The Army announced yesterday it has awarded Lockheed Martin a $1.1 million contract to field a few test articles of the Human Universal Load Carrier, or HULC.

Natick Soldier Systems center said in a July 14 release that it had made the award to explore the potential of the HULC for future battlefields.

Researchers at Natick Soldier Center will evaluate how the HULC affects Soldiers’ performance. Additionally, biomechanical testing will measure the energy expended by a Soldier when using the HULC. The laboratory testing will also assess how quickly users learn to use the HULC system when carrying various loads and moving at various speeds. The contract includes options for field trials to test the system’s utility in operational environments.

The HULC seems to be the most mature and relevant version of the much-sought-after Exoskeleton technology — an exterior frame that can boost a trooper’s power to run, jump and lift on the battlefield.

According to Lockheed Martin, the HULC is well on its way to making ordinary Soldiers into Super Soldiers.

The HULC is a completely un-tethered, hydraulic-powered anthropomorphic exoskeleton that provides users with the ability to carry loads of up to 200 lbs for extended periods of time and over all terrains. Its flexible design allows for deep squats, crawls and upper-body lifting. There is no joystick or other control mechanism. The exoskeleton senses what users want to do and where they want to go. It augments their ability, strength and endurance. An onboard micro-computer ensures the exoskeleton moves in concert with the individual. Its modularity allows for major components to be swapped out in the field. Additionally, its unique power-saving design allows the user to operate on battery power for extended missions.

It still might make infantry troopers shy away from its bulky appearance, but Lockheed Martin is intensively marketing the HULC’s applications for logistics, designing a lift assistance device that can help troopers stack and load very heavy gear and loads.

We’ll keep an eye on this program as it progresses, but if any Kit Up! readers out there have any inside scoop on it, please use the Tip Line liberally…

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