US Army Tests Super Strong Exoskeleton

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US Army Tests Super Strong Exoskeleton

As a new round of tests commence, Lockheed Martin hopes the US Army with find its HULC exoskeleton incredible.



For some reason military research projects tend to get some interesting acronyms. If it's not DARPA calling its biologiocal experiments things like BaTMAN and RoBIN, it's Lockheed Martin with a strength enhancing exoskeleton called "HULC." We first became aware of HULC just over a year ago, but Lockheed Martin announced this week it had secured a $1.1 million contract with the US Army to commence a new round of testing on the system.

If you've got visions of some kind of Iron Man style power armor, then you're going to be disappointed, as at first glance, the HULC - which stands for "Human Universal Load Carrier" - is just a backpack and a pair of leg braces. The HULC works by transferring the weight of the load down into the hydraulic leg braces, allowing the wearer to carry up to 200lbs across rough terrain with "minimal human exertion."

HULC will be assessed by researchers at the Natick Soldier Center, located in Natick, Massachusetts, to see how it affects a soldier's performance and how much energy the wearer uses while using it. It will be years before the HULC ever actually sees a battlefield, if it ever sees one at all, but those space marine suits have got to start somewhere, right?

Source: Wired

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If it is equipped using censors and computers I can see some issues with boosted running such as delays. However, it's a good start.

This'd be quite good to use in space suits. It's damn hard to move in space suits as the pressure difference makes them so stiff.

It's a nice step, but I can't help but feel as though just taking some time to revamp the army physical fitness programs to the point that soldiers are able to carry the loads themselves would be the first step here.

EDIT: ...editing this in rather than posting again because I'm not really interested in taking this discussion much further.
---
...responding because I keep getting nagged at by PMs when people quote me.

First off, I would like to note that a lot of you seemed to miss some very important words in my post - specifically the last five.

Now, that said, I think it's very telling of the physical state of the western community (and the general state of western physical culture) when everyone immediately assumes that there is no way in hell that conventional means of getting people stronger and fitter are going to do enough to make what essentially amounts to a suit of power armor an investment that the armed forces really need to be making right now.

I am not trolling. I think it is extremely premature for the army to be looking at investing billions of dollars in a high-tech exoskeleton when the average soldier is only marginally stronger than they would have been had they never entered the forces.

The AFPT is an extremely bad test of physical capability for any purpose relating to practical application, and does not in any way test strength or high-intensity endurance. Moreover, the standards associated with it are structured in a fashion that almost makes it seem as though the army very specifically do not want their soldiers to be physically capable in any meaningful way. You want a relevant test of physical fitness the results of which would actually be relevant to deciding if someone can reasonably move well in a combat situation? Buy a Prowler, load it up with 4 45lb plates, and time how long it takes to push it a mile.

If it is not realistic to carry the loads in question over long distances, then I would be interested to know how you explain the fact that soldiers are already doing this. I am not claiming that it is easy, but the fact that people who are - as previously stated - quite weak are already doing what you claim is unfeasible suggests that erasing the "weak" part of that might, perhaps, be sufficient to render an expensive and potentially dangerous technological fix unnecessary, at least for the time being.

tl;dr: The current situation indicates that some of you are selling the human body short.

Appended: The thought also occurs that the money invested here could, perhaps, be better spent on increasing the budget for the "Make Stuff Lighter" division. I also wouldn't be surprised if a decent bit of the equipment couldn't be streamlined or omitted, given that we didn't have it available a few decades back, but since it's probably there for a good reason, simply putting more money into practical methods of reducing loads is probably the more viable option (...it also wouldn't butt up against any nagging contracts the army may have made).

Sounds like it'd be more useful in other professions really.

this is just the beginning...
(nice with the "art of the possible" part)

haha but this is really cool. I can see applications for hikers/backpackers in the future as well

Good, good, now make it into power armour.

Dectilon:
Sounds like it'd be more useful in other professions really.

Ya, I really don't see how this could be really useful in combat. What happens if the soldier gets shot in a joint? Will the whole system fail making it impossible to move?
Although I can see this being used for loading munition and doing the longest piggyback ride ever.

Logan Westbrook:
But those space marine suits have got to start somewhere, right?

Glad I'm not the only one who thought of space marines.

Ah yes, I forgot it was the future now.

Looks interesting. I find it hilarious that a major weapons company has this really over the top montage thing with heavy metal playing, but other than that, it looks interesting. Combine this with that new moldable kevlar and you've got a good armour going. Then add a kind of weapons integrated system like the French Felin system and it could certainly work.

However, I get the feeling this'll be one of those things that'll be tested for years, ignored, then find its way into the civilian market.

Soon as we get a power armor core, sign me up

expect many space marine quotes

Old news for me since I've already heard about it, still awesome though.
Not to mention the benefits for those who cannot actually use their legs (since I've heard that it's supposingly functional for the crippled ones).

thenumberthirteen:
This'd be quite good to use in space suits. It's damn hard to move in space suits as the pressure difference makes them so stiff.

You're telling me! Last time I was I space I couldn't move for shit! :P

This is actually pretty cool, looks as though something like this would have quite a few real world uses.

The Lost Big Boss:

Dectilon:
Sounds like it'd be more useful in other professions really.

Ya, I really don't see how this could be really useful in combat. What happens if the soldier gets shot in a joint?

What do you think happens to a soldier shot in the joint without an exoskeleton?

It's a nice step, but I can't help but feel as though just taking some time to revamp the army physical fitness programs to the point that soldiers are able to carry the loads themselves would be the first step here.

Agreed. Too many weak, out-of-shape men and women in the armed forces. They should put them all through some kind of boot camp before beforehand.

redmarine:
If it is reinforced using censors and computers I can see some issues with boosted running such as delays. However, it's pretty damn nice.

While battle suits are neat to read about Powered Armor is more or less impractical for serious use on the battle field as it exists now. There is a limit to how much punishment a human form suit of armor is going to be able to absorb. Generally speaking for all the money put into something like this you could field a tank, or maybe several tanks for each soldier outfitted with a combat exoskeleton with the precisian engineering required. Fantasy aside when dealing with a tank it's always going to have MUCH thicker armor, and much bigger weapons than one can mount on a man sized platform, and wheels/treads/hover systems are always going to be faster than human sized legs. Things have progressed beyond World War II levels and tanks are no longer the slow, ponderous things that they once were, they can cruise at quite a fast speed, quickly orient their guns, and let out a continual stream of fire, there have been some programs of them on TV with Tanks being shown doing well over a hundred miles per hour while firing off at targets with incredible speed and presician.

The problem with tanks in the current police actions that we call wars is that they are a tool of mass devestation, and really we're not engaging in the kind of conflict they were intended for. Tanks are for when you don't care about the civilian population and pretty much just want to drive through or kill anything in an area not wearing your colors... basically what wars are supposed to be.

Infantry exists more or less for support and to come in after the big weapons to clean up, and provide coordinates for the nasty war machines (forward observers). This is one of the reasons why our troops were not equipped heavily with body armor (outside of special operations) and why giving our troops body armor for police actions in Iraq and the like was a big issue. Generally speaking they weren't supposed to be deployed like they were being used anymore, "The War On Terror" being an example of our morality pretty much getting in the way of the design of our military.

The point I'm getting at is that an exoskeleton is way too much for "winning the peace" patrol duty, and not enough for serious warfare. Barring some hypothetical future war where space is at a serious premium on starfaring craft when we're engaging in an interplanetary conflict and we need to get boots on the ground in large numbers but need those boots to be more effective than current infantry... with the transport of large numbers of heavy duty vehicles eing impractical, then we might very well see some serious attention paid towards the development of exoskeletons.

My immediate guess here is that this is primarily being developed for a limited use loading system (ie it's not meant to form the foundation of an actual battlefield platform), or we're looking at some goofing off with taxpayer dollars on someone's pet project. 1.1 million dollars is bit too small for something they were looking at serious development with.

Just me rambling out my thoughts. As much fun as powered armor and mecha are in fiction and fantasy, it's one of those technologies that I've always thought was impractical. Generally speaking the realities of engineering mean that a tank is always going to be superior to any kind of human-form war machine in the actual battlefield. By the time you get to the tech level of flying mecha, one can also build flying tanks (or really nasty fighters) the "Grav Tanks" of more practical fantasy. All that space put into a human form system to make it move means that a tank of similar size is going to have been able to pack it into armor and weapons, which means it's always going to be more efficient in it's purpose of killing people and breaking things.

I'm that annoying guy who used to look at games like "Battletech" with tanks being sneezed off and go "well yeah, but wouldn't it be more efficient to build Bolos.. you know make the tanks as big as those robots and then run them over... and wipe out entire platoons with spinal mounts". Some engineering buddies of mine once sat down and using the logic from Battle-Tech came up with a design for a tank that due to what would be allowed by a 'boxy' configuration could not only wipe out small armies of mecha (Keith Laumer would be proud) but would actually be more dangerous as it fought since it would vent the heat/plasma generated by weapon firing (the bane of the mecha due to their design) as another form of attack... albiet at the cost of long term enviromental devestation (but let's be honest here, most of Battletech is a wasteland anyway, who is going to notice?).

Ohh god yes, soon we will have these:

Logan Westbrook:
those space marine suits have got to start somewhere, right?

Very well said, a first step is better than none.

Am I the only one who is against all of these things made by the military? Yes, I can see it's uses for other things rather than the military, but that's the thing, it's prime use will be for that: soldiers.

Interesting that he specifically mentioned Afghanistan.

That heavy metal annoyed me so much I muted it. Not exactly what I'd call in an in-depth technical analysis with human testing in much evidence...

Interesting, however. For the men fielding heavy weapons could certainly benefit from this.... at least in the future.

Still, I can't help but note the over reliance on technology.... Like was stated above, surely this is an issue to be addressed in training/specialisation?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but there are specialist Mountain units for a reason.

I think this company seems to be picking up on the sheer number of troops required and also on the high levels of burnout the US military seems to be accruing.

Interesting development, though.

My question would be: how does it function when damaged? Would it hinder a soldier's movement dramatically if, for instance, a bullet hit a vital computing part? And if so, is it easy to unmount the exoskeleton? What if it's been poorly maintained, and the joints are rusty and dusty?
I wouldn't expect this to be the case, but you certainly wouldn't want it to lock in place when it's damaged or it runs out of power.

There are practical limits to human endurance and physical fitness in large populations. Apart from cost (big factor), there should be no downside to equipping soldiers with back-stress reducing robots. It essentially increases the amount of equipment that is practical for soldiers to carry with them. Or makes it easier to move a wounded soldier to safety.

FieryTrainwreck:

The Lost Big Boss:

Ya, I really don't see how this could be really useful in combat. What happens if the soldier gets shot in a joint?

What do you think happens to a soldier shot in the joint without an exoskeleton?

Well he would fall and crawl to cover, or be helped by his squad mates. I was thinking that if he gets shot in the joint the hydraulics fail and don't move at all, killing mobility.

......................

I suppose the only question that comes to mind, how does this stand against electronic warfare?

So I guess we can start saying that the future of super soldiers is now? I mean, we got this, Kevlar, Powerbocks, the closest thing to a lightsaber, and whatever new weaponry the militaries of the world have under their sleeves. Put them all together and you've got a pre-space-age super soldier.

They'll combine this thing's weight reduction with armour plating sooner or later, I know it.
Wouldn't be "Iron Man", but it would be very annoying to try and shoot, I bet.

Cool idea but why the crap do we need it? It's not like anybody we're fighting is even remotely close to use technologically.

And surprisingly I thought I'd be the last person to be speaking out against futuristic military weaponry but given the state of the economy and how much we spend on the military...

I saw this when it was in its initial prototype stages on some late night gadget show. It is a step in a big direction in my opinion. A few years of solid tweaking and field tests. We could be looking at real life image

No I'm being serious. If you could get this hydrolic skeleton to carry completely bulletproof armour then why wouldn't you? You would be insain not to try it. Give it 50-70 years and special forces might be looking at more realistic version of this kind of tech.

All I can say. Amazing nickname and the technology behind it is fucking sick!

soon we will have surrogates :o

jonnosferatu:
It's a nice step, but I can't help but feel as though just taking some time to revamp the army physical fitness programs to the point that soldiers are able to carry the loads themselves would be the first step here.

Uh, they can carry plenty on their own. This is so they can carry MORE, and its easier. If a soldier is over encumbered, he is not combat effective. With this, he can carry a tremendous amount of weight, and still be ready to go.

Khaiseri:
Am I the only one who is against all of these things made by the military? Yes, I can see it's uses for other things rather than the military, but that's the thing, it's prime use will be for that: soldiers.

All the technology we have right now is because of the military.

jonnosferatu:
It's a nice step, but I can't help but feel as though just taking some time to revamp the army physical fitness programs to the point that soldiers are able to carry the loads themselves would be the first step here.

I would like to point out that an average soilder carries around 170 pounds of stuff on them, ALL DAY. And every year there is new "necessary" equipment. I would like to see anyone on the escapist carry that much under combat condtitions (except the people in the armed forces, they dont need to prove anything). Besides if armor suits save the lives of our troops thats worth the money to me.

The Lost Big Boss:

FieryTrainwreck:

The Lost Big Boss:

Ya, I really don't see how this could be really useful in combat. What happens if the soldier gets shot in a joint?

What do you think happens to a soldier shot in the joint without an exoskeleton?

Well he would fall and crawl to cover, or be helped by his squad mates. I was thinking that if he gets shot in the joint the hydraulics fail and don't move at all, killing mobility.

You can shed an exoskeleton, right? Seems a lot easier than shaking off a gunshot wound to the knee.

Hmm..I saw part of this segment on Futureweapons and it seems to be primarily used to allow soldiers to carry more firepower without retricting mobility due to weight concerns...

I believe they mentioned examples of 1 man carrying all the equipment for a mortar team and stuff like that...

I can see how this can be useful but it may cause issues until all the kinks are worked out.

Therumancer:
Snip

Yeah, any kind of robocop or Crysis exoskeleton would just simply be to impratical/expensive if not out right impossible at the moment. We need more nimble troops more able in CQC for urban warfare, our tanks can take care of the desert warfare when the need arises. However, the HULC could indirectly make our troops more armed as exoskeletons are suppose to. Being able to put pretty much all the wieght of gear and extra ammo on the HULC, and since that could be thrown off at the drop of the hat, more body armor could be put on a soldier while still having well over a hundred pounds less our boys don't have to carry directly.

CORRODED SIN:

Khaiseri:
Am I the only one who is against all of these things made by the military? Yes, I can see it's uses for other things rather than the military, but that's the thing, it's prime use will be for that: soldiers.

All the technology we have right now is because of the military.

And I am conscious of that. But what I'm against is that these companies are wasting a whole lot of money for making more ways on to how to kill people while getting a whole lot more richer than rather help the civilians. That is what has been bothering me about these military projects.

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