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Why would a modern, well funded military use mainly technical and motorcycle based units? They would be used alongside normal units. They are mostly intended to fight conventional warfare against well equipped opponents, but are often deployed in Counter Insurgency warfare. (Although, if it's not at least somewhat useful in conventional warfare, this military wont put money into it.) They have integral light tank & motorised infantry support like the soviet motorcycle units of WW2. Strategic airlift isn't of concern as common use of large ekranoplans making it relatively easy to get heavy forces around the world quickly; but tactical airlift is still difficult enough to be relevant. The technology level is near future but warfare hasn't changed that much.

(Note: no "drones make everything else obsolete" comments, the swarm is everywhere on the internet & its wrong due to reasons i can't explain without making this question twice as long)

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  • $\begingroup$ Mind explaining what COIN is to those people like me who only know about the coin in their pockets? $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Jul 24 at 5:06
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch COIN stands for COunter INsurgency $\endgroup$
    – OT-64 SKOT
    Jul 24 at 5:09
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    $\begingroup$ Just to confirm - in this context "technical" means a civilian ute / pickup truck with a machinegun mounted on top of the enclosed compartment and operated by a person standing in the tray? $\endgroup$ Jul 24 at 7:15
  • $\begingroup$ @KerrAvon2055 just about, but its more like the GAZ patriot or IFAV in that they can get their own specially modified version $\endgroup$
    – OT-64 SKOT
    Jul 24 at 7:25
  • $\begingroup$ ‘Technical’ is a lot broader than you probably think. An Avtoros Shaman could be a technical if you just slap on some armor and a top mounted turret, and would actually outperform many conventional armored fighting vehicles in terms of mobility (provided you don’t care about protection against mines). $\endgroup$ Jul 24 at 21:25
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Because they live in a location with poor quality roads or no roads, and lots of hills, mountains, and swamps.

Heavy vehicles like tanks can go through a lot of rough terrain, but they have a real problem with damp areas, and steep hills.

This military mostly operates in areas like that where tanks can't get around and sink into the mud a lot. Light motorcycles and vehicles find it a lot easier to move around in the few roads and poor quality paths.

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First of all, "technicals" are any non-standard vehicles, most often civilian vehicles, that are converted to light fighting vehicles. This can be anything from a car that carries infantry to battle to trucks with artillery or anti-tank canons mounted on top. So while the Toyota war has given us the idea that a technical is a weaponized pickup truck it is actually broader than that.

Technicals are in use in Russia for example as support squads. I'll be using "technical" for a variety of civilian vehicles repurposed for warfare, from ordinary cars to trucks. Lets put some things in a row:

  • technicals are relatively cheap to buy compared to armored vehicles.
  • depending on how much armor you strap on they can be very fuel efficient
  • technicals use similar skills to operate and maintain that is already found in much of the population. Similar to how half-tracks were a solution in WWII to reduce the training time required for skilled drivers and maintenance personell of their military vehicles.
  • the production capacity for such vehicles is much much higher than other armored vehicles. Like in WWII, any current factory can be repurposed to build such vehicles while modern armored vehicle production is highly specialized and not easy to shift to civilian production facilities.
  • it is easy to supply and maintain such vehicles. No specialized fuels or equipment is necessary. A pickup with a crane pulling a cart with supplies could be used to maintain several vehicles at a time, and when necessary any cardealer and workshop garage can repair the vehicles as well, assuming parts are available.
  • a russian manual mentioned in an ascending list that small-arms proof armor is deemed heavier than protection against shrapnel, although I assume shrapnel of "small" explosives is meant rather than a large artillery shell. That means they can be lightly armored.
  • technicals have the best use in maneuver warfare, where they can be effective even against tanks. They also have roles as infantry support platforms where having one with you is superior to not having one, especially when it comes mounted with heavy machine guns, mortars or other powerful support weapons.

With that in mind such vehicles could be used in an extended war of attrition similar to WWII. After most costly and hard to produce cruise missiles, JDAM's and other munitions are depleted while access to the wide variety of required resources are cut or limited, you are going to need cheap and easier to produce vehicles.

The French for example had great success with an armored car mounted with a variety if weapons including a 90mm canon (the Panhard series). Which due to it being purposefully produced no longer counts as a technical but it is an indication of the potential that technicals can have.

While your (remaining) main forces create frontlines and area's that can't be easily penetrated your army of technicals and motorcycles will engage in maneuver warfare. They use their speed and mobility to pass through any opening in the frontline, such as after your forces have attacked the enemy frontlines. Then they seek out the vitals of an army: supply lines, command and control centers, communication equipment, radars, anti-aircraft sites, depots, specialist personell such as those that maintain tanks and perhaps even daring raids at production facilities before returning, possibly destroying their own vehicles when they run out of ammo and gas before receiving new sets of vehicles.

Otherwise such vehicles could simply create mechanized infantry regiments from regular infantry. The added mobility and firepower is useful at most points in time, especially if your armies are restricted by resources in the amount of advanced vehicles and weapons they can create.

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  • $\begingroup$ A tangent notice: a counterpart of a truck with a heavy machine gun from the times of Russian civil war is a tachanka, so appreciation for a mobility, even if from converting civil vehicles, might originate from there. $\endgroup$ Jul 25 at 20:15
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Motorcycle troops do not intend to fight.

The electric motorcycles they ride are whisper quiet and the special forces that ride them use night vision. The motorcycle troops infiltrate deeply into enemy territory, riding cross country and zipping unseen up the roads.

They are individuals with special skills who cross enemy territory to perform specific functions. These are saboteurs who come in, plant bombs and leave. They are assassins and snipers who take out high value targets either personally or via traps and devices. They are scouts who reconnoiter and return, or receive intelligence from spies, or install themselves to mark targets with invisible lasers.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for scouts the modern US army still occasionally use camels and horses for scouting just because they are quiet and inconspicuous. If your military is smart they will produce cheep lower preforming civilian models to make them more ubiquitous. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jul 24 at 19:58
  • $\begingroup$ @John - I like the idea of the agent in mufti, riding along on a common looking electric scooter. Of course the scooter is only common in appearance; ditto the agent. I feel like I have seen this movie... $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Jul 24 at 20:00
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    $\begingroup$ Even unmodified motorcycles and 4x4s are occasionally used by Special Forces units for maneuvering behind enemy lines. The SAS have squads equipped with them, for instance. $\endgroup$
    – nick012000
    Jul 25 at 8:39
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Not plausible

The majority of casualties suffered in modern warfare are as a result of fragmentation / blast weapons.

  • In counter-insurgency warfare the majority of casualties are typically a result of the use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), sometimes as a result of scoot-and-shoot tactics with a light mortar. This is the preferred attack method as it does not expose the insurgents to immediate retaliation by the typically better-armed and trained army they are opposing.
  • In conventional warfare the majority of casualties are inflicted as a result of artillery or airstrikes.

The vehicles described provide zero protection against these types of attack compared to armoured personnel carriers (APCs) or even more lightly armoured vehicles such as the Humvee and Bushmaster. Yes, a direct hit from a 105 mm howitzer will destroy an APC as easily as a technical, but the more likely scenario is a 105 mm shell impacting or airbursting some tens of metres away - the APC will protect its troops from the fragmentation but troops in technicals or on motorbikes are unlikely to survive.

Another reason for using conventional armoured vehicles is their capacity to evacuate casualties and allow them to be laid prone and effectively treated with some protection. This is very difficult at best with a technical and impossible with a motorbike.

There are some uses for technical / motorbike-mounted patrols, such as long range strategic patrols conducted in desert areas. However, this only requires a relatively small number of troops from an army.

In short, without the specifically excluded constraints of financial limits, military production limits or strategic shipping limits there is no reason to equip the majority of infantry units with these vehicles in a universe where fragmentation weapons are the primary threat.

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  • $\begingroup$ If they are useless because of lack of protection from artillery, then why did the soviets & germans both make significant use of motorcycles in WW2, with all major powers making significant use of unarmoured trucks to transport infantry as well? $\endgroup$
    – OT-64 SKOT
    Jul 24 at 8:12
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    $\begingroup$ @OT-64SKOT WWII began with lots of horses and wagons, though that understandably didn't make it into the propaganda films, As the war progressed, trucks and motorcycles were the upgrade to enhance mobility and survivability. Had the industrial capacity existed to further upgrade from trucks to large numbers of APCs, they would have. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Jul 24 at 13:36
  • $\begingroup$ Infantry already has little in the way of protection against shrapnel to begin with, other than lying on the ground or in defensive positions. Technicals can also be protected against shrapnel. At the end of the day having the mobility and firepower of a technical along with infantry regiments is always better than not having that technical along. The added benefit of relatively little specialist knowledge required to operate and maintain them is also a great benefit. The only question would be: are they more efficient than other options? $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Jul 24 at 16:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Demigan I agree that in many situations having a technical is better than nothing. However, 9 times out of 10 a vehicle with well-designed armour is better than the technical. The reasons that armies sometimes use inferior vehicles are direct and indirect costs, but these reasons are explicitly removed as considerations by the OP. $\endgroup$ Jul 24 at 17:10
  • $\begingroup$ @KerrAvon2055 the OP has said that they are well funded and have access to enough war material for a conventional army, not that further considerations can't be made such as saying that while a conventional army can be build and maintained during combat that its capacity is at its limits, and allowing for any additional industrial capacity being technical fabrication to expand that capability is not necessarily off-limits. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Jul 24 at 17:26
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Structural Non-Attack Capability

Let me explain:

  • The (often tracked) mechanized infantry fighting vehicle carries infantry and weapons to support the infantry. The troops might be able to fight mounted, through firing ports and hatches, while the main weapons are only used mounted. These vehicles are almost as heavy as a main battle tank, and they use similar amounts of fuel and maintenance.
  • The (tracked or often wheeled) armored personnel carrier transports infantry and their supplies to the fight, but it is not really supposed to engage in direct fire. There may be supporting weapons like HMGs or ATGMs, but they can often be dismounted for use by the infantry. The M113 APC carried a tripod for the .50 HMG, as opposed to the Bradley cannon which could not be dismounted. Wheeled or tracked, most APCs are considerably lighter than a main battle tank.
  • Then there is infantry on conventional trucks. It is risky for the infantry to ride these vehicles in a battle area, and they have to fight almost exclusively dismounted. (The trucks could have AA MGs, however.) This has been going out of fashion in well-equipped forces, but it might be used for missions requiring better strategic mobility. When it comes to traveling a few hundred miles, trucks beat both APCs and IFVs.
  • And finally, there is troops in something like an unarmored HMMWV. Combat vehicles like this have been used e.g. in US Army cavalry squadrons and Army and USMC anti-tank units. They are lighter than APCs or IFVs, faster, quieter, with a lower profile -- important in the scout role. But as anti-tank vehicles, they are mostly ambush hunters. They fight from defensive positions and wait for the enemy tanks to come. They are unsuited for attacks against dug-in enemy positions.

During the Cold War, some military writers in West Germany worried about WWIII starting by a misunderstanding with conventional forces. So one proposal (that never went beyond professional journals, to my knowledge) was to put structurally defensive forces on the frontline, with heavy mechanized counterattack forces further back. Those defensive forces would have a high proportion of ATGMs, light MRLs, and some infanty to fight a delaying action. The Unimog would have been used to carry various systems.

It was acknowledged that these forces are somewhat less efficient than heavy mechanized forces in a general war, but more suitable for a stable deterrence.

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Infiltration of non-military targets.

In remote areas (as Nepene Nep points out) large millitary vehicles would perhaps not be practical. They would also be a rather conspicuous sign of an attack being imminent.

If some, with the right language, accents clothing and papers, can make their way to intended targets under cover of looking for work or attending a funeral of some long lost friend or other excuse. Motorcycles have the virtue of being easier to hide than larger ones and thus escape detection. Rural areas with targets (electric power-lines, gas, water supplies, food reserves) can be interfered with. Water supplies can be cut or tainted with disease/hallucinogens for extra effect.

This can be done as a coordinated effort to destabilize the civilian population in areas surrounding military targets, to put a greater strain on military resources in an effort to repair/prevent such things happening again and to create a burden on their healthcare and food resources. Or if you get lucky or plan well, cut the resource supply chain to the military-base itself - they're sure to have backups, but those will be limited.

In an occupied country, they might be of use to any resistance that you might wish to offer support to.

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  • $\begingroup$ Aren't there laws against that? Trying to look like civilians means a higher risk of civilian casualties. From geneva convention: "In order to promote the protection of the civilian population from the effects of hostilities, combatants are obliged to distinguish themselves from the civilian population while they are engaged in an attack or in a military operation preparatory to an attack." That is ignoring the deliberate attacks on civilian infrastructure and poisoning water supplies with chemicals. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Jul 25 at 10:45
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    $\begingroup$ I honestly didn't know that, I guess I only considered the broader framing (or rather undefined context) of the question as asked. Thanks, I must look the convention up, it could make considerable difference to applications for bikes. @Demigan $\endgroup$ Jul 25 at 10:54
  • $\begingroup$ I think that was a part of article 43? The entire convention is pretty big I think. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Jul 25 at 11:06
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Because, it can be so much fun (until the shooting starts).
Trailer with extra munitions optional.
France, paratroop use, Algiers :-(

enter image description here

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