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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 10:27:38 PM , Rating: 2
I disagree. Are there clear and defined answers in a book somewhere that tells us what a known enemy will do when it sees new military hardware enter the field and become stationary? How about when it starts slowly and methodically moving towards the host?

As a US Mil member if you are groundpounding and the enemy comes up in a simple APC, will you defiantly shoot at it with your rifle and yell at it? Well trained ones will do what they need to, but only engage when they what? have a working plan with a chance of success after they have ID'd the enemy and it's weaknesses. What are you going to do with new hardware that is walking towards you that looks like something out of a sci-fi movie? You can't ID it. You cant possibly know it's weaknesses. All you can do is frantically call it in to the uppers, or start shooting.

I believe and I speculate, that a known enemy will pause that scientifically-proven amount of time to seal their doom, then begin firing at the new hardware in near fear.

Only after a few seconds when the new hardware shrugs off incoming fire and opens up on the enemy host will the fear take over and the enemy begin to break ranks and attempt to retreat in disarray. They won't run if it doesn't fire on them though. They will keep firing until they begin to see that both A) their weapons are having no effect and B) it's weapons are really having effect. The dumbest grunt will see this attrition as what it is unless they are a zealot.

I have more tactical and psycho-warfare experience in my right eyeball than most so-called 'Active or EX-' military do. Especially the laughable '2-year veterans'. God bless you all for being alive and pulling through whatever you had to do though. I won't say anything negative about your time served.

Mick stated a half-truth, unfounded yes, but logically correct. How many advanced bipedal walking death machines have you aligned your sights to Jonny? Have we ever been up against a technologically superior enemy?

The facts are that nobody is ready for advanced bipedal hardware of any size or mobility. As someone stated with the Atlas, General Kerensky had it designed with nothing but immobilizing fear as it's goal. Any bipedal robot that walks in our time will do nothing but generate fear in the troops it marches against... until the enemy gains air superiority.

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997

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