5 years ago
Continuing with our compulsive interest in battle space weight, we learn some interesting things about the potential future use of technology to help reduce battle space injuries and carry more weight.
Assistant Commandant Gen. James F. Amos told a House committee Wednesday about “Big Dog,” a robotic quadruped that can carry 300 to 500 pounds of gear.
Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the Army’s vice chief of staff, joined Amos to testify before the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense. He said Big Dog and other alternatives might reduce injuries that have contributed to an increase in “non-deployable” men and women.
The number of soldiers who can’t be deployed rose from 17,000 or 18,000 to 20,000 over three years . Half have less serious injuries, including those caused by heavy loads. That has led to research in lightweight body armor, lightweight machineguns and lighter food rations.
According to an Army statement, soldiers may carry loads that start at 63 pounds and exceed 130 pounds. Extra protective gear or body armor can weigh 41 pounds. The typical combat load increased from 93 pounds in 2001 to 95.1 pounds in 2009.
The statement cited a study that proved “cumbersome” individual body armor caused pain, reduced performance and increased fatigue. Soldiers carrying 101 pounds for 12.5 miles had a 26 percent decrease in marksmanship.
“We are working very hard to lighten the load,” Chiarelli said. “One of the things we are looking at is civilian off-the-shelf solutions.”
Big Dog is one of many projects from the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency started in June 2007. A small, remote-control helicopter might deliver loads to soldiers. Another alternative is to use an “organic load-carrying asset,” or leaving some gear in soldiers’ Humvees or amphibious assault vehicles.
Ah, those DARPA dollars. Here is one thing those dollars have bought. The Big Dog.
Now if we can just get it not to sound like a million angry Africanized bees, we’d be much better off since we don’t want to telegraph our location to the enemy. Seriously though, it seems that it would be a much better solution to invest dollars into lighter weight body armor SAPI plates.
The biggest difference in the weight carried by the Soldier or Marine today versus in WWII is from body armor. The total weight of the soft panel ballistic armor, SAPI plates and carrier vest is around 32 pounds. This is 32 extra pounds that the Soldier or Marine in WWII didn’t have to carry. Body armor is the low hanging fruit. But it seems that we’d rather design cool robots that sound like a million angry bees.