DARPA to fund silent hybrid motorcycles for military stealth raids

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has announced that Logos Technologies has recently won its second award to continue the development on a military hybrid-electric motorcycle.

According to Green Car Reports, Logo Technologies will team up with Alta Motors and use Alta’s RedShift MX model as a foundation for the new bike named SilentHawk. The plan is to pair the RedShift with Logo’s hybrid-electric drone engine, which is currently in development.

If all goes well, the resulting SilentHawk would have about fifty-percent less all-electric running time than that of the Redshift. However, it could be refueled using standard gasoline, diesel fuel, military jet fuel and other types of fuels.

Wired reported that the idea to develop a hybrid power system came from the need for Special Forces teams to silently enter remote areas to execute complex, lightning fast raids. The elite troops need to go off-road and pass near enemy forces as silently as possible in order to prevent detection.

“Quieted, all-wheel-drive capability at extended range in a lightweight, rugged, single-track vehicle could support the successful operations of U.S. expeditionary and Special Forces in extreme terrain conditions and contested environments,” said Wade Pulliam, manager of advanced concepts at Logos Technologies, in a statement. “With a growing need to operate small units far from logistical support, the military may increasingly rely on adaptable, efficient technologies like this hybrid-electric motorcycle.”

DARPA’s definition of a “silent” motorcycle is that it must produce less than 55 decibels of noise operating in electric mode. At that level, a motorcycle would barely make more noise than its wheels would produce while riding over gravel. SilentHawk’s engine would operate at a lower noise level than running a household vacuum.

The current RedShift MX has a two-hour running range, but will be extended in the SilentHawk by a gas tank the size of which will be determined by the military in the research period. The focus on the electric element suggests that DARPA is more concerned with the stealthiness of the motorcycle than it is efficiency. The Redshift can reach speeds up to 80 mph, but this would be less important in the rough terrains that the motorcycle would be utilized in.

There are currently several specialized motorcycles on defense contract for Special Operations Forces. Bike Bandit describes the Zero MMX as a blacked-out, high tech motorcycle with the ability to move quickly across rugged terrain in near silence. With minimal heat signature, the bike was manufactured to military specifications that include a keyless start, removable power packs, and toggle switches for all controls. The Zero MMX can even operate while submerged in up to a meter of water.

Bike Bandit also writes about the Hayes M1030. Realizing that operating a motorcycle in remote areas can hinder fuel supplies, the Marine Corps ordered a bike with an engine that could run on almost any type of fuel. The Hayes M1030 operates on diesel, biodiesel, JP8 (jet) aviation fuel, and four other fuel types used by the military. It also boasts a riding range of over 400 miles.

The military has been trying to figure out how to implement a silent motorcycle team for some time. When finished, the SilentHawk should give U.S. troops an advantage over its enemies, allowing for more efficient, effective and, best of all, stealthy missions.


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