<XMP><BODY></xmp> Military Applications for Motorbikes

From the September 2000 issue of Milparade.

         "Combat experience gained in local conflicts and the use of troops in peacekeeping operations have demonstrated that the mobility of military units and separate groups, as well as the possibility of information transfer «from ear to ear,» is acquiring paramount importance. This problem is especially acute when troops have to operate in populated areas and on adverse terrain where vehicles' maneuvering is hampered and where troops act in small mobile groups.
        High mobility is vital not only for the military but also for the border guard, police, rescue services and other law enhancement bodies. One of the ways to enhance mobility is a reliable cross-country motorcycle. During World War II, motorcycles, which were in service with all fighting armies, offered a relatively inexpensive and effective way to increase the fighting efficiency of military units. Later, motorcycles were replaced by heavier and more expensive armor-protected vehicles (APCs, mechanized and airborne infantry combat vehicles). However, the analysis of combat operations in Chechnya, peacekeeping operations in Yugoslavia and Abkhazia, the routine border guard service and actions by the Ministry of Emergency Situations' forces makes it evident that it is too early to discard the motorcycle and that it should be imparted new capacities.
        Russia's Airborne Forces, which have celebrated their 70th anniversary this year, successfully employ motorcycles. These reliable and simple vehicles are used at checkpoints, by military traffic inspectors, for checking communications cable networks, and other purposes, and receive only good references."

        "Motorcycles are indispensable in combat operations where there is no clear-cut line dividing opposing forces or when it is necessary to rapidly and covertly arrive at a designated place, engage the enemy and escape a retaliatory blow."

        "The motorcycle can be used by reconnaissance, patrol and rescue groups, as well as by airborne assault groups for accomplishing special missions."

        Traditional armament of the Motorcycle combination is usually a machine gun :- Russian bikes have mounted weapons as heavy as 12.7mm calibre. The latest models of combinations have also been armed with Automatic Grenade Launchers, and these perhaps offer even greater potential.
        The Russians have also had trials of bikes armed with medium ATGWs. This may not be that practical, since the crew would be very vulnerable to counterfire from tank guns while the missile was flying to the target. Recoilless rifles such as the 84mm Carl Gustav, 80mm Italian Foglore and 73mm Russian SPG-9 Kopye might be more useful, since the vehicle can very literally "Shoot and scoot". The recoilless rifle is also more useful in the infantry support role. In the past Anti-tank rifles and mortars have also been mounted on sidecars, and this may be practical with more modern versions of these weapons.
        There have been several new developments in the field of military motorcycles. Bikes with dual wheel drive (2 x 2) have become available, offering increased cross country capability. Another important innovation is the diesel engined bike, which simplifies logistics and offers a performance of 115-170 miles to the gallon.

Diesel Military Bike (PDF)
Diesel Military Bike Specifications (PDF)

        Hybrid Electric Diesel technology is also compatible with motorbikes. As well as offering even greater range it offers the option of low noise operation.

Further thoughts on Motorcycle combinations.
        If the side-car of a combination is damaged it should be easily removable and the bike capable of carrying both crewmen back to base.
        The weapons mounting on a side-car and the operator's seating should be capable of being mounted so that the weapon can either be fired forward or to the rear. In missions such as Tank Killing this would allow the vehicle to withdraw a shade faster.
        For cold weather operation the vehicle should have the facility for directing heat from the engine to the rider's hands and gunner's feet.
        It may be possible that a Motorcycle combination can make use of a rollbar or cage. Roofed civilian bikes are already available. This structure could also incorporate a "Cheesecutter", a vertical bar intended to cut cables stretched across the road. Both this bar and the roll protection can be used as mounting points for spotlights.
         Most military motorcycle combinations that I've seen seem to be based on road bikes rather than dirt bikes. Possibly the cross country performance of a Motorcycle combination can be improved by using a dirt bike and driving the sidecar wheels in addition to the back wheel.

        In some respects the various "Beach-buggy" type vehicles popular with some military units can be thought of as filling a similar role to Motorcycle combinations. For a while these were termed "Fast Attack Vehicles" (FAVs). The SEALs have redesignated theirs "Desert Patrol Vehicles" (DPVs) to reflect their limited offensive capabilities.
DPV Specifications

Two wheeled Motor Cycles (Bikes).

        The Motorcycle combination also has a two-wheeled stablemate. What use are these militarily?

        In "Sabre Squadron" Cameron Spence describes how SAS motor columns in Iraq used Cannon dirt bikes for scouting duties. One advantage of a bike was that even in open desert it could be concealed by laying it on its side and pulling a peice of netting over it, something not possible with an armed landrover.

        "In combat, communication within the German tank platoon operating as a point is done basically by radio. Up to that time, (to maintain radio silence) liaison is maintained by at least one or two motorcycle couriers attached to the platoon leader. As soon as contact with a hostile force is established, these couriers scatter to the sides and lie in ditches until the whole platoon has passed. They then go back to the company commander and report to him contact has been made. After this, he carries on by radio"
"German Tank Platoons Operating as Points" from Intelligence Bulletin

        During the US 2002 Wargame "Operation Millenium Challenge" the commander of the opposing force, Lt. Gen Peter Van Riper (USMC Ret) negated all of Blue Force's high-tech eavesdropping capability by using motorcycle messengers.

        You've probably seen a movies where several motor bikes take off after a vehicle. Other than just keeping the vehicle in sight there is not much that the bikes seem able to do. The rider is usually too busy controlling his bike to do any shooting, and in reality is somewhat limited to what weapons he can use or how accurately he can shoot them.
        A possible solution is for the bike to mount a two man team. Such teams have already been used by the SAS for tracking exercises. The rider manages the bike while the passenger spot sign and directs the rider. This idea can be expanded for more offensive operations.
        The rider should be equipped with a high level of body armour to protect his torso and preferably his arms too. He is armed with handgun or compact machine pistol in a cross-draw holster. The passenger or gunner is armed with a handy weapon such as an M4, AKM or SMG. Across his back is an identical weapon for the rider when dismounted. Ammo is carried in pouches on the chest.
        Any Bike selected for such operations should have particular attention paid to the design of the passenger's position so that the gunner has secure seating. It would not do for the rider to gun his throttle and leave his gunner sitting in the mud.

        Israeli Special Police unit using Bikes. (left) By using motorbikes this armed response unit can move rapidly to where it is needed, even through heavy traffic. Bikes can exploit routes that larger vehicles could not.

        Quad bikes have also seen some use by military forces. These lack the speed of conventional bikes but seem to offer better cargo carrying capability. Electric and Hybrid-electric powerplants are also available for these.


        Both the motorbike and the motorcycle combination can play a role in the Dragoon forces proposed by LTC RICHARD D. LIEBERT.
        One of the major roles of the ATVs proposed is to act as weapon carriers. If you give a weapon crew a vehicle, it is only natural that they should experiment with firing the weapon from the vehicle. This has the advantage that the weapon can be brought into action in less time. The drawback is that the crew often lacks the protection of entrenchments or terrain features, so the vehicle needs some level of armour, at least on the frontal aspect.
        While it is not possible to turn an ATV into a tank, the vehicle can be partially armoured by adding a shield to the weapon and a sloped glacis plate to protect the driver and the lower bodies of the weapon crew.
        One of the roles that an ATV or Motorcycle combination can perform is to carry a light cannon to provide the Dragoon force with a motorised Scout-sniper capability, as described by Carlton Meyer on www.G2mil.com. More conventionally armed sniper teams can be mounted on motorbikes. The motorbike may also be used to transport fast moving commando mortar teams.

By the Author of the Scrapboard:

Attack, Avoid, Survive: Essential Principles of Self Defence

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