Patrick Tucker at Defense One has reported that James Smith, SOCOM’s acquisition executive has stated that the Special Ops Exoskeleton is nowhere near ready for use in combat.
There have been improvements in lightweight body armor and improved helmet displays.
In 2018, the Army began evaluating Lockheed Martin’s ONYX exoskeleton. The ONYX supports the knee joints when carrying heavy loads over uneven terrain. ONYX uses less power than a full-body exoskeleton. The current design is able to achieve 8 to 16 hours of operation over realistic terrain. If the tests are successful the suits could be used in the field as early as 2021. It is likely that the partial suits will be used in warehouse and supply chain situations for support personnel. It will take years before they are ready for combat situations.
The soft exosuits are also not ready and are struggling to provide a 20% boost in the efficiency of movement.
The batteries are not good enough to power the exoskeletons and will not be ready in the next 10 years. There is the lightweight Liquid Piston engine, but they still are quite noisy. There would need to be a mix of the light-weight engines and batteries. Batteries would be used when soldiers need to be quiet.
The military will test the $3000 to $5000 lower-body booster. They make running and long marches easier. They will take it off before they start fighting. The system will enable people to run 4-minute miles.
These partial exoskeleton systems seem less useful than silent, all-electric dirt bikes.
The Zero MMX can run up to 90 miles on one charge, weighs 275 lbs. and can carry up to 355 lbs. It has top speed is 85 mph with a sustained high speed of 70 mph. This would be less than one minute to cover one mile.
Special Operations Forces have been working with the DARPA to develop light, silent dirtbike for operations.
On electric the SilentHawk produces about 55 decibels of sound, or the equivalent of a typical spoken conversation.
The TALOS exoskeleton was originally conceived as protection for a human commando to breach a door and save hostages in a room full of terrorists. Special Forces can use various robots and other weapons for safely and quickly breaching doors.
SOURCES -CNAS, Army Times, Defense One
Written by Brian Wang, nextbigfuture.com