden although a module can be charged in an hour.

Regenerative braking can extend the range and there is even an ‘app’ for managing the electronics.

From Russia with…

I don’t profess to understand Russian but this looks similar to the Rokon

 Two Wheel Transport
Вездеход в чемодане

I like the way it packs into two bags and looks very lightweight

Watch more videos at their YouTube channel

DTV Shredder

This looks like a lot more fun than wheels so I thought I would sneak it in.

It is more or a less a tracked skateboard, designed and manufactured by BPG Werks

It weighs just under 150kg and can travel in excess of 25mph over very challenging terrain, there is even a trailer, the military version is called the Jackal

I think riding one looks like hard work, especially with any loads, but watch the video

BPG Werks // DTV Shredder Clip for Military Show

 

Going Old School

Read about the BSA military bicycles here

Bringing it right up to date is the Montague Paratrooper Folding Bike

Paratrooper Jump with a Folding Bike

Read more

 Two Wheel Transport

Must admit, I always think of this image when anyone says military bicycle!

Military Cycles Two Wheel Transport

 

UPDATE

 

About The Author

Think Defence hopes to start sensible conversations about UK defence issues, no agenda or no campaign but there might be one or two posts on containers, bridges and mexeflotes!

32 Comments

  1. Observer

    Spent most of my army career on bikes, a 4 man team goes with 3 bikes, 2 one man units, 1 two man. Biggest problem we found with them was lack of cargo space and weight carrying capacity. We added a cargo bracket to the back of the bike, but remember how I complained that our packs are almost our body weight? Some of the (steel!) brackets deform over time and pushed into the rear tire. Not surprising. For the 2 man team, loading their packs on was like the weight of 2 men sitting on that cargo bracket, no one was really surprised when it happened. And total weight was similar to 4 men sitting on the bike. (2 riders, 2 body weight packs). The one man teams were better, not as heavy and you had the option of backpacking your load, which you could not do with a pillion.

    Ken suggested a new approach in the Tanks thread which I do think would be interesting to follow up. Mules.

  2. bob lance

    very interesting read, i spent 8 months of 2014 building my take on a long range recon bike as a project.
    think this is one of a kind, certainly gets the looks when riding it.

    regards

    bob lanve

  3. Malcolm Whitlock

    My uncle (ex Colour Sergeant RM pre/post WW2) was riding an ex Para WW2 Welbike to work for many years when I started at RNAD Dean Hill in 1961 – the only thing he had modifed was to lengthen the saddle stem to give a higher seat postion.

  4. Swimming Trunks

    “It seems counter-intuitive, but some experts think a safer and more effective way to take on the bad guys might be to ditch the heavy armor in favor of a lighter, faster mode of transport. Many say that in places like Afghanistan, motorcycles would be a cheaper, safer and more effective vehicle for operations than the slow-moving armored personnel carriers preferred by the U.S. military.”

    http://www.stripes.com/news/soldiers-on-motorcycles-might-be-most-effective-in-afghanistan-1.224839

  5. S O

    “They function almost as modern-day dragoons”

    Back in the 1920′s the question of mechanization of cavalry was acute. Horses were slow, demanded much care (1 in 3 cavalrymen stayed with the horse while 2/3 fought dismounted) and fodder demands were a huge issue. Cavalry had failed on the Western and Italian fronts of WW1.

    Motorcycles were intuitive as replacement for horses, requiring relatively negligible care and input.
    The light ones proved their qualities in short-time demonstrations and competitions, but heavier ones were more promising for longer campaigns and much equipment carried.

    Next, it became obvious that training times could be cut, convoy lengths be cut and expenses be cut with sidecars for two or three men per bike.

    The type 82 car proved that cars are much more efficient troops transports than motorcycles, though.
    Trucks/lorries had served as troops transports since the 1900′s, and proved to be superior to cars.

    Medium trucks were marginally preferable for troops mobility than light ones in non-overladen mode, with heavy ones being inefficient due to the flatbed size. Medium instead of light trucks merely improved the qty of necessary drivers and the convoy length, not the costs.

    Such motorised troops were found to be useful, but had to dismount far from combat, move in on foot, and suffered from the tactical slowness and risks of dismounted infantry.
    So bulletproofed APCs (first on half track) were introduced.

    APCs proved to have inadequate firepower and shell protection, so qty of infantry dismounts was reduced in favour of IFVs.

    IFVs were high value vehicles and anti-MBT firepower was deemed necessary, so ATGMs were added and reload missiles replaced 1-2 more dismounts.

    It would be extremely ridiculous if motorcycles were the best choice after all, even if only under narrowly defined conditions.

  6. bd1

    oh just start making these again….

    ´´Norbert explained the idea behind the Army bike. The Swedish army wanted a motorcycle which could transform a raw beginner to an expert rider in five working days. The bike had to be a true multi-purpose machine which would have decent highway performance, be good on the tens of thousands of miles of forestry trails which cover much of Sweden and, critically, would work in deep snow.´´

    http://www.motorcycle-usa.com/290/1445/Motorcycle-Article/MMC-Husqvarna-Army-Automatic.aspx

  7. ArmChairCivvy

    Oldies are goldies… especially if all the three wheels are powered (and it comes with a reverse gear!)

  8. Mike W

    As TD implies, It would seem that all Harley-Davidson MT350E and Honda R250 motorbikes have now been withdrawn from service. However, a new motorcycle, the Yamaha WR450, has been procured in small numbers only. (I owe this info to that excellent website “Plain Military” and a reply from the ultra-knowledgeable Challenger 2). Most convoy escort is apparently now carried out by Land Rovers or similar vehicles. Again, as TD implies, the role of dispatch rider has disappeared with the introduction of tactical communications systems.

    I don’t know the role of the new Yamaha but special forces would seem a likelihood. Perhaps, with the Army going “lighter”, the motorcycle will make a re-appearance. It has happened before (1980s?), when they were brought back after they were withdrawn in quite large numbers.

  9. Observer

    Er… convoy escort? Bikes?

    There is another role that bikes do take on in very rare situations. Rebro station. Normally, the Signals company would do the job with their unimogs and landrovers, but in some cases when you need a signal from inside enemy lines, a recon team gets the job to drop a relay station deeper into enemy lines for comms with deep raiders, commandos or LURPs. In a case like this, a poor rider has to lug a folded Log-Periodic antenna on his bike up a hill, set it up, and camo it. If he was really lucky, he might get away with just using his signal set or a dipole antenna. If not? Up goes the log-p.

  10. Andy Brend

    Observer April 12, 2014 at 12:01 pm
    Er… convoy escort? Bikes?

    Oh yes, 7 Tank Transporter regiment had a mixture of Triumph 750 Tigers and Armstrongs and in 1988 these were replaced by 42 Norton Interpols , I know that 8 of the Nortons were at Bulford with 414 Troop and these remained there until the retirement of the Scammell Commander.

    some photos of the Yamaha WR450 – http://plain-military.proboards.com/thread/451/uor-demo-pt2

  11. Ace Rimmer

    Interesting post, just had a quick read of Wikipedia about motorbike and sidecars from WWII, I didn’t realise that the sidecar axle was also driven on the BMW R75. Is this something worth re-exploring, especially with a GPMG pintle mount?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BMW_R75

  12. Observer

    Personally, I don’t ever want to be in a firefight on a bike.

    I know we’re supposed to get off and take cover behind the bike, but I see it as a lose/lose situation. The only thing tough enough on a bike to take a round is the engine block, but if that takes a hit, happy walking! And if it doesn’t take a hit, well, you’re behind the bike when the round goes through.

    Insertion forces? Sure. You don’t actually drive through all the IED areas, you get choppered into areas behind/past the IED threat and you walk the last km or 2. Escort? I really can’t see the advantage. Sure, you miss riding over the IED. Pity your vital stores transport isn’t as off-road worthy as your bike. Sometimes, MRAPs are just there to prove the road. Aka take any IEDs meant for the convoy.

    Ask me to do escort duty on a bike?…. Give me 1-2 day’s notice. Best way to use it is to bike your people into prepared positions observing the whole road for 24 hours + and make sure no one is burying anything or spot anyone getting into position. Not ride outrider on the convoy itself. Can’t think of any advantage to riding with the convoy. Especially with 5.56 popguns.

    Bikes make great beds though. If your balance is good, you can actually lock the kickstand down, lie back along the seat, put your boots on the handlebars and catch a nap. Much more comfortable than rocky ground. If you’re the kind that tosses and turns in your sleep, don’t try this.

  13. Red Trousers

    I love recce bikes, whether powered or pedalled. The best recce bike is one you “borrow” off CIVPOP, as it is likely to be unobtrusive. Recce troop leaders also need some generic civvy style track suit/sports gear in their kit, otherwise it’s not very unobtrusive to ride around wearing combats.

    However, there is also the Brompton folding bike. Insanely good value for all sorts of military infiltration, and hiding away in a standard dustbin outside Joe Blogg’s house when you no longer need it. You can also bury it in a few spadefuls if you might want to get it back later. At £1,000 what’s not to like?

  14. ArmChairCivvy

    @Ace,

    The Ural is a copy of the BMW. In the late 30′s Russians used a Swedish fronting company to buy 5, and it made it into production just in time for the war.

    Now they make the Urals in the US, too, buying the bikes from the “original” Russia factory, but fitting a different engine and some bits and bobs in the final assemly done in the US.

  15. S O

    That was essentially a snow speeder with a front wheel, and much more expensive than a car of comparable capacity.

  16. Mike W

    I discovered this tit-bit of information on the “Shephard” defence site.

    “The Pentagon has awarded a development contract to manufacture a prototype silent-running hybrid-electric military motorcycle. According to the company, Logos Technologies, DARPA awarded a research grant in February to develop a stealthy system.”

    I am somewhat puzzled now. If, as some claim, the motorcycle is outmoded as far as military uses are concerned, why on earth is the US keen on developing such a machine? As far as the British are concerned, could it be the case that we could not afford both the quads and the motorbikes, and so the latter were disposed of? It seems the latter is usually the case with the British. Sell ‘em rather than sensibly storing them against a future contingency when they might be needed.

  17. ArmChairCivvy

    Hi SO,

    That was my perception too, the snow and mud of the Eastern front. Therefore I was surprised at the first appearance on Crete. Of course, what else could you get onto a glider that, once landed, could tow the recoilles gun… Another appearance on Crete. Though not necessarily the first?

    PS recoilless not in the later meaning of a rocket blowing through an open-ended tube.

  18. monkey

    @Mike W
    Further to your comment on why bother it seems its all about “impermissible environments” i.e. “we are going to have to do battle where we do no have total ground, sea and air superiority over the enemy” and this will be an extra mode of entry for the enemy to expend resources defending against. Which is what most military development seems to be for , not necessarily for actual attack but to make the enemy divert resources to counteract it.
    http://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/u-s-commandos-to-get-this-stealthly-hybrid-all-wheel-d-1568589260

  19. Mike W

    @monkey

    Thanks for the reply. Have only just seen it. I have read the article provided by the link and found it most interesting. I particularly take the point that you highlighted about how we are going to have to do battle where we do not have total ground, sea and air superiority over the enemy and how this will be an extra mode of entry for the enemy to expend resources defending against.

    I think the days of the military motorcycle are far from numbered. The fact that the British Army has bought the Yamaha WR450, albeit in small numbers, probably shows that. One point that did occur to me (entirely unconnected with their possible “front-line” use) is that they must still be useful as convoy escort machines, as their acceleration must be well in excess of that of quad bikes, or am I wrong about that ?

  20. monkey

    @Mike W
    I believe they would have a use within our own areas that are totally controlled i.e. no IED risk, as convoy escorts as the police use them to zip forward and block side roads for a convoy/large load and to check the road ahead is clear of obstructions.
    In areas of IED risk with bomb being detonated by remote a motor cycle rider is an ‘easy kill’, there is no MRAP bikes , so convoy escort I would guess is not on the cards , however for the special forces going cross country, choosing the same path they would choose to walk on, they still have a place if speed and load carrying ability is needed.

  21. Mike W

    monkey,

    Thanks for replying. I think I agree with everything you have said, especially the point about special forces.

  22. a

    Of course, we probably wouldn’t need quads if we had soldiers who could jog at 30 mph indefinitely carrying 150-200kg of kit. Give the HULC guys another couple of iterations of development…

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