When it comes to iconic American military vehicles, the Willys Jeep, Humvee, and P-51 Mustang immediately spring to mind (maybe even Sherman or Abrams M1 tanks, if you’re familiar with your stuff). But one of the unsung motorized heroes of the US military is the motorcycle. Although it has become and dated in the armed forces, the military has used the simple and nimble functionality of the motorcycle since the Mexican Revolution. From the head of the charge with mounted machine guns and V-twins to silent special ops with all-electric bikes, motorcycles have seen their fair share of combat.
Harley-Davidson Model 17F / J
Originally part of an order of only a dozen, Harley-Davidson specially developed the Harley-Davidson 17F / J model for General Pershing to fight Pancho Villa in the “border wars”. Although American forces failed to capture Villa, the way the Model 17F / J traversed the desert was so impressive, the military increased the order, and by the end of WWI, nearly half of all Harley-Davidsons were in military service – 20,000 units worth.
Motor: 1000cc flat head V-twin
Powerful : 16
Duty: Pancho Villa Hunting
Indian Powerplus Big Twin
First World War
Although the Harley-Davidson was in service during World War I around the same time, the Indian Powerplus Big Twin was the military favorite, with 50,000 units in service. However, these production numbers meant that Indian devoted almost all of his production effort to the war from 1917 to 1919. Patriotic as it was, it meant that civilian dealers had little or nothing to sell, which resulted in brought down the company harder times than its rival Harley-Davidson after the war.
Motor: 1000cc flat head V-twin
Powerful : 18
Duty: Armored Expedition / Cavalry
Harley-Davidson WLA “The Liberator”
the Second World War
Due to advancements in weaponry between the two world wars motorcycles disappeared from the front lines – a complete lack of armor will do that. Instead, they were reassigned as military police vehicles and used by dispatchers for their speed and agility. By the end of WWII, Harley-Davidson had built almost 60,000 units, but they continued to produce WLAs for civilians. However, when the WLAs were under the buttocks of civilians, the windshield, additional saddlebags, and bodywork turned out to be overkill, so they chopped turn them off – thus creating the chopper.
Motor: 740cc V-twin
Powerful : 23
Duty: Dispatch / Military Police
World War II was the height of military motorcycles; they didn’t see much action until the ’80s. And when Desert Storm erupted, the Kawasaki KLR became a popular choice, albeit in a heavily modified form. The military KLR, known as the M103M1, was versatile enough to run on kerosene or diesel and deliver a hearty 96 MPG.
Motor: 651cc single cylinder
Powerful : 45 (civil spec.)
Duty: Scouting / Patrol
The MMX was developed specifically for Special Ops and the Army due to Zero’s near-silent electric motor. Zero says that during reconnaissance, the MMX has a range of 71 miles in rough city driving, but the battery itself can last 4130 hours. Without an exhaust and a 0-60 time of 4.4 seconds, you would never know what hit you.
Motor: 6.5 kWh lithium-ion battery and brushless motor
Powerful : 54
Duty: Reconnaissance / Rescue / Covert operations
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