Army Tests Bionic Suits Designed to Lighten Soldiers’ Loads

Warrior Web 2The U.S. Army is finishing a series of  independent tests on suit protoypes that soldiers could wear under their uniforms and help them carry combat loads that can often exceed 100 pounds.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — the lab the Pentagon depends on to develop next generation equipment — has spent two years working toward developing a suit that supplements a soldier’s muscles to help the soldier carry his gear and equipment over all types of terrain.

Army officials had soldiers test out the prototypes while carrying a 61-pound load on a treadmill (video below). Scientists and engineers wanted to see if the prototypes could “reduce forces on the body, decrease fatigue, stabilize joints, and help soldiers maintain a natural gait under a heavy load,” according to a DARPA statement.

Warrior WebThe program is called Warrior Web and part of the military’s larger effort to lighten the load for troops and reduce the number of muscular and skeletal injuries that have ravaged a force that is often carrying more than half their body weight on patrols.

The goal is to build a lightweight, conformal undersuit — similar to a wet suit — that is comfortable for a soldier or Marine to wear. The suit would interface with a servicemember’s skeletal system in order to protect injury prone areas and boost the performance of muscles.

DARPA engineers and scientists know they can’t further burden a soldier or Marine with a system that demands more power and weight, therefore, DARPA set a limit on the suit only requiring 100 watts of electrical power from a battery source.

The program is split into two tasks. The first, which is ongoing, is focused on developing new techonologies to eventually support the suit. Those focus areas are: “core injury mitigation technologies, comprehensive analytical representations, regenerative actuation, adaptive sensing and control, and suit human-to-wearer interface,” according to the DARPA fact sheet.

The second part is the development of the actual suit. That portion of the program is set to begin this fall. What the Army is testing now are prototypes that might be used in the second portion of the overall program.


34 Comments on "Army Tests Bionic Suits Designed to Lighten Soldiers’ Loads"

  1. MARINEPATRIOT | June 5, 2013 at 12:30 pm | Reply

    MY FELLOW AMERICANS: The Army keep looking for ways to SPEND MONEY, as they cut the American fighting forces to minimal numbers. as it is the Soldiers of this Country "NOW" pay for almost everything they receive,Uniforms,food,Travel(except to overseas)locations,Leave.etc. (FACT PEOPLE) My Son is in the Army so I know from what I speak.. YET They "NEED NEW CAMO PATTERNS,NEW WAYS TO CARRY EQUIPMENT,ETC> all While Osama and the demoncrats WEALEN OUR COUNTRY. WAKE UP AMERICA.!!!!!

  2. ColdWarVey75 | June 5, 2013 at 3:28 pm | Reply

    What a complete waste of time and resources. Maybe they want this so that small women can carry more?

  3. There's no way this will come to fruition anytime soon. It's going to require too much power to run, it's going to inevitably break and have glitches due to the nature of infantry conditions, probably require a ton of maintenance, and quite frankly be more trouble than it's worth. Land Warrior all over again, IMO.

  4. The problem will always be staff officers. Even a little success won't matter as Bn, Bde and Div staffs will just up the amount of weight carried. The threshold will always be "more than is wise".

  5. chuck in st paul | June 6, 2013 at 8:25 am | Reply

    while I agree that this might be aimed at the undersized female contingent by the political class in the Pentagon, this is also a great idea all around …. once it is field perfected. Still, I have to wonder why the troops are carrying such heavy loads into the field. I can understand initial deployment into a new combat zone. You have to carry meals, water, and ammo in because there's no company supply clerk out there in the boonies. But for patrols, I would just say it sounds like they are pushing the troops too hard.

  6. It seems DARPA's decided jumping straight to a powered exoskeleton is too large a technological hurdle to cross in one leap and this is an incremental step in that direction. Good call.

  7. This toy is a bad idea. Stop wasting tax payer money on this useless junk.

  8. Seems like a good idea to me. I’m on of those grunts with a back injury thanks to all the weight we had to carry. Your body can only take so much before it breaks, literally. I ended up going 2 months with a broken back before I really got looked it…. Something more than take Motrin and drink water

  9. Does it have a built in air conditioner? All this extra equipment is going to give every soldier in the US Army a heat stroke..

  10. This is fantastic, even though many of you under educated conservatives see this AND NASA as a waste of money because you don't have the vision and intelligence to see how this could benefit the civilian world. Do you see the people in wheelchairs, walkers, and permanent crutches that this could benefit??? Wake up and get a clue

  11. You guys complain about this and say this is a waste of time, money and resources. But have you ever thought of soldiers getting injured during long foot marches, messed up backs due to load they carry, disregarding the size of the soldier and gender? Have you ever though of soldier, marines and so on getting discharged because of injuries, while they wanted to continue serving and loving what they do? Have you ever thought of how much money they spend on veterans trying to fix them and paying disability? How about we all just stay healthy, serviceable, deployable and able to serve this country?
    Technology is the future. THIS is he future. YAY TO BIONIC SUIT!

  12. One step closer to augmented soldiers, like in the scifi game Halo. the technology spoke about in the books is what this technological marvel is aiming towards. pretty much allowing you to carry more than ususal and allow you to do more than a typical soldier.

  13. FiddlersFingers | June 6, 2013 at 7:50 pm | Reply

    Mech suits, here we come.

  14. I wonder if the same neg. talk was around when night vision was starting to be thought of, just wondering?

  15. The National Enforcement Agency,llc is an up and coming Agency of Bail Enforcement Agents we could use something like this to enhance us as we track down fugitives who “skip”
    bail.Control No.1772

  16. why don't they just invest in making lighter gear instead?

  17. Yeah try wearing that in afghanistan, instant heat stroke.

  18. Also I doubt this is aimed exclusively at women. Most of the 'muscular and skeletal' injuries that they've identified I have personally witnessed in males with 8+ years in service.

  19. Useless? For only the small women? Starcraft Terrain Marines, anyone? A fully geared soldier with metal wrapped head to toe; shock-and-awe indeed. It’s about damn time.

  20. I’ve never seen so many unhappy individuals before. All of you are a bunch of keyboard bitches. This is technology that may not be perfected now, but maybe one day in the future. Look at cars, the television, cell phones. Look at them then, and now. . Same principles here.

  21. why not just give them steroids and make them actually stronger instead of spending money on fake strength

  22. This is garbage. If a soldier has to carry so much weight that he now requires and exoskeleton to assist him, he should be putting that extra lightweight gear on a vehicle. SLA Marshall covered that years ago.

  23. justin botting | June 7, 2013 at 3:50 pm | Reply

    the thing bout these exoskeletons is that they can not only aid in carrying extra weight, but could be used medically as well. Also they could potentially make our soldiers move faster, jump higher, even punch harder, because the force they are putting into the ability to lift could be directed into any one/all of those areas giving the average man super soldier like abilities. Not to mention the military has produced much of what we use in the medical field today, so.

  24. Star ships troopers here we come!

  25. This is exciting stuff. All the potential civilian applications of this technology is grounds enough to keep this project moving forward, let alone all of the military advantages this tech would confer. Of course, this is assuming that this program can keep getting the funds needed for proper R&D. I think the real challenges right now would be limiting power consumption, keeping the soldier cool, and making sure the mobility of the user is not restricted, but those are all engineering problems that can all be solved eventually. I just hope no one puts a premature stop to this; important medical and civilian technologies were all developed by the military (like the freakin' Internet), and it'd be a shame to see such potential wasted because a few people are afraid of progress.

  26. They will make it work. The picture shows an apparatus that is still in prototypical stage. They're just reporting on the idea that this is going to become real some day, probably in the distant future. If you read more about it, they state how they will use technology already used in vehicles and robots to implement this into a bionic suit to save soldiers from the heavy loads that lead to injury. Not always, can everything the soldier needs be placed in a vehicle. Ruck marches go for miles into God knows where. Food, ammo, sleeping supply, weapons, and extremely heavy armor make it dangerous for anyone to be out there. This is a great idea, and it's bound to happen sooner or later. Hooah, to all the vets that will be able to walk again! Hooah, to all the soldiers out there who will be able to bring extra supplies to the people in very hard to reach places without risking their backs!

  27. I agree with the star ship trooper comment….. Say we as warriors wear these…. And the mooj,Koreans, Syrians, or whoever throw an emp out…. Then the suits won't work and my brothers die. Idiots in dc plz Wake up. Try asking us who actually fight what we would like I.e. issued dragon skin, 7.62×39 or 51 mm rifles vrs. The pussy 5.56 that just go straight through the mooj. If you ain't gunna do it right, get the hell out

  28. wish i had the chance to wear gear like that, it would have saved a lot of surgeries in my back and knees

  29. Master chief and the rest of halo Spartans anyone? If we can reach that level, the enemy is f****d

  30. I know a lot of medical retirees…and that costs money, too. While we owe our fellow veterans the medical benefits they richly deserve, I would rather avoid as many incapacitating injuries as possible. (To Jimbo especially) Respectfully, sir, we airdrop LRS (long range surveillance) and other assets into places where vehicles just aren't feasible. Being able to increase loads (within guidelines for the equipment) or adding speed to the march would add to mission capability. (To others) While the ideal is to be/train an ideal physical/mental/emotional performer with remarkable capability, technological options will add to our toolbox so that we can place technical specialists and linguists, including (God forbid) civilians, into field missions with fewer concerns about their physical conditioning. If it's economically feasible and will add to our tactical/operational/(occasionally) strategic options, I say go for it!

  31. #1 get him into a full combat load

  32. Where is the microwave on that POS?

  33. Baah, I developed something similar to this with technology far in advance of what DARPA is working on now…

    in 2002.

    And it is *still* more advanced than anything DARPA has announced they are working on, FAR cheaper, and could be ready in a very short time.

    But I was just a grunt, with massive computer skills, with no money, very little power (a few field grades loved what I had).

    So, the concept sits on a bookshelf in my office, because I'm too small to be considered for military contracts :(

  34. there goes PT standards…. or not? just hope that troops take this device as a means of augmenting their abilities, not replacing them; nothing's going to beat old fashioned, elbow-greasy grunt work in the grand scheme of things. let's just wait and see exactly how the brass decides to phase this in…

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