Commander In Ukraine Wants Quiet Electric Bikes For His Sniper Teams
U.S. special operations forces have eyed electronic motorbikes to swiftly sneak up on enemies and now Ukrainian forces are following suit.
The Atom Military electric motorbike is small, light, fast and, perhaps just as importantly, whisper-quiet.
And Mamuka Mamulashvili, commander of the Georgian Legion, wants them for his sniper teams.
“We have to go and leave fast,” Mamulashvili told The War Zone Wednesday morning. “So we need electro bikes.”
Mamulashvili said he needs a fast, quiet vehicle to get sniper teams to a location where they can fire off shots for about five to 10 minutes, then quickly get out before the Russians rain artillery down on their position.
Ukrainian forces too hope this unassuming, homegrown vehicle will help it continue to defend against Russian invaders.
Built by a company called ELEEK in Ternopil, the Atom Military has a top speed of 90 kph, can travel up to 150 km on one five-hour charge and can carry up to 150 kg, according to the company. They have a motorcycle suspension, brakes and wheels “which allow them to be durable on the off-road.”
They even come with an optional USB for charging gadgets and a 220V socket so that additional heavy, bulky batteries aren’t needed.
“They have already managed to visit the hot spots, helping their owners successfully perform their tasks,” the company says on its Facebook page.
While the company doesn’t specify what those tasks are, a Ukrainian businessman trying to raise funds to field them says they have a wide range of uses.
Thanks to their speed, size and relatively low heat signature, the Atom Military motorbikes are used for reconnaissance missions, among several other tasks.
“The enemy cannot hear you even at close range,” said Vanda, chief marketing officer at Sunoco Trading and Ryder Ukraine.
They also increase communications in areas where Russians use electronic warfare to jam signals — messengers on bikes is a long-proven form of battlefield courier correspondence. They also offer the ability to transport small cargo and provide quick medical relief to the wounded via traveling medics. Eventually, said Vanda, they can be placed on inflatable boats and moved around thanks to their size and weight.
The Atom Military is also “almost invisible to enemy drones,” said Vanda, although that claim is certainly debatable. And, because it has an electric engine, is less susceptible to Russian thermal imaging systems, he said.
“This equipment is used by our military in eastern Ukraine,” he said, declining to offer further specifics out of operational security concerns.
The use of small, fast vehicles for quick hits against an enemy is not a new concept. Ukraine is already using all-terrain vehicles equipped with Stugna-P anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) systems mounted on their roofs for quick strikes against Russian armor. You can read our full report on that here.
Two-wheeled military vehicles are as old as the bicycle. Electronic versions, for all the reasons expressed by Mamulashvili and Vanda, are also being eyed by U.S. special operations forces.
Back in 2014, DARPA was commissioned to develop a new stealth motorcycle for the military. There was a need for a motorcycle with no engine noise allowing the rider to maintain the element of surprise over an enemy. They would also need to have a longer range than fuel-powered motorcycles, but more versatile than an electric bike. Two prototypes were on display at the 2016 Special Operations Forces Industry Conference.
Another company, Zero Motorcycles, showcased the ZeroMMX, an even quieter bike, at the 2018 SOFIC conference, Army Times reported.
Due to new battery technology and the maturity of electric vehicles, electric motorcycles are now a mainstream product. As a result, the U.S. military and others are now actively exploring this capability on many fronts.
So far, the Atom Military motorbikes are just beginning to be fielded in Ukraine. It's unclear how many have been provided to Ukrainian forces so far. We reached out to ELEEK but have not heard back.
Vanda has helped purchase one for a unit he’s known for years, a modified version, called the ELEEK Courier.
"It was cheaper for us, and the manufacturer agreed to upgrade it with a more powerful battery and a motorcycle seat," he said.
But a big drawback for wider fielding is the expense, said Vanda.
The motorbikes cost about $4,200 a piece.
“There is a need for them,” Vanda said. “But it is extremely difficult to find money for them in Ukraine, as people are already financially exhausted because of the war, many have lost their jobs and livelihoods, and many have lost their homes and apartments.”
The Georgian Legion, which is using a Chinese-made electric motorbike, said it too cannot afford the ELEEK bikes.
Vanda is hoping to raise enough money to purchase several more Atom Military motorbikes.
“Very often, the ability to move quickly and in complete silence in a war zone plays almost a decisive role in successful military maneuvers,” he said. ”Intelligence activities provide information about movements and possible enemy attacks, and what is more important, they can save lives.”
Update 9:43 AM May 12 EST -
After publication, a representative from ELEEK responded to our query.
This model has been manufactured for 10 years and is sold worldwide, the company said.
When the war started, it "gave all the bikes of this model for free to the military who were in stock," the company said.
After receiving feedback from the military, the company made new bikes, changing electronics and color, removing extra options not needed by the military, and adding a 220V outlet.
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