By: Warren Gray
Copyright © 2023
“The e-bikes give the Ukrainian military a vital edge in the conflict. Fast and agile,
they are much quieter than gasoline-powered motorcycles, and ideal for moving anti-
tank weapons into position. Ukraine has modified the bikes to carry next-generation,
light, anti-tank weapons (NLAWs)…poking from the back.”
— Ronald Watkins, for Europe Technology, May 26, 2022.
Since the totally unprovoked, unwarranted, and illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Ukrainian forces have killed an average of 340 Russian soldiers per day, destroyed seven tanks, 14 armored vehicles, and 11 other vehicles per day, and shot down 4.5 reconnaissance drones per day. These are truly significant numbers, and at least some of these considerable Russian losses are due to an all-new phenomenon of modern warfare, the deployment of combat e-bike teams, riding electrically powered motorbikes into battle. Their stunning successes have spurred other nations to develop military e-bike capabilities, as well.
In Ukraine, companies such as Eleek and Delfast produce their own locally manufactured e-bikes, which have already seen extensive combat use by snipers, anti-tank teams, anti-drone teams, special forces, reconnaissance troops, transporting emergency medical supplies to the front lines, and a host of other purposes.
E-bikes are fast (45 to 56 mph), ultra-quiet, stealthy, have a range of about 100 to 200 miles, cost only $5,200 (Eleek) to $6,800 (Delfast) each, emit no exhaust odors, and can carry heavy loads into battle, including weapons, equipment, and passengers. They can even weave through dense forests or urban debris fields, where no other vehicles can travel, but their principal advantages are stealth and surprise.
Micah Toll wrote for Electrek on May 17, 2022, that, “Getting into position in an open area to fire an NLAW (Saab Bofors RB 57) or the similar, U.S. Javelin (FGM-148F) missile is incredibly risky, often exposing the operator to the enemy tank’s main cannon, or multiple heavy machine guns. The use of a high-power, electric bike to reach a firing position quickly and quietly can significantly reduce the soldier’s exposure and improve the mission success outlook. In fact, Ukrainian forces are already employing multiple types of light, electric two-wheelers in creative capacities to help repel invading Russian forces…electric motorbikes were requested for use by sniper teams.”
Soldiers from the Georgian Legion, fighting alongside Ukrainian troops, have been seen riding Eleek Atom e-bikes at top speed in the combat zones of eastern Ukraine, and a Georgian commander told a motoring journalist that his sniper teams “have to go and leave fast” in the dynamic fighting situations, “So, we need electro bikes.”
Well before the Ukraine war, however, Norwegian troops at the Garrison of Sør-Varanger (GSV) in the far north were using e-bikes with fat tires to patrol their 122-mile border with the Russian Federation in 2018. New Zealand has been utilizing UBCO electric utility bikes for military patrolling since 2020, and the Royal Australian Army has been using stealthy e-bikes since 2021, including helicopter-mounted applications for quick insertion into a battle zone, and as a detachable component of the Boxer combat reconnaissance vehicle. Denmark and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are also testing military e-bikes.
Most recently, the British Army has been testing a Sur-Ron Firefly e-bike in military airdrops for paratroopers. In an exercise in July 2023, combat e-bike teams simulated destroying Russian T-72 tanks with Carl Gustav 84mm rocket launchers, and snipers using highly advanced, SmartShooter SMASH 2000L electronic rifle sights shot down hostile drones. Doctor Rob Johnson, author of the Defence Command Paper Refresh, warns that, “We have to be ready for war now.” He believes that Ukraine has the edge in in tactical and technical innovation, and in self-belief.
Not to be outdone, however, Kalashnikov Concern, famous manufacturers of the AK-47-series of assault rifles, has been producing their SM1 tactical e-bikes for military and police units in Russia since 2017, apparently in small numbers, with a range of 93 miles, and a top speed of 62 miles per hour. It’s not known, though, if they ever saw widespread production, or have been used in combat in Ukraine.
Here in the United States, the Jeep/QuietKat Patrol 10 is their primary, military and law enforcement tactical e-bike, available with a rifle holder on the handlebars, saddle bags, and a portable, solar panel to allow battery-charging while on operations, among numerous other accessories. Custom paint schemes include full camouflage, if desired.
Also, the American firm Logos Technologies was awarded a military contract in 2018 to research and build tactical e-bikes for U.S. Special Forces. The all-wheel-drive, Logos SilentHawk e-bike is based upon the Alta Redshift MX e-bike, with a range of 105 miles, and a top speed of 80 mph.
The lessons of the ongoing war in Ukraine prove that combat e-bike troops and teams are the wave of the future, allowing military forces the vital elements of speed, stealth, surprise, silence, flexibility, especially for Special Forces, “shoot-and-scoot” missions. Elite e-bike teams may even be airdropped by parachute behind enemy lines, and then cover long distances to their assigned targets, and speed away from deadly situations that would previously have required an intense shootout by troops on the ground. The potential for e-bikes in battle is tremendous, and friendly troops must remain agile and adaptable in today’s dynamic, combat scenarios.
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Warren Gray is a retired U.S. Air Force intelligence officer with experience in joint special operations and counterterrorism. He served in Europe (including Eastern Europe) and the Middle East, earned Air Force and Navy parachutist wings, four college degrees, and was a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Intelligence Operations Specialist Course, and the USAF Combat Targeting School. He is currently a published author, historian, hunter, and ATV enthusiast.