In case you didn't see this elsewhere, Lockheed Martin recently unveiled a down-scale competitor to the exoskeleton wars. At the February Association of the US Army symposium, LockMart introduced its Human Universal Load Carrier system.
According to LockMart, the HULC can help a Soldier carry up to 200 pounds "with minimal effort."
HULC transfers the weight from heavy loads to the ground through the battery-powered, titanium legs of the lower-body exoskeleton. An advanced onboard micro-computer ensures the exoskeleton moves in concert with the individual. HULCs completely un-tethered, hydraulic-powered anthropomorphic exoskeleton design allows for deep squats, crawls and upper-body lifting with minor exertion.
Look, you know I'm partial to Troy Hurtubise's Trojan II, but I've got to hand it to LockMart -- the HULC seems to take the middle ground between being a full-on exoskeleton and a passive assistance device to help carry heavy loads. I can see 240 gunners and mortarmen eating this thing up, trudging through the Afghan hills a lot more easily than before. Maybe the HULC could give planners more options by making organic indirect fire support a viable alternative for platoons in the bush.
Obviously it looks a bit ungainly in the video, but in the end, if it does what the video shows and with a few ergonomic tweaks, we'll see a workable option in the field soon. With all the news about load stress on Soldiers' bodies these days, why not use technology to ease the burden?