The $7M Legwear to Turn US Troops Into 'Super Soldiers'

ONYX exoskeleton being developed by Lockheed Martin to reduce weight, help troops move better
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 30, 2018 10:20 AM CST
In this April 3, 2017, file photo, US Army soldiers march in formation at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington.   (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

(Newser) – The Army is pushing for a new generation of "super soldiers," and critical in that effort is a cutting-edge technology first used to help people with serious medical conditions (e.g., multiple sclerosis, osteoarthritis) stay on the move. Reuters reports the Pentagon is pumping nearly $7 million into a battery-operated ONYX exoskeleton—being developed by Lockheed Martin, with a license from B-TEMIA, a "privately owned dermoskeletic technology company"—that slips on over the user's pants and uses AI and other tech to help soldiers move around naturally in tough sites like war zones; Reuters has a video that shows what the system looks like. That's because the new legwear will substantially cut down on the weight soldiers lug around in war zones, which is currently as high as 140 pounds, even though the weight isn't supposed to exceed 50 pounds.

"The fundamental challenge we're facing with infantry troops is they're carrying too much weight," says Paul Scharre of the Center for a New American Security, a bipartisan think tank that has done studies on the exoskeletons and other "emerging technologies." Army Recognition notes that the "smart" ONYX system eventually learns its user's movements and "counteracts stress on the lower back and legs," helping those wearing it to make it up steep hills or when pulling or lifting heavy items. A Lockheed Martin manager tells Reuters that in the company's trials, people who wore the exoskeletons showed a lot more endurance, "because you get to the fight fresh. You're not worn out." An expert at the nonprofit Center for Naval Analyses tells Reuters two other major players are investing in the technology: Russia and China. (US troops may soon have phones in their mouths.)

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