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Electric Motorcycles and NLAW Missiles: How Ukraine Kills Russian Tanks

NLAW in Ukraine
NLAW anti-tank missile.

Some ingenious – and exceptionally brave – Ukrainians have taken the concept of “crotch rocket” to a new extreme by employing British-built Next-Generation Light Anti-Tank Weapon (NLAW) anti-tank launchers from their Delfast electric motorcycles. Known for being among the first successful mass-produced electric motorbikes, the Ukrainian-based Delfast successfully set a Guinness world record, breaking a 228 mile (367km) distance on a single charge.

Now its bikes are being used as a way to deploy soldiers close to enemy vehicles and defensive positions.

Meet the Delfast

The electric bike manufacturer had first gotten its start via a crowd-funding campaign on Kickstarter in 2017 when it successfully raised the initial funding in a single day for the production of the first run of e-bikes. The company has since introduced two models, the Prime and Top – the former is the longer-range model that is able to hit speeds of 34 mph (55km/h), while the Top has a pedal assist and tops out at around 15 mph (25km/h).

Neither would actually fall into the category of street-legal crotch rockets such as the Japanese Kawasaki Ninja or Italian Ducati 1199 Panigale, but the Delfast e-bikes were designed to go off-road and thus are well-suited to hit-and-run strikes against Russian military columns. The electric bike’s long-travel suspension and ability to carry heavy loads has made it particularly useful for navigating forested trails or “overlanding” where trails are nonexistent.

Because these are electric-powered, the bikes are also far quieter than similarly sized two-stroke gasoline-powered dirt bikes. That can allow a team of two to get close to an enemy unit, use the man-portable rocket launcher and dash away quickly.

“Delfast, an #Ukrainian company making electric bikes, gave a batch of electric bikes to the Ukrainian forces which are able to carry NLAW anti tank launchers,” Heuvelrug Intelligence (@HillridgeOSINT), an open-source military analyst group, tweeted earlier this week while sharing images of the Delfast bikes.

Another local Ukrainian company, ELEEK, has also reportedly been supplying its country’s armed forces with silent, powerful electric motorbikes for use on the battlefield. Those electric bikes were requested for use by sniper teams and subsequently employed in a similar fashion. The ELEEK can allow the teams to get into position, take the kill shot, and then get out far faster than would be possible on foot.

Militaries Going Green

According to a report from Electrek, which covers all things in the world of electric vehicles (EVs), e-bikes are already being embraced by militaries around the world. In 2018, the Norwegian military tested a fat tire electric bicycle with its border guard units. Named for their oversized tires, the fat tire bicycles can more easily traverse snow and sand than most typical mountain bikes – while a motorized one can ensure a trooper isn’t fatigued from the journey to the front.


NLAW missile firing. Image Credit: Creative Commons.


Ukrainian marine with NLAW ATGM. Photo: Marine Command.

New Zealand and Australia have also employed electric bikes in military trials, while multiple Special Forces units in Europe and the Middle have tested high-power electric mounts for use in the field. The use of bicycles in warfare dates back to the earliest days of the two-wheeled pedal-powered vehicles, but electric bikes are proving to be a major game-changer for quick-strike teams and snipers.

Now a Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.