Why Latvia Donated Quads and Electric Scooters to the Ukraine War Effort

Electric military scooters being donated to Ukraine by the Latvian Ministry of Defense.
Electric military scooters being donated to Ukraine by the Latvian Ministry of Defense.

A soldier can only be so intimidating when standing on an electric scooter. In bulky brown coats and forest-green pants, a quartet of Latvian soldiers demonstrate the ease of their Mosphera scooters. The vehicles, made in Liepajā, Latvia, were part of an arms transfer from that country to Ukraine, part of the ongoing effort of the Baltic nation, together with others, to ensure Ukraine has the tools to fight and win against Russia.

Alongside the four scooters, Latvia transferred nine quadricycles to Ukraine on January 25, framing it as a birthday gift to President Zelensky. It’s a modest offering from a small country, powered specifically by a crowdsourced donation campaign. It also illustrates the comprehensive scale at which militaries can absorb new equipment, from massive battlefield beasts to 164-pound scooters.

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Quadricycles being donated to Ukraine by the Latvian Ministry of Defense.
Quadricycles being donated to Ukraine by the Latvian Ministry of Defense.

“We are testing real combat action when we give these systems to the front line and also others that will be in the future. I know about these scooters — Ukrainians already have them, and there is also feedback. Improvements can be made. We need to learn how to defend this country also technically and tactically, not just morally,” former Latvian National Armed Forces Commander Raimonds Graube told Latvian Public Broadcasting.

Those benefits, outlined in the Latvian (but not English) version of the story online, include traveling at speeds of up to 100 km/h (62 mph), and transporting intelligence operatives or special forces. While a scooter may look the opposite of scary, its low profile and quiet operation can make it a valuable asset. Mosphera claims the scooters have a range of up to 240 km or 150 miles, and notes the battery can operate in temperatures of -20 C (-4 F) to 60 C (140 F).

Here’s a promotional video for the Mosphera scooter, with racing-drone footage and stadium-rock guitars doing some heavy lifting to help make it look fierce:

Mosphera - a Military Grade e-scooter

The point of such a vehicle, though, isn’t battle — it’s to get people where they need to be, quickly and discreetly, so they can more effectively fight.

The silence and ease of electric vehicles has already proven a factor in the Ukraine war. Russia invaded on February 24, 2022, and by mid-May there were reports of Ukrainian forces using e-bikes to move into position with anti-tank missiles.

In addition to the electric scooters, the nine quadricycles provided by Latvia in late January joined the 80 already offered to the country. These all-terrain vehicles are offered as miniature workhorses, filling three distinct missions.

LV-TEH Combat Support Platform
LV-TEH Combat Support Platform

“It is an off-road vehicle. It is small in size, but with a very high carrying capacity. The three main directions in this case will be: evacuation of the wounded, transportation and operation of anti-aircraft defense systems, and the third is supply,” said Uģis Svirido of LV-TEH.

LV-TEH’s Combat Support Platform is a four-wheeled rig pulled by quadricycles. Without passengers, it’s a wagon for cargo, fuel, water, or ammunition. It can be configured to fit two stretchers side-by-side, making it useful for rescuing and transporting the wounded. With four fold-down seats on the platform, and a passenger riding behind the driver on the quadricycle, it can also be light transport for a rifle team.

Photo:  LV-TEH (Other)
Photo: LV-TEH (Other)

The platform can also mount weapons, with a central bearing gear and hand crank letting the rider rotate the platform 360 degrees. The weapon could include an anti-air missile launcher, like one for firing vintage Soviet-design Strela missiles or Stinger missiles common across NATO arsenals. The platform can also mount a heavy machine gun and armor plate, making it a rapidly deployable weapon for killing enemy soldiers and attacking other light vehicles.

Here’s a video of the platform demonstrating a few modes:

The modular constructor type unit combat support platform (CSP) from LV-TEH

At the time of the donation, the Latvian donors emphasized that giving equipment made entirely in-country was a way to help without obstacles. Germany, whose Leopard II tanks form the bulk of armor in NATO arsenals, had blocked donations of the tanks to Ukraine, until after the United States declared it was donating 31 of its Abrams tanks to the country.

Donating an ATV with a machine gun rig attached is not on the same scale as a 70-ton tank with a giant cannon, but war materiel is cumulative. While the heavy tanks will prove invaluable for any offensives Ukraine may launch, scouts on electric scooters could be part of the intelligence gathering that identifies weak spots in Russian defenses to assault. The quadricycles with platforms attached could bolster defenses on newly expanded lines, letting Ukraine place anti-air and anti-personnel weapons quickly, fending off attempts to attack around the flanks of a tank assault.

As the war passes its first anniversary, the forces fighting on both sides have been transformed through the process. War adopts the shape of the tools used to fight it. If the opening of the invasion was marked by surreal sights like anti-tank steel hedgehogs lining the streets of Kyiv, perhaps the next phase of the war will see battlefields littered with electric scooters, like so many discarded Lime rideshares.

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