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The Military Hardware Technology

Iron Man Is Another Step Closer To a Reality 289

arshadk writes with this excerpt from an article at CNN: "Inside a prosthetic shell of metal and hydraulics, Raytheon test engineer Rex Jameson is putting an XOS-2 exoskeleton through its paces. As the crowd watches, Jameson uses his robot hydraulic arm to shadowbox, break three inches of pine boards and toss around 72-pound ammunition cases like a bored contestant on the 'World's Strongest Man.' The suit moves as he moves and amplifies his strength 17-fold. ... Raytheon is seeking to develop the suits to help the US military carry supplies, and claims that one operator in an exoskeleton suit can do the work of two to three soldiers. If all goes as planned, the company hopes to see 'Iron Man' suits deployed in the field by 2015."
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Iron Man Is Another Step Closer To a Reality

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  • Power (Score:4, Insightful)

    by falldeaf ( 968657 ) <falldeafNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday November 12, 2010 @10:39AM (#34206386) Homepage
    I think they're going to need a suitable power source before this is useful in the field. When are nanotubes going to bring that huge battery increase I keep hearing about?!
  • Re:Intended Use? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Friday November 12, 2010 @10:42AM (#34206418)

    "Raytheon is seeking to develop the suits to help the US military carry supplies" Cue: Power Armour in 3...2...1.

    With what power? Supply tossing makes sense since the suit can be tied to a supply truck via power cable.

  • by Dan667 ( 564390 ) on Friday November 12, 2010 @10:44AM (#34206428)
    The only thing I thought the whole time I watched this is US defense spending is way to over bloated to have this kind of useless spending.
  • Re:Intended Use? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Linsaran ( 728833 ) on Friday November 12, 2010 @10:47AM (#34206460) Homepage
    This is not exactly new, they've been working on this for a while now. The only thing stopping them from putting armor plating on it and turning it into power armor is the battery life of the suit. Even with the most expensive batteries we can manufacture, there's a maximum opperational time of about 30 minutes on the XOS-2 when disconnected from an external power source. Needing to be plugged in to operate sort of limits their military applications to grunt work and MAYBE defensive deployments. Still if someone can work out the power issues, functional and deployable power armor is really only a manufacturing run away.
  • by ElectricTurtle ( 1171201 ) on Friday November 12, 2010 @10:50AM (#34206482)
    Considering that the proposed use right now is for faster cargo handling, the power could be provided by the truck hauling the cargo. The suits don't have a battlefield purpose yet, so tethering isn't much an issue when you consider that everything these are likely to be used for is within feet of a big vehicle of some kind.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 12, 2010 @10:58AM (#34206566)
    A technology that allows 1 soldier to do the work of 2 or 3 is useless? How would you recommend spending the money?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 12, 2010 @10:58AM (#34206570)

    While I wouldn't necessarily disagree, I could see this type of suit being really useful for industrial applications so maybe we'll see some additional value from this research.

  • Re:Skynet (Score:4, Insightful)

    by immakiku ( 777365 ) on Friday November 12, 2010 @11:00AM (#34206592)
    The "ironman" part of that equation is much easier to produce than the "- man" part of it.
  • by VShael ( 62735 ) on Friday November 12, 2010 @11:04AM (#34206628) Journal

    Yeah, that makes perfect sense.

  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Friday November 12, 2010 @11:10AM (#34206672)
    The goal, in practice, is to make tons of money for the military contractors, who don't really give a shit how well this technology works in the field as long as they get paid. Eg. David Brooks of DHB Industries.
  • by ElectricTurtle ( 1171201 ) on Friday November 12, 2010 @11:12AM (#34206688)
    There's an old saying among military officers: 'amateurs study tactics, professionals study logistics.' Go ahead and use the money to buy more guns. Find out what happens when they run out of ammo. If the US armed forces can resupply two or three times faster than another military because of advances made in logistics (like this one), then that's a formidable real advantage.

    I'm glad the Pentagon has a broader perspective than yours. Modern armies, scratch that, ALL armies can only function on the back of efficient logistical support. The more efficient and effective that support, the more advantage that army has, even in the face of superior numbers or a harsh environment.
  • by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Friday November 12, 2010 @11:14AM (#34206708)

    A technology that allows 1 soldier to do the work of 2 or 3 is useless? How would you recommend spending the money?

    How about not having the 2 or 3 in the first place?

  • by Barrinmw ( 1791848 ) on Friday November 12, 2010 @11:16AM (#34206726)
    If its your job to carry stuff around every day, then yes, they will wear it everyday. I am sure the army has plenty of grunt positions within supply that required moving around lots of boxes.
  • Re:Intended Use? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RsG ( 809189 ) on Friday November 12, 2010 @11:20AM (#34206762)

    Either fuel cells or a portable generator might make more sense than a battery. Both have a much higher energy density per mass and energy density per volume, plus they are much easier to refuel than a battery is to recharge.

    Technically, the fuel cells needn't be hydrogen powered, since you can make a fuel cell that runs on hydrocarbons (which are easier to store and transport). A generator adds more exhaust and moving parts, but is at least proven technology. Either could work.

    And for military applications, you don't need to augment arm strength, you can focus on the legs and torso. After all, if the intent is to add plate armour for battlefield use, then carry capacity is what you're after, not super-strength. Now, augmented arms would still be desirable, if only because it would allow for heavier infantry weapons (which you'll need once the other side starts fielding powered exosuits), but for the first-gen version you can skip the arms and just use existing rifles.

  • by CraftyJack ( 1031736 ) on Friday November 12, 2010 @11:21AM (#34206772)

    If you can deploy three or four fewer people to an airstrip someplace, and unload a bunch of emergency medical supplies in a fraction of the time, you're reducing costs, not adding to them.

    Color me skeptical. If you really are deploying fewer people, great. But I suspect that something like this has a serious logistics tail. If it takes three people to operate and support the thing, that's no good. If you have to wait two days to get it working again when it breaks down, you're back to square one - without the number of people you need to accomplish the task at hand.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 12, 2010 @11:24AM (#34206796)

    You have no clue how much it costs to employ and move actual people.

    When you add up the costs of recruiting, training, and paying (both in $ and in things like medical care and other benefits) a soldier, if you can spend a few hundred thousand on something that removes a couple soldiers, you have saved money.

    Moreover, you can put this in a box and leave it around at nearly zero cost between missions; your real live person has to be paid all the time.

    Moreover, transporting one person and one box of mech-suit to the middle of nowhere is probably way cheaper than transporting three persons to the middle of nowhere, because you don't have to keep shipping in food and water to the mech suit (assuming you have a good local power source, which admittedly is quite an assumption).

  • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Friday November 12, 2010 @11:27AM (#34206838)
    Remember: time is money, too. If this is more nimble than a standard forklift, you might have that cargo aircraft sitting on the runway for a few minutes less, guzzling less fuel, and holding up fewer other incoming flights. There are a lot of indirect costs avoided by speeding up logistics operations. If it takes an operator and two support guys to do work in half the time, compared to a fork lift driver and one support guy, it might still be cheaper.

    If there are things you can do with something like this which you simply cannot do with a forklift (which seems very likely - especially in rough terrain and lots of emergency response type scenearios), then you might avoid the entire cost of (and personnel involved in) enhancing a remote airstrip.
  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <`dadinportland' `at' `yahoo.com'> on Friday November 12, 2010 @11:29AM (#34206850) Homepage Journal

    but it does use the power of the transistor.

  • depending on the job, then yeah, it's worht the cost.

    A jet does the work for 10,000 mean at the cost of 150,000. well worth it.

  • by MsGeek ( 162936 ) on Friday November 12, 2010 @11:44AM (#34207036) Homepage Journal

    The Japanese have been developing this for decades. They knew a demographic bomb was going to go off, and they knew that nurses were going to need some help in dealing with the elderly. So there are now production power suits geared towards assisting nurses in lifting patients.

    Also there is a very strong possibility this technology can be applied to assistive systems for paraplegics and quadriplegics. Imagine someone who was "sentenced to the Chair" for the rest of their lives being able to walk again. I mean, neither application is particularly sexy, not like super-soldiers and being able to do the last battle in Aliens for real, but I would say that this would be a boon for humanity far greater than any military application.

  • Re:Skynet (Score:3, Insightful)

    by delinear ( 991444 ) on Friday November 12, 2010 @12:14PM (#34207376)
    I thought exactly the same thing when I watched the first movie - the suit we're on the brink of being able to do already, with powered exoskeletons and personal jetpacks in the news all the time, but we can't even get close to any kind of advanced AI, and yet this he takes for granted. Even those robot fire extinguisher things seem to be a lot more intelligent than anything we've done so far - motion tracking with built in voice recognition that's sophisticated enough that he can just talk to them in as though they're people and they understand/follow his instructions, and even come to his rescue when he's dying, most AI researchers would kill for that level of technology!
  • by BobMcD ( 601576 ) on Friday November 12, 2010 @12:54PM (#34207910)

    Maybe punching through those boards the way he does in the video requires a 17-fold increase in strength, but you could just teach a guy proper board-breaking alignment and get the same result. Make him punch a hole in a telephone pole or a sidewalk or something.

    Bruce Lee was never a fan of board breaking for exactly this reason. Yes, if you line them up perfectly you can do this without the suit. However, as you can plainly see in the video, these were not lined up in this way, and were in fact compressed together in a vice. Maybe your suggestion is correct - they would have done well to stay away from the showmanship employed by 'martial artists' to break boards. But it seems to me that it wasn't necessarily intended to draw those comparisons.

  • by Sir_Lewk ( 967686 ) <sirlewk@gma i l . c om> on Friday November 12, 2010 @01:11PM (#34208126)

    Of all the things the military spends trillions of dollars on, you complain about science and engineering?

    You need to get your priorities straightened out.

  • by blair1q ( 305137 ) on Friday November 12, 2010 @01:42PM (#34208552) Journal


    And, when a soldier breaks, you get another soldier. When this thing breaks, you start filling out forms to request repair or replacement, and you get 1-2 more soldiers.

    Frankly, if this thing was worth a damn, it would be all over the civilian logistics industry by now.

    But it's not. So putting a soldier in it is just a distraction, and a way to get funding for something that's not as economical as some people think.

  • by Americano ( 920576 ) on Friday November 12, 2010 @02:19PM (#34209040)

    Frankly, if this thing was worth a damn, it would be all over the civilian logistics industry by now.

    Is this based on the premise that military research is never taking place on the cutting edge of technology, and never generates anything that turns out to have useful civilian applications? Because I could swear that's what you're suggesting.

    And if you are, please explain the Internet, the Hummer, and the host of emergency trauma treatment techniques, prosthetics, and other medical developments that have been developed as a result of defense spending?

  • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Friday November 12, 2010 @02:41PM (#34209288)
    The is a solution searching for a problem so that this defense contractor can get paid with US Taxpayer money

    Yup just like those scam artists who came up with so-called "helicopters" and "two way radios" and "satellite communications" and "automatic weapons" (those damn machine guns are so much more complicated than a musket ... typical defense contractor and arms dealer nonsense).

Doubt isn't the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith. - Paul Tillich, German theologian and historian