Russian designers are to present the third-generation Ratnik (“Warrior”) combat gear to the world in seven years, the TASS news agency has reported (in Russian), citing the press service of the Central Research Institute for Precision Machine Building (TsNIITochMash, a subsidiary of the Rostec state corporation).
According to the designers, the armor will feature an active exoskeleton, which will significantly increase the physical power of soldiers wearing it.
“An active exoskeleton is a mechanism whose hinges are equipped with electric and hydraulic drives, to enhance the possibilities of the musculoskeletal system,” said the report.
A passive exoskeleton will also be one of the components of the new gear. It will not contain wire and will not be connected to the body of the serviceman. It, in turn, will serve to reduce the load on joints and will reduce the likelihood of injury.
In addition to exoskeletal structures, designers will create systems to display information and target designation on the visor or goggles
The passive exoskeleton, which also will be one of the components of the new gear, will not contain wire and will not be connected to the body of the serviceman. Photo: ‘Ratnik’ modern military garment. Source: Mikhail Voskresenskiy/RIA Novosti
The US has several hard [active] and soft [passive] exoskeleton project
Soft Warrior Web Exoskeleton
The amount of equipment and gear carried by today’s dismounted warfighter can exceed 100 pounds, as troops conduct patrols for extended periods over rugged and hilly terrain. The added weight while bending, running, squatting, jumping and crawling in a tactical environment increases the risk of musculoskeletal injury, particularly on vulnerable areas such as ankles, knees and lumbar spine. Increased load weight also causes increase in physical fatigue, which further decreases the body’s ability to perform warfighter tasks and protect against both acute and chronic injury.
The Warrior Web program seeks to develop the technologies required to prevent and reduce musculoskeletal injuries caused by dynamic events typically found in the warfighter’s environment. The ultimate program goal is a lightweight, conformal under-suit that is transparent to the user (like a diver’s wetsuit). The suit seeks to employ a system (or web) of closed-loop controlled actuation, transmission, and functional structures that protect injury prone areas, focusing on the soft tissues that connect and interface with the skeletal system. Other novel technologies that prevent, reduce, ambulate, and assist with healing of acute and chronic musculoskeletal injuries are also being sought.
In addition to direct injury mitigation, Warrior Web will have the capacity to augment positive work done by the muscles, to reduce the physical burden, by leveraging the web structure to impart joint torque at the ankle, knee, and hip joints. The suit seeks to reduce the metabolic cost of carrying a typical assault load, as well as compensate for the weight of the suit itself, while consuming no more than 100 Watts of electric power from the battery source.
TALOS (Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit) was the name given to a robotic exoskeleton funded by the United States Special Operations Command. The brief for TALOS states that it must be bulletproof, weaponized, have the ability to monitor vitals and give the wearer superhuman strength and perception. The suit would comprise layers of smart material and sensors. The suit may not be intended for an entire squad, but for a lead operator who will breach a door first, to protect them as they are the most vulnerable team operator in that situation
- Reduced impact of load by intelligent weight distribution throughout the body.
- Low power requirement.
- Low suit profile to fit under the existing uniform comfortably.
- Provide sensor cues to soldiers to reduce injuries.
- Integrated components to provide joint support where user needs it most.
- Reapply energy to enhance the efficiency of motion and improve overall metabolics.
- Remain compliant and flexible, stiffening only when needed.
- Have the suit weigh less than 400 lb (180 kg) and generate 12 kW of power for 12 hours.
Although the objective of the program was to incorporate new technologies into a fully powered and integrated suit, components developed under it could be issued individually to troops in the short term to enhance their effectiveness. Non-lethal weapons, new armor materials, more compact communications gear, advanced night vision, and 3-D audio can be used as individual pieces of equipment before they are all put together in one powered exoskeleton. Items developed for TALOS including an increased tactical data storage capability which allows for ten times the capacity of current data storage has transitioned to fulfill an immediate operational requirement, as well as a new armor solution being used for special operations non-standard commercial vehicles. Others systems that will be transitioned include a small, individual soldier SATCOM antenna, an unpowered loadbearing exoskeleton, a powered cooling vest to sustain body temperature, a next generation antenna that includes dynamic tuning, the Future Interoperable Radio Enclosure (FIRE), a tactical radio sleeve for cell phones, lightweight multi-hit ceramic-metallic hybrid armor, and a biosensor-equipped combat shirt that can monitor a soldier’s physiological status
At the 2015 Special Operations Forces Industry Conference, Revision Military displayed its prototype Kinetic Operations Suit on a full-sized mannequin. Launched a year prior, the suit features a powered, lower-body exoskeleton to transfer the weight down to the waist belt and supports it with motorized actuators on each leg. The exoskeleton supports a body armor system capable of stopping rifle rounds that surrounds 60 percent of the operator, compared to 18 percent with current armor vests. To relieve weight, the leg actuators pick up each leg and moves it as the person moves, and takes the weight of the helmet, armor, and vest down through a rigid, articulated spine, transferring weight from weak areas of the neck and lower back. A small power pack powers the suit, and a cooling vest pumps water through three yards of tubing under the suit to maintain core temperature; the power pack has a cooling fan that can be heard in close proximity, but it is thought that won’t matter after breaching a door. The Kinetic Operations Suit has undergone live-fire testing and combat scenarios and successfully performed the same tasks as currently-outfitted operators in similar amounts of time
Compact engines, high density batteries and liquid metal armor could be part of the special forces exoskeleton
Liquid Piston high efficiency engine
Liquid Piston is developing several small rotary internal combustion engines developed to operate on the High Efficiency Hybrid Cycle (HEHC). The cycle, which combines high compression ratio (CR), constant-volume (isochoric) combustion, and overexpansion, has a theoretical efficiency of 75% using air-standard assumptions and first-law analysis. This innovative rotary engine architecture shows a potential indicated efficiency of 60% and brake efficiency of over 50%. As this engine does not have poppet valves and the gas is fully expanded before the exhaust stroke starts, the engine has potential to be quiet. Similar to the Wankel rotary engine, the ‘X’ engine has only two primary moving parts – a shaft and rotor, resulting in compact size and offering low-vibration operation. Unlike the Wankel, however, the X engine is uniquely configured to adopt the HEHC cycle and its associated efficiency and low-noise benefits. The result is an engine which is compact, lightweight, low-vibration, quiet, and fuel-efficient.
- High power density – up to 2 HP / Lb (3.3 kW / kg)
- 30% smaller and lighter for spark-ignition (SI) gasoline engines
- Up to 75% smaller and lighter for compression-ignition (CI) diesel engines
In an exoskeleton the engines would only be run to recharge batteries.
A SOCOM statement said some of the potential technologies planned for TALOS research and development include
- advanced armor,
- command and control computers,
- power generators, and
- enhanced mobility exoskeletons.
TALOS will have a physiological subsystem that lies against the skin that is embedded with sensors to monitor core body temperature, skin temperature, heart rate, body position and hydration levels
MIT and Poland working on liquid body armor
MIT is developing a next-generation kind of armor called “liquid body armor.”
Liquid body armor transforms from liquid to solid in milliseconds when a magnetic field or electrical current is applied.
The liquid is called Shear-Thickening Fluid (STF). STF does not conform to the model of Newtonian liquids, such as water, in which the force required to move the fluid faster must increase exponentially, and its resistance to flow changes according to temperature. Instead STF hardens upon impact at any temperature, providing protection from penetration by high-speed projectiles and additionally dispersing energy over a larger area
The exact composition of the STF is known only to Moratex and its inventors at the Military Institute of Armament Technology in Warsaw, but ballistic tests proved its resistance to a wide range of projectiles.
“We needed to find, design a liquid that functions both with projectiles hitting at the velocity of 450 meters per second and higher. We have succeeded,” said Deputy Director for Research at the Moratex institute, Marcin Struszczyk.
Struszczyk said the liquid’s stopping capability, combined with the lower indentation of its surface, provides a higher safety level for the user compared with traditional, mostly Kevlar-based, solutions.
“If a protective vest is fitted to the body, then a four centimeter deep deflection may cause injury to the sternum, sternum fracture, myocardial infarction, lethal damage to the spleen,” Struszczyk said.
“Thanks to the properties of the liquid, thanks to the proper formation of the insert, we eliminate one hundred percent of this threat because we have reduced the deflection from four centimeters to one centimeter.”
When hit by a high-speed projectile, a wide area of the STF hardens instantly, causing the usually massive energy to be dispersed away from the wearer’s internal organs.
Implementing the solution in body armor required designing special inserts, but the company says those are lighter than standard ballistic inserts and broader range of movement for their users in the police and military.
The laboratory is also working on a magnetorheological fluid, which they hope can be also applied in their products.
According to the researchers, both liquids can find applications beyond body armor, such as in the production of professional sports inserts, and even entire outfits. Another use could be in car bumpers or road protective barriers.
SOURCES – Reuters, Scout.com, MIT, Tass, Russia Beyond the headlines, DARPA, Revision military
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