DARPA Advances Bionic Suits to Protect Soldiers

Warrior Web 4The Army continues to work to develop an undersuit worn at the ankles, hips, knees and upper body that will protect soldiers from injuries and reduce the physical burden of hauling up to 100 pounds of gear on patrol.

Army officials has partnered with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency as the Defense Department seeks to build upon the work of scientists researching the technologies that can augment muscles in the human body.

Thus far, the program called Warrior Web has studied “rapid joint stabilization, functional structures, energy injection, regenerative kinetics, load transfer and distribution and flexible kinetic and kinematic sensing,” according to a DARPA statement.

The program has pushed into the second phase of the program as DARPA looks to push the undersuit system beyond the laboratory and make the undersuit system a reality. In September, companies interested in the program offered proposals to DARPA for future work.

Below is the list of technology areas that DARPA officials sent out this summer to companies and research labs to further develop the suit:

  • Integrated advanced control systems across multiple joints
  • Materials, fabrics, structures, sensors, sensor interfaces and human factors associated with developing conforming, assistive wearable technologies
  • Technologies that significantly reduce the potential for acute or chronic injury of a wearer under typical warfighter mission profile situations
  • Technologies that increase physical capabilities and/or endurance of humans during activities such as running, lifting, climbing, carrying a load, marksmanship, etc.
  • Additional assistive wearable technologies for rehabilitation, physical therapy or those intended to help improve quality of life for the aging population.

Warrior Web 3

  • Paralus

    I call bullshit. Everytime someone invents some lighter piece of gear, they find other gear to hang off of infantrymen.

    Rucksack 2kg lighter? Carry two more kgs of ammo or armor.
    Lighter helmet? carry more batteries for the radio.

    They’ll just add more weight so this suit until it is overloaded. 150kg of gear and ammo is too light with the suit? Here’s 50kg of more gear.

    Meanwhile, our guys keep getting smoked in footraces by guys with sandals and robes who carry nothing more than a rifle, some ammo and maybe a water bottle.

    • Vincent.

      You can’t free a country wearing sandals.

      • Ash

        Maybe you can’t free a country, but you can certainly keep an occupying military force on their toes.

    • Michael

      What is the weight of an infantryman rucksac by now, I’ve seen mention of 140+ lbs. Heck I just carried half of that on my back on moderately high temperature and I needed nearly 2 gallons of water. That make me think that we are really at the limits of the feasible for regular infantry.

      Those exoskeleton are really promising. But isn’t their back won’t be protected against those heavy load? I am totally for it but at some point they got to be careful to not merely worn-out soldier just a little slower. Like their lower back, the impact on their bones, foot, ankles or their hips maybe?

      By being a little optimistic and assuming that they keep the weight constant, it also mean a soldier climbing faster while burning less calories, that can be a game changer. But for climbing mountains I would rather rely on those robot-mules. A good idea until something break. ;-)

      • Paralus

        It would be interesting to see the injury rate for joints, stress fractures, lower-back, etc. Guys might be in better shape with cardio and good muscle tone, but bones and joints have finite limitations.

        How many surgeries, medical discharges, physical therapy, light duty restrictions are there from being overburdened? How does it affect readiness? Every time a guy blows his knee out, how long does it take to find and train a replacement while he undergoes surgery and PT?

      • its about roughly between 60-90 pounds on the average infantryman. If you heard 140 pounds then thats probably right after they land at their new station lol.

    • yeah it’s a damn shame that they will benchmark this handy hardware just so they can say, you didnt have to do it but you insisted to anyway, where was this stuff when i was in the military… oh yeah ,,,, still in R&D. how much longer til we’re wearing sneaking suits and using tactical vests to hold everything everywhere we go.

    • Hitchner

      It is only showing one part of the whole system, once it is complete the system with be used with the whole body making it so a soldier can carry more, plus be able to run faster and if necessary be able to climb an obstacle easier. It will be quite awhile before it is actually completely finished.

    • 4man

      Completely agree, soldiers need to be light and fast. Carry mission critical items. At this point we have logistics and robots that should be moving crap around for them… Soldiers shouldn’t be mules, unless we’ve got no better choice, they need to be warriors. Warriors need to have functional joints to fight. Reduction in weight must become a mantra in this age of focused tactical conflicts.

      Also agree, they really need to make sure that if the exoskeleton strengthen legs here, biomechanics dictates they need to strengthen back, arms, and shoulders (or just shifting the load will wear out different parts of the body). The exoskeleton now needs a holistic review.

    • Brantley

      Yeah. Fuck a lot of that. They’re going to give us all that shit and Hadji can still outrun us in pumas.

  • Mike

    While I’m always in favor of protecting our troops I can only wonder what all of this technology is going to cost.

    • Tony

      Less than the cost of 8 years of golf for the current admin.

      • artrain

        Or the previous, too.

        • Wesker

          Bush’s last round of golf was Oct. 13, 2003.

          “I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal. I don’t want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the Commander-in-Chief playing golf.” -GWB

    • Eddie

      Ludicrous response. Your paramount concern as enumerated in your reply is cost. what is more important cost of technology or cost of a life? Obviously, a rhetorical question.

      • Doug

        This mindset is one way we have become overburdened with awesome gear that is expensive nd of limited use. If the cost of a human life was incomparable, we wouldn’t be fighting.

        • Amit

          Dear Doug, it’s not about the cost of this technology or the cost of human lives. Such tactical technology is what leads to practical applications in the future. That is how we expand the frontiers of technology.

    • Barbara Morgan

      If it keeps our military personnel safe and helps them to return with all their limbs and ect. who gives a damn about the cost? These men and women are risking their lives, the body parts and their mental health to keep this Country and the world safe so if it works it is worth the cost no matter what it is.

  • scott

    this thing looks very cool! it looks like a person with prosthetics just got out of basic training

  • Wordsmith

    I’d like to see more reporting on the acquisition of private sector R & D support ( the proposals mentioned above); who is in on it, approximate time to award, how to find out who was successful (Yes, I’d like a job with them). I’m sure the current shutdown has thrown a wrench into the process, but once some people do the job they were hired to do, the rest of us can get on with what WE are hired to do.

  • r2r

    Heed the words of Smedley Butler, 2xMOH, USMC commandant, in his little book, “War Is A Racket,” available free online via Google search.

  • Bear stands tall

    im sure all this high tech stuff is all well and good but they really need to get this shit and put threw the real test with the army’s Infantry or marines Infantry test not some asshole who sits on a desk and says ” hey thats sounds good ” or wow what a great idea bob” infact i tell you what when yall finally get this out to the troops im sure it will end up in the dumpster cuz of all the hendurance it is, the shit yall come up with is all well and good and im sure your heart and minds might be in the right place but as one of the other comments where made ” our guys are getting smoked by guys in sandals and robes who carry noting but a rifle and some ammo and maybe some water”its time to rethink this threw ya know, if your wanting to save lives get this stuff and a little more ideas AND MAKE ROBOTS ok

  • AdamMarine

    You all need to sit back and calm down. It’s a motherfucking exosuit. An exosuit! It’s the first steps towards powered armor. I’m 100% behind this. I say throw more money at it! Before you know it, losing a
    Leg to an IED will get your a new robot leg. Badass. We need to put more money behind this! If they are offering it to Marine Corps 0311 for testing I’ll be first in line.

    • SgtMjr

      Mobile Infantry! Heinlein’s vision will come true sooner or later.

    • Pat11B

      This Army 11B will be in line too. Absolutely great idea. Obviously something that will have to improve with time, but it looks like a great start.

  • Rodney

    If this technology can be applied to help get paraplegics or otherwise severely wounded back upright and on two feet then I’m all for it.

  • Jon

    Maybe the DoD should patent their final product and make some money off selling this to the private sector. This would probably be a great augmentation for outdoor enthusiasts, paramedics, and construction workers.

  • Robert Taggart

    How are you going to stop the bleeding from an injury? I see no fast way to apply a tourniquet.

    • Bucn Reed

      This is still early. They may set it up the same way that MTVR’s have a blow out cord. yank a cord and it all just falls away

      • Pat11B

        Or possibly integrated, high-joint tourniquets.

  • kristin

    This would be nice for female service members. Its not easy carrying all that gear when you’re 5 foot and 108 lbs. Especially if you’re on an 8 mile hump with the Marines as their Doc. Never had the honor of doing that but I know a few who have.

    • Joe

      Or we can just not put females in a role for which they are ill-suited…

      • Amanda

        You’re ill-suited to breath oxygen, Joe.

        • Will

          Joes dead on – If they cant perform the same and therefore put others in dangers they shouldn’t have the job, suck it up.

    • DevilDog

      Maybe they should just work out more? I’m a 4’11, 112 pound female Marine and an 8 mile hump isn’t that bad…
      Not that we don’t appreciate you Docs, much love.

  • Sean

    People used to kill people with their bare hands. How will this man relieve himself? Is there a catheter or a colostomy bag?

  • Charles

    Can it be hacked and manipulated while a person is in the suit? That leaves open a potential threat to military and civilians alike.

    • Tim

      Maybe if the person can establish a connection to the suit, but they would have to like hook up a laptop or something to it because I doubt that these things as far as the “computer” part goes are any more different than like an RPM limiter that they use in cars get an internet connection.

  • Terra

    This could actually prolong the service of some of us with major injuries! If they could have it assist with spinal column stability and control to prevent further injury or collapse of the discs or vertebrae that would render some of us fit for duty!

    • msmazzo

      I’m totally on board! I need this for day to day stuff at this point. Degeneration in my knees and my left ankle looks like swiss cheese on x-ray! I’d like to be able to run again!

  • Pamela Franks

    What happens when the enemy kills a soldier and steals the technology and our own defense becomes their offense?

    • Tim

      Maybe have something to fry the electronics in it so it’s no more than some clothing to them.

    • Tim

      Like they could use undistilled water and have it leak onto the electronics if the person is detected as still wearing it but their heart rate stops.

  • Smarter Than You

    Wait till you need to defend yourself against someone wearing one. Like the cops who turn against the public.

  • tongun6


  • Docsenko

    Today’s troops are overburdened, but have far better equipment than I had in Nam. Whenever the Army has designed something, eye it with caution.

  • Brian B. Mulholland

    I expect we’ll see this first in the hands of special forces, and designed to permit them to deplane well beyond the distance from which the aircraft would be audible in the area of the target.

    A not to the memory of Robert A. Heinlein and the power suits in “Starship Troopers.”

  • MJ Garcia

    Hope someone is looking at how this might be exploited ….with all the additional gear can the metal/electronics or other components be picked up by sensors to locate soldiers wearing the gear and thus make them vulnerable to attack from mortars/ambushes/drone strikes? Will the gear produce a signature ELINT/SIGNIT that could be detected? Otherwise I am all for gear that will KISS and make the soldiers job easier and Protect

  • Michael

    I have worn a brace like that, they are uncomfortable and hard to wear over 8hours. I just hope they can make them comfortable. Can’t see them being worn in the desert or jungle. Probably designed by a committee who have never been there.


    I say more bombs and fewer ground actions. Love the grunts but until we can find a way to get their mobility back and protect them better, I’d exchange world opinion for more and bigger bombs. – – ..

    They will continue to be the object of political nit wits in Congress and the White House who are more willing to send them into harms way then they are willing to pay for the damage done for the rest of their lives. – – ..

    Send more politicians into battle and less of everyone else. DANGER CLOSE baby, danger close.

  • SKI

    Look at the picture: all those loose straps on a rucksack… that’s a NO-GO Soldier, fix yourself!

  • Considerably, the story is in reality the greatest on this noteworthy topic. I agree along with your conclusions and will eagerly watch forward to your next updates. Saying good 1 will not just be sufficient, for the fantastic clarity in your writing. I will immediately grab your rss feed to stay privy of any updates!


    DARPA does come out with some really cool “James Bond” stuff. But not to be a wet blanket, but they do this every two or three years. Somebody at the top gets a bug up his butt to develop all this cool stuff and then it never gets funded and issued to the troops. Spec Ops may get this. Not a snowball’s chance in hell a regular grunt would, unless it’s gonna be 100 years in the future.
    A perfect example is the numerous replacement programs for the M-16A2. They develop rifles year after year that are lighter, more reliable and more functional for the troops (ie. the HK 416), and then they scrap it. The biggest innovation/change in 20 years has been adopting a shorter barrel and calling it the M4 across all of the services.
    But don’t forget that it’s perfectly OK to waste $5 BILLION dollars on camouflage that is only effective if you’re up against Helen Keller with a potato gun. Come on folks, how many times are they gonna try to pull the wool over our eyes……