Exoskeleton Moving Closer to the Field

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…

  • I don’t know if I like this. Everybody knows HULC smash puny humans.

  • Bob

    It has worked in SciFi for many years. Bout time we caught up.

  • ripley


    Gotta love the cargo loader from Aliens.

  • Riceball

    Great idea, if it works. The only problem that I foresee with any sort of exoskeleton system (technical issues aside) is that I wonder how long with the advantage last? Knowing the way some in the military think something like the HULC will just mean that they pack more junk on the poor grunts since they can now carry more and thus bringing them back to square one. The worse part about if that does happen is if the system breaks down, then the grunt is saddled with more junk than he can carry on his own unassisted.

    • Bob

      That is an easy one. American troops have been expert at dumping unnecessary gear, ever since the French and Indian Wars in the mid 18th century.

    • Squiv

      I would highly agree – in the humble opinion of this grunt, command doctrine should focus more on training to increase the lethality and range of the soldier with LESS equipment, and not more. Our enemies manuever expertly over terrain in 5-10 year old Nikes, some tea leaves and a tin of butter. Our 80 pound loads do not permit us to keep up with their tempo.
      However I do like the fact that they are marketing this to logistic technicians and support units. A few of these systems on the ground could make handling resupply and support for COPs and smaller outposts an easier task for just a few supply guys instead of a company’s worth of them.

  • jon

    do they have a floatation device embedded.

  • johnny c

    I hope that they can apply this break through in the medical field for allot of our heros in VA hospitals. Maybe this is truley the start of the million dollar man?? “we can rebuild them make them stronger faster”.

  • Sev

    Maybe this should be a one per squad based thing. Think about it? We should have our lightly equiped (swift) riflemen and marksmen, our squad gunners and now perhaps a “Squad Heavy”. What I mean by squad heavy is a soldeir that can either carry a lot of ammunition and a medium machine gun, carry equipment for making instant fortifications (instacrete: fast drying, moldable concrete to make on the spot barriers and cover). So instead of packing on the gear, make it an exclusive system that gives one squad mate the ability to carry more ammo for the team, be a medic or combat engineer. Or just make him a heavily armoed supressive fire trooper. Load him up with ceramic or steel armor so he can stand in the face of a hail of bullets and lay down some pain.

    • bladerunner90

      Sounds good. But if you stand out in your squad the enemy will single you out and you become the main target.

    • I hate to say this, but your ‘Squad Heavy’ would soon be nicknamed either Mule or Packhorse by his squad mates.

      Then again, imagine putting an armored shell around it capable of deflecting anything short of a .50cal.

  • Curt

    Solider in the field is one aspect but what about the sailor on the ships? I know that working in the Ordnance field on the carrier was not all book smarts. Lugging some of the munitions around on a rolling deck was very physical. I wonder how good it would be for the micro muscle movements needed to stay verticle on a ship in heavy seas.

  • BenDover

    Wow, this just might be able to get more people back into the workforce after severe musculo-skeletal trauma. We need these people back in the workforce, if only to pay for all this freakin’ debt the Obamaniacs are dumping upon the legal Americans.

  • Maybe it will have an ejection seat to jettison gear quickly!!! :) Hopefully this won’t have a detrimental effect on the fitness tests!

  • sooperfly

    WOW 200 lbs? I seem to remember my platoon members in ’71-72 humping 120-150 lbs for “extended” periods of time as well. And without an exoskeleton that can catch on every wait-a-minute vine in the AO.

  • I do like the heavily armed and armored idea. Imagine being pinned down by enemy fire, and someone suited up in a mech-suit stomps by with twin .50’s, rooting out or killing the enemy hidden behind stonework.

  • Bruce

    It would never work in real life with a man inside it, a Rocket Propelled Grenade would clean him out in a heartbeat. Only in Sci Fi it works. Real life with a real person inside of it, the soldier still wouldn’t survive a RPG, keep on dreaming. If it was simply a robot, then it could possibly be an asset, and imagine all the claims for medical problems just wearing the thing, it better be air conditioned and built in toilet just like as if you were in space, just imagine walking around in 120 degree heat, no I wouldn’t want to be inside of it. If they built one let it be a whole robot, if it gets blown up then there is no person to worry about inside of the thing, Just my thoughts, seeing is believing. Anyone out there that want to wear that and stand in front of the enemy go ahead and see what happens, ya ain’t gonna last long in my opinion, later Frenchie

  • Bruce

    It will need a Toilet Built inside and Toilet Paper with AC, later Frenchie

  • Terminal Clap

    Squiv, you hit it on the head. Too much crap to be carried in the field…. you’re right, old Nikes, tea leaves, a tin of butter, but you forgot a couple hash joints and some Semtex stolen from our so-called “allies”. Our fellas have to carry way too much junk.

  • Hilarious comments. Just visit the first link in the above article and look to the right column of the page it takes you to, to videos of the HULC in use. It’s not Aliens-grade at all, just an (apparently) light-weight “helper” type of gear.

  • Mutantone

    so true and built amour on and wow

  • I think the ideal application would not be to load a grunt down with more kit, but to keep his original loadout constant and use the exoskeleton to increase his speed, range and endurance.

    Oh, and if you haven’t seen Raytheon & Sarcos’ whack at exoskeleton design, check out this video. I’m not sure of its current project status (vid is from a couple years ago), but God have mercy on the enemy if they actually figure out a portable power source that can run this beast.

  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 “Juggernauts,” anyone?

  • asdf

    don’t be stupid. this doesn’t make a soldier any more vulnerable than a soldier not wearing it, so there’s no added negative consequence. certainly an RPG would kill a regular soldier more easily. if they can get it to work as they claim, it’ll be a HUGE boost to a soldier’s effectiveness.

  • asdf

    cuz you know… battery technology couldn’t have advanced in the YEARS since your involvement right? it didn’t work back then; therefore it couldn’t possibly ever work right? technology is at a standstill unless you’re there to personally witness it? and lockheed/martin has such a long and infamous reputation for selling junk to the government? junk like the SR-71, C-130, TRIDENT missile, F-22, and F-35?


  • A.Passard

    No, asdf, it hasn’t advanced.

    They still use the same lithium-polymer batteries, and if you compare 2 year old ones with modern ones, there’s virtually no or outright no improvement.

    And yes, Lockheed does have a reputation for selling overpriced stuff that doesn’t work all that well (SR-71 and F-22).

    • Fire Angel

      Battery technology didn’t have to improve, they cut power use instead. This thing can currently run for an average of 8 hours continuously and the mid-term term target is 96 hours with fuel cells instead of batteries.

      If you’d used the F-35 as your example if something overpriced that won’t deliver, I’d agree, but the F-22 slaughters anything currently in production with ease in an air-to-air battle, and the SR-71 was shot at more than 1,000 times without being hit; it was capable of gathering information that no other aircraft could collect at the time, and satellites couldn’t and can’t match the detail it could reveal. It was a world beater and yes, very expensive but worth every cent.

  • baylon

    hahahhahahha just shows yall america is bad to the bone…. not to far in the present we are going to look like halo hahahhaha

  • Starship Troopers (the book not the stupid movies) Mobile Infantry, here we come.

  • Dan

    Advances in lithium batteries are getting to the point where extra electrons can be stored on individual atoms instead of strings of molecules. This would boost battery life a thousand fold. We are not there yet but it only years away.

  • Ben Gerace

    Great idea, it’s the point that when the body, “breaks” and the machine, does not know it, that makes me worry.

    Look at a tank form 1920, with the barrel of a .308, then a Sherman, M60, and the M1 with a jet engine, We can go faster than ever,

    The Soldiers main support, would be the support groups, like mortor or tank units, or air support.