News2023.05.04 13:53

Satellites to silent motorbikes: Lithuanian firms eye foothold in global arms industry

Amid the ongoing war in Ukraine, the arms industry is eyeing new-found potential. Lithuanian firms want in on the deal, saying they have much to offer. 

Last week, representatives of military industries from all over the world visited Lithuania and had the opportunity to see a wide range of products, including some produced by Lithuanians.

Much to offer

Perkūnas is an electric motorcycle developed by the Lithuanian firm Elektrociklas. It is extremely fast and powerful, silent but capable of creating a real storm in any conflict. It can reach 100 km/h, 80 km range, 60 kw power.

“Silence. Passers-by are even startled when you pass, even alarmed, because you don’t make any sound at all. It’s a nice motorbike,” says a Lithuanian soldier who has just tested the vehicle.

The electric motorbike was designed by Karolis and Romualdas Atkočiūnas, to specifications of the Lithuanian military’s Special Operations Forces.

“It was tested and rated very well. The need is huge. We have already been approached by foreign armies. Unsurprisingly, wherever there is a conflict, there is a need [for silent vehicles] and there are no silent equivalents on the market yet,” says Karolis Atkočiūnas, operations manager at Elektrociklas. “There are only hybrid drives, they make noise, or they can’t perform sufficiently complex missions.”

The name of the vehicle, Perkūnas, is referencing the pagan Baltic god of thunder. According to the developers, a silent motorbike can be like a bolt from the blue in battle. Everyone in the military, and especially in special missions, knows that silence is of utmost importance.

The technology behind the Perkūnas builds on electric bicycles, says Romualdas Atkočiūnas, director of Elektrociklas.

“Since we had experience in that field, we simply used it and it wasn’t that complicated,” he says. “We already see how it can be improved and the next time we make [a motorbike], we will tweak it a bit.”

The arms industry is closely following events in Ukraine. It has already become clear that drones of all kinds – reconnaissance, cargo, attack-capable – are changing the course of war. Today, almost every country produces drones and Lithuania has its own success stories.

According to Economy Minister Aušrinė Armonaitė, the important thing is to attract international investment. A number of Lithuanian companies are already producing components for armaments, offering technological solutions or final products, but the potential is even greater.

“That is already there and we want to strengthen it. On the other hand, there are specific armaments. Sure, they are not tanks, but they are weapons that are already being produced here and used in Ukraine. There are various systems. Here, too, I would like to see not just individual success stories, but a whole ecosystem, and here we need to remove legal obstacles that have been erected in the last 30 years,” says Armonaitė.

Last month, she and several other officials agreed to set up a task group to look into removing some of the obstacles, such as restrictions to produce or store armaments in Lithuania’s free economic zones.

Promising investments

NASAMS air defence systems monitor the airspace of more than one country today. Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace, a Norwegian systems developer, has already invested in Lithuania, acquiring NanoAvionics, a manufacturer of small satellites, and has just opened a new satellite assembly and space mission centre in Vilnius.

“We believe that small satellites will become an important factor not only for defence and intelligence but also for civilian applications such as environmental protection,” comments Kyrre Lohne, vice president of Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace.

“We acquired NanoAvionics to develop our research and help the company become a bigger player in space. I believe we are now the only company in Europe that can develop satellites, launch them into space and control them, process the data immediately, and make it available to our customers,” he added.

Over the past year, Ukrainian forces kept delivering precision strikes on Russian targets. How do they do it? The Ukrainians use Palantir Technologies Inc. data analysis tools to help them plan their attacks with precision.

The CEO of the American tech giant, Alexander C. Karp, says: data analytics is key.

“To counter and defeat an opponent who may look stronger, we need to use all the tools, the digital weapons, ie artificial intelligence, sights, analytics, etc. to understand the opponent, to be able to attack him much faster and much more dangerously than the opponent can attack us,” says Karp.

Palantir plans to establish a regional centre in Vilnius. The company specialises in big data analytics and plans to expand its operations in Lithuania and will cooperate with the Ministry of Defence.

LRT has been certified according to the Journalism Trust Initiative Programme

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