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Motorcycle Combat Drone Operations


The Ukraine War has introduced COTS micro-drones for ISR/kamikaze/grenade-dropping duties in a way that has fundamentally changed the nature of warfare. Poor Man's Air Force by Don Shift is a thorough look forward at how this will play out for SHTF/WROL scenarios in the US as well as in foreign hot zones where the Toyotas are called Hiluxes instead of Tacomas. Anarchonomicon on Substack wrote this piece describing the general benefits of motorcycles and bemoaning the fact that the US military would likely never use them. (Hilariously, less than two years after that article was published, the US military announced adoption of lightweight electric dirtbikes by Marine recon units.) What nobody has done to my knowledge is explore the intersection of drones and motorcycles in combat, especially by irregular forces. This blogpost is my first exploration of that undiscovered country.

Technical Requirements

First of all, you need a motorcycle and some drones. This should be obvious, but it bears repeating: the drones are semi-expendable munitions, the motorcyle is a long term valuable hard asset. Drones should be of the small FPV quadcopter variety for ease of use and to fit inside hardcases mounted to the motorcycle. The motorcyclist should also have some solar panels and battery banks for recharging the drones, as well as a 12V to USB connection to refill the battery bank off the bike's alternator at night if necessary. This latter won't even typically fast-charge a cell phone and so should be viewed as a charge source of last resort. The FPV operator will need a VR headset, which necessarily means they can't ride and steer at the same time. Drones have such inferior range that the bike will need to be stationary to enable recovery of drones, which means the weight/supply budget of a pillion rider "WSO" can be better spent on carrying more drones, ammunition, or jerrycans of gas for the bike. Since the bike will often be operating off road and need to be picked up solo if it falls over, but also need to take advantage of paved highways for fast transit, a 300-650cc dual sport motorcycle is probably the best platform. Larger adventure bikes can carry more luggage but are significantly more complex to repair and an absolute bitch to pick up when they fall over. Sportbikes are an intriguing option for urban combat if you don't live someplace with a lot of outdoor stairs, since you'll smoke even some manned helicopters in a straight line chase, but the more you strap to the bike the worse the aerodynamics get. Ultimately the best motorcycle for drone ops is the one you have and can ride well. Maybe that's a Gold Wing or a Hayabusa or a Street Glide, maybe it's a Super Cub, maybe it's a 1250GS. Whatever.

Motorcycle Psyche

Motorcycling is not for the timid or risk-averse. As Anarchonomicon mentioned, the sheer magnitude of death or injury risk of riding a motorcycle in peacetime is riskier than many military job specialties. Do not force conscripts to ride motorcycles against their will unless you think they're just being pussies for no reason and will enjoy it once they get started. Do not force women to ride motorcycles unless it's their only form of evac from a position actively being attacked (and why are women that close to the front anyway?). Bikers naturally develop esprit de corps because they dance with death every time they mount up. Encourage this.

High Mobility and the Lessons of Ukraine

If your enemy is not routinely flying manned recon/attack aircraft (including helicopters) over your position, moving vehicles are basically impossible to hit. Russia hasn't killed one HIMARS or Archer or Caesar, all semi truck sized weapons platforms, in two years of war, despite HIMARS in particular being responsible for more dead Russian generals and blown up Russian supplies than anything since 1945. Motorcycles are much harder to hit than semi trucks, and can be hidden even from an occupying police force, never mind satellite overwatch. Motorcycles are also mostly fast enough to outrun bomb dropping FPV drones in a straight line and have much greater range. This means that a distributed system of hidden fuel caches is enough to keep a motorcycle force going against anything but a direct ground assault or manned CAS strafing runs. Motorcycles should therefore stay within range of the front lines to make use of their drones and rely on lateral maneuver to stay alive.

Motorcycle Drone tactics

Using drones for ISR, particularly for sighting in artillery fire, is a mature field and needs no explanation in its own right. The only motorcycle specific challenges for drone ISR are staying within the weight/volume limits of the bike and keeping the bike hidden while parked and operating a drone. The motorcycle specific opportunity with ISR drones is that the operator has enough weight/volume budget to include SSDs and a fast vehicle to get back to command. This suggests that in addition to MLRS/artillery spotting, motorcycle drone operators should be used for conducting high res (some drones can do 4K pretty cheaply) video scans that can be physically carried back to a command post without sending it all over the air.

attack drone ops take advantage of the motorcycle rider's inherent aggression and experience with steering fast moving vehicles. Kamikaze drones are not recommended, first because it ignores the extra weight/volume capacity to put a whole bunch of ammunition on the back of a bike, and second because deliberately steering into things like tanks or people will mess with the vision techniques needed to corner safely on a motorcycle, commonly known as "overriding survival reactions". For more information see "A Twist of the Wrist 2" by Keith Code. Motorcycle attack drone operators should therefore focus on dropped-munition drones. A motorcycle attack drone squad carrying 30-40 grenades and a spare drone or two each would have enough ammunition to take out an entire armor battallion assuming a 25% hit rate, and would be able to trivially outrun the armor if detected. In some combat scenarios this also allows the use of motorcycle drone units as a deterrent to keep the enemy from committing their armor at all, which would be especially useful in urban combat where the mere presence of tanks on unprepared streets causes expensive infrastructure damage, never mind the damage caused by their guns. Motorcycles are also cop-evaders par excellence, which makes most anti-insurgency room/building/block/city clearing techniques useless. If door kicking and tank assaults are both ineffective, the enemy would have to either leave the city alone or level it from the air quickly enough to deny the motorcyclists' warning time to escape, which again is complicated by motorcycles' speed and agility if the attacking aircraft are subsonic. This means a motorcycle equipped insurgency holding a city will require strategic level assets to reliably destroy force-on-force. A better counter strategy is snipers or other drones. Motorcyclists have much less awareness of things far away than do infantry, and this drops to zero if wearing a VR drone piloting rig, so are defenseless from a sniper. Drones can follow other drones back home, and drop grenades of their own. This suggests that a motorcycle drone unit should have a fraction of designated marksmen for counter-sniping and fending off enemy drones while the drone operators have their headsets on. These DMRs will typically be 7.62x54R if operating with Russian equipment or 7.62x51 NATO if operating with Western equipment. The SVD "Dragunov" and the M14 are the classic examples. The riders/operators should have something easy to keep strapped on even while riding, so P90s or similarly sized PDWs are recommended over M4s or larger carbines. Yes, this means that the ideal loadout for a motorcycle unit is basically an SG team with wheels. The Stargate producers did their research.

Logistical Requirements


  • food/water/medicine/ammo
  • fuel
  • motorcycle parts
  • pickup trucks
  • solar panels or diesel generators
  • replacement drones and munitions


  • supply lines all the way to the oil wellhead / lithium mine / drone factory
  • Internet connectivity (especially Starlink)
  • a culture that encourages motorcycling

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