Millions invested in exoskeleton technology to help US military create ‘super soldiers’
The US Army appears to be working towards creating a new generation of “super soldiers” with new exoskeleton technology, designed to make troops stronger and more resilient.
- The technology aims to lighten load for solders
- It is designed to be worn over clothing and boost natural movements
- It is expected to cost tens of thousands of dollars
Worn over a pair of pants, the battery-operated exoskeleton uses a ranged of sensors, artificial intelligence and other technology to aid natural movements.
The goal is to lighten the load for soldiers, who are deployed into war zones bogged down by heavy but critical gear such as body armour, night-vision goggles and advanced radios.
Altogether, that can weigh anywhere from 40 to 64kg, when the recommended limit is just 23kg.
“That means when people do show up to the fight, they’re fatigued,” the Centre for a New American Security’s Paul Scharre said.
“The fundamental challenge we’re facing with infantry troops is they’re carrying too much weight.”
Millions of military dollars have been invested in the technology, developed by Lockheed Martin Corp with a licence from Canada-based B-TEMIA.
These exoskeletons were initially designed to help people with mobility difficulties due to medical conditions such as multiple sclerosis and severe osteoarthritis.
On Thursday, Lockheed Martin announced it had been given more than $9 million by an army research centre to develop an exoskeleton called ONYX.
Lockheed Martin’s exoskeleton technologies manager Keith Maxwell said people in his company’s trials who wore the exoskeletons showed far more endurance.
“You get to the fight fresh — you’re not worn out,” Mr Maxwell said.
Each skeleton is expected to cost tens of thousands of dollars.
The United States is not the only country looking at exoskeleton technology.
Samuel Bendett at the Centre for Naval Analyses said Russia and China were also investing in exoskeleton technologies, “in parallel” to the US advances.
Russia is working on several versions of exoskeletons, including one recently tested in Syria, Mr Bendett said.
The exoskeleton is part of a host of next-generation technologies being developed to aid soldiers by the Centre for a New American Security.
Military research endeavours range from helmets to better shield troops from blast injuries to the introduction of robotic “teammates” to help resupply them in war zones.