June 7, 2016:
The U.S. Department of Defense has been buying ATVs (as well as motorcycles) for American troops in Afghanistan since 2004. U.S. SOCOM (Special Operations Command) was initially the main user but soon many non-SOCOM infantry came to depend on these lightweight vehicles. Regular army units got the ATVs mostly for hauling gear around remote outposts. ATVs could be flown in slung under a helicopter. The ATVs were often used to collect air dropped supplies that, because of the often unpredictable winds, fell far from the base. The ATVs have been so popular that many troops have bought them when they get back home and use them for cross-country trips (for camping, hunting, or just sightseeing). The army has bought some of these ATVs for use by troops just returned from Iraq or Afghanistan. It's the kind of high-excitement recreation that has been found to help the troops decompress after returning from a combat tour.
SOCOM, however, had the money and special needs to continually find, or develop, new types of non-standard vehicles. Thus in 2014 SOCOM began testing SilentHawk a hybrid-electric motorcycle for troops to use in places like Afghanistan and Iraq where roads may be risky because of roadside bombs and mines. So far these tests have gone well, so well that SOCOM is testing another “stealthy” (small and very quiet) motorcycle (Nightmare) that is similar to SilentHawk. SOCOM has used plenty of motorcycles in the past, but never one that was quiet, real quiet.
For nearly a century several troops in many countries have used conventional motorcycles with some success, but found that the noise a conventional motor generates was sometimes a problem. Thus there was always a market for a quieter motorcycle. What makes SilentHawk and Nightmare work is that they are designed so the gasoline motor can be easily removed providing a shorter (and a bit lighter) range all-electric bike. For combat in general and SOCOM type operations in particular speed and silence are essential. The SilentHawk is not only quiet but also has a max range of 370 kilometers (170 miles) and can run silent (on just batteries) for up to 80 kilometers. Weighing 149 kg (350 pounds) SilentHawk can also carry 34 kg (75 pounds) of cargo. While based on a commercial bike (RedShift), SOCOM is testing to see if the militarized version is rugged and reliable for battlefield use. SOCOM has tested all-electric bikes before but those did not have the range required for combat use.
Back in 2005 SOCOM noted how well silence worked for Stryker wheeled armored vehicles as they first entered combat in Iraq. Being a wheeled vehicle, the Stryker could run down cars and trucks, something even a fast tracked armored vehicle, like the M-2 Bradley, could not do. In Iraq, where many of the bad guys rolled around in SUVs, the Stryker could keep up. Not only that, but the fast moving Stryker could get to places more quickly, and, in effect, make more "appointments" with the enemy in a day. It's what they call a "force multiplier."Stealthiness was another thing that was a lifesaver in combat. In Iraq, the quiet Stryker could, literally, sneak up on the enemy, especially since so many of the raids are conducted at night. American troops quickly adapted their tactics to take advantage of it, and these stealthy Strykers quickly put fear in the hearts of the enemy. SOCOM is expecting stealthy (silent) motorcycles to do the same.