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The HULC exoskeleton is almost unnoticable at first and feels natural for the soldier, yet it massively enhances their physical capabilities.  (Source: Lockheed Martin)

The suit allows soldiers to effortlessly carry more defensive or offensive tools, like bulletproof steel shields, heavier guns, or extra body armor.  (Source: Lockheed Martin)

Soldiers can lift up to 200 pounds with the HULC.  (Source: Lockheed Martin)
Bring on the mech wars

For those yearning for some good old fashioned mech wars, your hopes may be realized on a battlefront in the near future.

To complement combat airshipslasersdrones, and a variety of other exotic "future weapons", Lockheed Martin is looking to outfit soldiers with powerful exoskeletons that would greatly amplify their physical movements and turn them into resilient angels of death.

Dubbed the Human Universal Load Carrier, or HULC, Lockheed Martin has supplemented a $1.1M USD contract with much private investment to try to sell the military on the idea of combat exoskeletons.

Lockheed Martin recently shared details on the progress of the suit with 
Wired.  The HULC in its current form weighs 82 lbs, but when the solider straps in, they feel virtually nothing.  It could in theory support an impressive array of strap-on combat accessories such as missile launchers or a massive 94-pound black steel shield capable of stopping most munitions dead in their tracks (Lockheed Martin has only demonstrated non-weapon accessories like the shield, but said that it should be capable of being weaponized).

The agile outfit is fully "ruggedized" and waterproof.  It can withstand billowing sand and dust, as is commonly present in the Middle East.  Its lithium-ion battery pack can power a 20 km (12.5 mile) march on a single charge.  The suit can travel at 7 miles per hour, faster than a brisk walk, and fast enough to keep up with a slow-traveling tank (tanks top out typically at around 40 mph, but frequently travel much slower when performing tactical or support maneuvers).

The suit allows the soldier to effortlessly lift 200 lb -- far more than an average private sans suit could ever dream of.  And the battery pack weighs only 18 lbs, is rechargeable via Humvee electrical connections, and holds charge for three to four days.

The suit is amazingly flexible allowing you to stand up from a prone or kneeling position rapidly, and without putting almost any weight on the soldier's joints.

Going ahead Lockheed Martin wants to further seal off the unit's hydraulic and electronic systems from the elements and from undesirable electric emissions, which could give away your location.

In the spring of 2011, the exoskeleton will enjoy its first tests by real soldiers in the U.S. military.  And in 2012 Lockheed Martin will test the exosuits in Afghanistan.  The feedback from those tests will probably determine whether the U.S. Armed Forces get serious about investing in the technology.

Lockheed's long-time rival Raytheon is making a competitive model dubbed the XOS 2.

Regardless of which model triumphs, the U.S. Military would be wise to promote this technology.  After all, soldiers are soft and organic, and thus vulnerable to improvised explosive devices and armor-piercing rounds.  It's hard to carry enough body armor to change that fact.  An exoskeleton could not only provide greater protection against these threats, but it could prove a fearsome offensive weapon.  The sight of a legion of heavily armored mech soldiers supported by tanks charging towards them would be enough to send most enemies running from the battlefield.

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Iron Man
By Anoxanmore on 10/26/2010 10:42:59 AM , Rating: 2
Finally Iron Man shall be real in 20 yrs. :)

RE: Iron Man
By RugMuch on 10/26/2010 10:52:02 AM , Rating: 2
That's what they said in the movies and look what happened.

RE: Iron Man
By retepallen on 10/26/2010 10:58:43 AM , Rating: 5
Robert Downey Junior became cool?

RE: Iron Man
By atlmann10 on 10/26/10, Rating: 0
RE: Iron Man
By BZDTemp on 10/26/2010 11:03:16 AM , Rating: 3
rofl; Iron man will be real in less than 5 years most likely.

AH, do show the tech that's gonna provide the flying functionality.

RE: Iron Man
By corduroygt on 10/26/2010 11:14:01 AM , Rating: 3
Not to mention you're going to need something with much more energy density than li-ion batteries, like an arc reactor.

RE: Iron Man
By quiksilvr on 10/26/2010 12:06:33 PM , Rating: 3
Well technically you can make a small nuclear reactor as a back pack, but the main issue is thrust, not energy. You need some very unique and highly efficient fuel in order to get that to work, especially at supersonic speeds.

RE: Iron Man
By corduroygt on 10/26/2010 12:08:38 PM , Rating: 3
You could do the inspector gadget version with a propellor above your head :)

RE: Iron Man
By Reclaimer77 on 10/26/2010 12:10:28 PM , Rating: 3
Well the Iron Man suit doesn't use fuel. It's thrusters are powered by magic!

RE: Iron Man
By bitterman0 on 10/26/2010 1:55:10 PM , Rating: 5
Must be an Apple model.

RE: Iron Man
By borismkv on 10/26/2010 7:09:00 PM , Rating: 4
No, that one uses the Reality Distortion Field that emanates from Steve Jobs.

RE: Iron Man
By kb9fcc on 10/26/2010 12:27:29 PM , Rating: 2
Beans. Lots of beans...

RE: Iron Man
By Captain Orgazmo on 10/26/2010 6:38:48 PM , Rating: 2
I agree, they are the magical fruit. The more you eat the more you toot.

RE: Iron Man
By Spookster on 10/27/2010 1:26:51 AM , Rating: 3
I believe the word was "musical" not magical. Beans, beans the musical fruit, the more you eat the more you toot.

RE: Iron Man
By Captain Orgazmo on 10/27/2010 4:44:32 PM , Rating: 1
The beans are magical, it's my arse that's musical :)

RE: Iron Man
By Spookster on 10/28/2010 3:47:52 AM , Rating: 2
No it's that skin flute IN your arse that's making the music.

RE: Iron Man
By lyeoh on 10/26/2010 2:30:35 PM , Rating: 1
The main issue with a "nuclear reactor backpack" is not thrust.

You're going to need:
1) radiation shielding
2) cooling

Despite a critical mass sphere of plutonium or uranium being only about 10-20cm in diameter, you're going to need a lot of radiation and heat shielding unless you don't mind being dead.

And you definitely need cooling.

If you can solve these without really heavy shielding, you don't need special fuel for thrust. All you need to do is use air from the atmosphere and heat from the reactor.

RE: Iron Man
By quiksilvr on 10/27/2010 1:07:08 PM , Rating: 2
The shielding shouldn't be too much of a problem. RST has developed a new fabric the called Demron which is a pretty effective radiation shield.

As for cooling, Freon would be an obvious choice, but it all really depends what you are using the nuclear energy for.

I never knew they used heat from a nuclear reactor to create THRUST, I thought they simply used it to power propellers. That's BRILLIANT!

RE: Iron Man
By atlmann10 on 10/27/2010 1:39:08 AM , Rating: 1
rofl; the LA police have jet packs on the way already. Also for energy the American military also has hydro cell batteries which went into field testing like six months ago. So Li-on batteries I would think not. A single Hydro cell battery runs a soldiers complete gear for 3-5days (IE:GPS, laptop, cell phone, radio and everything else).

RE: Iron Man
RE: Iron Man
By Reclaimer77 on 10/26/2010 11:14:50 AM , Rating: 2
rofl; Iron man will be real in less than 5 years most likely.

Even if you could build the suit, the problem is going to be how you power it? The Iron Man suit requires more power than a Nuclear reactor in the size of a small chest plug thingy using an element that can't possibly ever exist. Think about it.

RE: Iron Man
By Silver2k7 on 10/26/2010 11:22:59 AM , Rating: 2
There always seems to be talk of better batteries or faster loading ones etc.. but we will need something very revolutionary to make that kind of suit.

5 years are doubtful in my book, but we shall see :-)

RE: Iron Man
By ppardee on 10/26/2010 1:06:00 PM , Rating: 2
All we need is an efficient energy-matter conversion. The amount of energy in a hunk of lead is immense! Our current capability in this department is poor, and I doubt we will solve the problem in 5 years (or maybe even 20), but if the Ironman suit were to ever come into existence, it wouldn't use batteries (as we know them)

RE: Iron Man
By Murst on 10/26/2010 3:51:39 PM , Rating: 2
All we need is an efficient energy-matter conversion.

I assume you mean "an efficient matter-energy conversion". Unless we assume that this Ironman has virtually unlimited energy already, and needs to create a lot of metal poop.

RE: Iron Man
By DougF on 10/26/2010 6:07:39 PM , Rating: 2
What, wait, you mean Unobtainium is unobtainable? Drat...

RE: Iron Man
By Helbore on 10/26/2010 5:05:20 PM , Rating: 2
Iron Man won't be a reality until the US Military start digging holes in their soldiers' chests and inserting a glowing reactor-thingy with a cool name.

Oh and only hiring playboy billionaires to fight wars.

RE: Iron Man
By SoCalBoomer on 10/26/2010 6:02:41 PM , Rating: 2
I think you're correct, in principle at least. Heck, wasn't there a prosthetic based on this technology blogged about a week or so go on DT?

Still in development, but usable and giving people with spinal injuries freedom to move about . . .

Yeah - things are speeding up!

RE: Iron Man
By TimberJon on 10/29/2010 11:26:11 PM , Rating: 2
rofl. The real disconnect here is with reality...

As others stated, you will need a high-output energy source, the thrust technology, energy weapon tech (PPC), and myomer.

We have artificial muscles but not well developed for industrial applications. We have high-torque and high-speed Servo's but we need the power. Some kind of mini reactor is a long way off.

We need the power! And we don't have jack yet. VASIMIR is a promising technology...

I will push fusion again though.

Read here first:

Then here:

AFTER ITER is up and running, and after some time after that when they really ramp the sucker up, then they might be able to miniaturize it a bit. Initially, they might only be able to reduce it's size by only a third or as much as 2/3rds. It will take them years to iron out quirks.

I saw MIT test a working inside-out fusion-torus concept.

Z-pinching is promising as well. Waiting for that refurb to complete so we can get back to research which allows material refinement, which directly helps fusion become possible and then become improved.
Read here:

No Iron man suits. No 'Mechs sadly. No electric helicopters or fusion semi trucks. When that near-unlimited power is available, things will change a little. But when they can miniaturize the fusion reactor, then we will have large vehicles. Trains, boats, semi's, tanks, helicopters & large VTOL aircraft, possibly (and finally) a real spaceship that can leave atmo under its own power, and maybe Agromechs or something like walking power loaders (though larger).

In 30 years they might have something like a reactor with a small energy output about the size of a minivan. They might be beta testing such a thing as soon as 15 years from now.

Educated guess. Nothing as complicated as a fusion reactor WITH all auxillary modules will be coming to market in a hurry.

RE: Iron Man
By geddarkstorm on 10/26/2010 12:55:44 PM , Rating: 5
Iron Man? Pff.. HULC smash!

RE: Iron Man
By snapilica on 10/26/2010 3:26:17 PM , Rating: 2
Iron Man? I was thinking more on the line of the exo-nano-suit thingie from Crysis. It's more closer to what this really does.

"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007

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