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This One Upgrade Made the U.S. Marine Corps’ Motorcycle a War Horse

Here’s What You Need to Remember:

The U.S. Marine Corps is historically known for doing more with less. Recently though, they’ve gotten a few state-of-the-art upgrades— the new M27 rifle will be their standard issue, the first in the U.S. military. They’ve also received the new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, a huge improvement compared to its predecessor, the Humvee. They’re also trying to field a modern replacement to the venerable Assault Amphibious Vehicle. They’re even ditching their tanks in the future. One of their other one-of-a-kind upgrades, however, has somehow managed to slip under the radar, undetected.

Perhaps that’s on purpose. Using a stock Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle, the USMC created a monster that runs on, wait for it—JP8 jet fuel and diesel.

M103M1

The M103M1 as its know in military parlance is the brainchild of Hayes Diversified Technologies. HDT operates out of Hesperia, California. Their product is diesel engine kits for motorcycles. They claim that their compact engine design offers twice the power output compared to similar gasoline engines.

In addition to standard diesel fuel, their kit can run on bio-diesel and aviation kerosene, one of several types of jet fuel. The ability to run multiple fuel types is a huge selling point for both the Marine Corps and for hobby riders alike, as available fuel types and fuel qualities can differ greatly around the world. For long riding trips—or campaigns in austere locations—this is optimal. One M103M1 review claimed to get 96 miles per gallon, or 2.5 liters per 100 kilometers—an insanely great number.

Japanese Roots

The warhorse the Marine Corps and HDT decided to use as their base model is the legendary Kawasaki KLR650, known and revered for its extreme ruggedness and reliability. The KLR650 was originally available in 1987, and since then has logged millions of miles across the globe and has a dedicated fanbase all over the world.

Though the chassis and some other components are stock, much has been modified to meet military specs. All reflective surfaces like the telescopic fork have been covered to prevent reflection. The lights have also been modified so as to not catch attention. The fuel tank is at least as large as the KLR’s massive 6.1 gallons (23 liters) tank, if not larger. Anything that can be made waterproof and dust resistant has been done to the bike as well. 

Military Only

Unfortunately, the M103M1 appears to be unavailable for civilian purchase. The Hayes company website states simply, “Hayes Diesel does not offer engines or diesel-powered vehicles for consumer use.” If you want to ride an HDT M103M1, then you might have to contact your nearest United States Marine Corps recruiting station.

Caleb Larson holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy. He lives in Berlin and writes on U.S. and Russian foreign and defense policy, German politics, and culture.

Image: Flickr / Marines

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