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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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By TimberJon on 11/1/2010 9:35:29 PM , Rating: 2
<BT nerd clarifications>

Referencing the more physics-based Battletech 'verse...

>'Mechs are supposed to have an armor that can for the most part, deflect most if not part of the kinetic energy from a now-conventional tank round.

> Their vantage point puts normal tanks in far better range.
Yea if they can see you you can see them but the 'mech might be moving too. I don't know if tank's targeting computers gather range data on objects with sky in the background. It won't be easy to hit the legs of a 'mech. Tank can't see over a short wall, and cant knock it down for fear of the enemy noticing. A 'mech can see easily over a short wall though it would need high cover to hide itself behind.

> Noting the Hatchetman's design, a 'mech with limbs able to torque tons worth of weight fairly effortlessly, even if clumsily slow to our eyes, can hold physical weapons that can do plenty of damage after ammo reserves are out.

> A true 'Mech wouldn't work without some kind of miniaturized reactor. Even though an ICE engine or two MIGHT be able to produce enough power for mobility OR weapons (excluding energy weapons, sorry).. Fuel is a concern. High output energy source = some kind of energy weapon. Ballistics are practical with limited ammo, but having a nearly unlimited power source and no energy weapons that require no ammo would be stupid. Unless the source of energy could barely power mobility, computers, life support, etc.. =\ Whatever that is give it the boot and plug something better in.

> Tanks have far less mobility. They can't turn as easily, and the turret can only traverse up so far. A 'Mech can get up on a hill or outcropping and rain hell downward. A Tank would need to half fall off a cliff to aim downwards.

> A tank can use 'jump jets' to go over a ravine or really ugly terrain, but I believe those were plasma rockets that fed on water or something else for thrust. According to BT design, a bipedal 'mech should be able to keep it's balance pretty good even on uneven ground.

> A tank could dig itself a hole with it's treads in loose soil or mud if it is wet enough. A 'mech might slip and fall but it can get back up albeit slowly and maybe with some damage. A 'mech might also just be able to stomp through mud as it's weight should always carry it down far enough to hit the bottom. It is stepping while the tank is chewing.

> Yay a tank can fire partially submerged. A 'mech can fire completely submerged though it isn't practical. What is practical is crossing a body of water, underwater. Works great for ambushes too. Element of surprise a conventional tank (not a specialized tank) can't accomplish.

> what else what else... Oh yes. Lighter armor, significantly more movement-power means more armaments. Miles-per-gallon is the key, if there isnt any, then the combat life of the unit is greatly increased.

That's all I can think of. We will likely have spacecraft before 'Mechs though. Air mobility might take over. BT Universe unfortunately was built around the dream of ground-based 'Mechs and had to make up reasons why they dominated where air power should have. On the other side.. no matter how much air power you have... you always need ground troops. why not 20-40 foot tall kinds.

The future is
Though we need that myomer too atm.

</BT nerd clarifications>

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