In something straight out of scifi we get the news that the Lockheed Martin and Ekso Bionics are getting close to deploying their Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC) hydraulic exoskeleton for testing on the front line. The exoskeleton, which has been in development since 2000, is a backpack with hydraulics along the legs of the soldier, would give them the ability to carry heavier loads and walk for longer periods of time with out feeling fatigue. The system also features a pivoting arm that’s capable of holding heavy weapons, allowing the wearer to fire them with a substantially reduced recoil.
This is the newest in the line of exoskeletons and is significantly lighter and can last significantly longer. Lockheed originally rolled out HULC in 2010, but in a heavier, bulkier form that tended to run down its batteries in just an hour. The current model can go for up to eight hours “on the march,” and lasts “days and days” on a single charge if you’re just standing guard with a machine gun. Lockheed is still working on a fuel cell meant to provide 72 hours of power in even the most strenuous conditions.
On of the cooler things about the HULC is that it also has an arm that you can attach a machine gun to. The arm helps reduce the recoil to about 1/3 of normal. This means that they can use higher caliber rounds, say a .50 cal in the field.
In September, the Army will take the exoskeleton out for it’s field trials and if all goes right, a Lockheed Martin rep said that it could see combat in Afghanistan by the end of the year!
Check out this video form Lockheed Martin about the HULC: