“They won’t understand why we do it. They won’t understand that it’s about the men next to you, and that’s it. That’s all it is.” – Norman ‘Hoot’ Hooten, Black Hawk Down (2001).
In news that’ll pique the interest of both military and film buffs, the US Army Research Laboratory seems to be taking inspiration from Aliens, James Cameron’s famous 1986 sci-fi flick.
They’re putting to work “prototypes of an articulated arm attached to a soldier’s body armour to hold heavy weapons,” much like those seen in the film.
— Dr Chris J. Fuller (@DrChrisFuller) March 25, 2017
If this piece of gear could indeed make it to the battlefield, it would literally be a huge load off personnel shoulders. But we can’t help but ask, ‘Why just now?’
“Squad support gunners are already having to lug 10kg M249 ‘light’ machineguns and 11.6kg M240 machineguns — and their associated equipment and ammunition — across all terrains. Combined with their body armour, boots, webbing and any number of sundry items, this can mean a personal load of about 50kg,” writes journalist Jamie Seidel.
It’s a matter of adjusting to the new generation of weaponry soldiers are carrying out there. They are expected to carry more and more modern guns and gadgets, but fatigue is becoming a problem. After all, these are still human beings we’re talking about here, no matter how elite.
According to Weapons and Materials Research Directorate mechanical engineer Zac Wingard, “We have soldiers in their late teens and early twenties and they’re getting broken sometimes in training before they see a day in combat.”
Here’s Wingard demonstrating the carbon fibre composite:
— Sydney Freedberg (@SydneyFreedberg) March 14, 2017
“The idea is to spread the weight of a heavy gun through the soldier’s body while on the move, reducing its burden considerably. But it also is intended to offer ‘hands free’ — but ready-to-use — portability while its operator reads maps or uses other handheld devices. Finally, the mechanical arm is hoped to offer support and stability for the weapon during combat, as well as reducing the impact of recoil on its user,” Seidel reports.
That sound like a long list of sweet victory right there.
According to Fox News, “Currently, researchers are using an M4 carbine to test the device, but other weapons, such as an M249 squad automatic weapon or M240B machine gun may also be tested.”
Wingard reiterates that “It is not a product; it is a way to study how far we can push the ballistic performance of future weapons without increasing soldier burden.”
This is a huge technological development, no doubt, but it would be nice if there was as much R&D put into ending war as there is into perpetuating it.