Special forces being equipped with 'combat e-bikes' to head behind enemy lines – iNews
Japanese soldiers swept through the jungles of south-east Asia on them, and they helped the Vietcong defeat the might of the USA – now military bicycles are making a comeback in upgraded “e-bike” form.
Several exhibitors at the world’s biggest arms fair, taking place in London this week, are offering heavy-duty, battery-assisted off-road “combat bikes”, and special forces are the likely customers.
They come complete with handlebar-mounted gun carriers and can used by commando forces needing a way to get behind enemy lines.
i has established that at least three countries – Denmark, the United Arab Emirates and an unnamed European Nato member – have already bought models being offered by manufacturers, including Jeep, for use by paratrooper units and special forces.
In a reverse of the convention of defence technology finding its way to the civilian market, the vogue for military bicycles follows te global boom in el-bikes used by commuters and leisure cyclists. The value of the this market is predicted to reach £34bn by 2026.
But the new breed of special forces bike is a different beast.
With five-inch-wide tyres more likely to be found on a motorbike, a range of nearly 60 miles and silent 1,000w motors, the Jeep/QuietKat bike, made in Colorado, has been tailored for the needs of cycling special forces.
It comes with a customised rifle holder on the handlebars and a portable solar panel to allow battery charging while on operations.
Costing up to £7,250 each, three orders for the bikes have come in from the UAE, where it is being tested for its use in desert combat.
Jeep has also delivered a collapsible version of the bikes for use by Denmark’s paratroop forces.
And the company is working with various law enforcement bodies, including the FBI.
Duncan Horner, director of international sales for QuietKat, which made and designed the battery system for the Jeep bicycle, told i: “These bikes are really the SUV of e-bikes.
“They have been built very much with the needs of a military application in mind – the ability to be completely off-road, to carry heavy loads and be silent.
“It is ideal if you need to go those final miles where you can’t use a larger vehicle but still need the assistance of a machine.”
The manufacturers of the combat bikes argue that the arrival of battery technology makes the machines viable by allowing soldiers to pedal a considerable distance while also carrying a typical equipment load of about 30kg.
The Defence and Security Exhibition International (DSEI) trade fair is taking place in the ExCel centre in east London this week.
Among those exhibiting military-grade bicycles is Polaris, a US defence all-terrain vehicle manufacturer. It has formed a partnership with Chinese bicycle maker Sur-Ron to incorporate its off-road e-bike into one of its models, typically used by special forces.
Polaris said it had devised a way of mounting the bike for a “European special operations customer”.
The Ministry of Defence did not immediately respond when asked whether combat e-bikes have been supplied to Britain’s armed forces.
Ever since the advent of the mass-produced bicycle in the late 1800s, armies have looked to harness the potential of soldiers on two wheels.
By the end of the 19th century most European militaries had formed bicycle units to replace horses for the delivery of messages and scouting and surveillance missions.
During the First World War, the British Army had two Cyclist Divisions, largely devoted to home guard duties. Prior to the war becoming bogged down in trenches, all sides sought to use fast-moving cyclist units, with the Belgian military using early folding bikes.
However, it was the Japanese who became most closely identified with the mass deployment of cycling soldiers. When Tokyo invaded China in 1937, it did so with a 50,000-strong “bicycle infantry”.
The ability to rapidly move large numbers of troops through jungle terrain without motorised transport proved vital to Japan’s early victories in the Second World War. During the invasion of Malaya in 1941, Japan was able to repeatedly outflank and overrun a retreating British Army by using bicycles along minor routes, ultimately resulting in the humiliating loss of Singapore.
During the Vietnam War the Viet Cong used bicycles to ferry supplies along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
The Swiss Army maintained its Bicycle Regiment until 2001.
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