- The Washington Times - Friday, June 1, 2018

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory has released footage of a new “third arm” prototype for troops that shows the usefulness of exoskeletons on the battlefield.

Infantrymen have been required to “shoot, move and communicate” while carrying heavy weapons throughout history, but future conflicts are primed to lessen the load with exoskeletons. A glimpse into the future was provided this week with a video uploaded to ARL’s YouTube channel.

“It’s really falling into line with some of the new priorities that are coming from higher up in the Army now with the modernization effort,” ARL engineer Dan Baechle said Tuesday. “I think exoskeletons are explicitly mentioned in some of the priority documents from the Army. In the future, I hope that third arm, or what we learn from third arm, will lead to a fielded device that improves outcomes from the dismounted soldier. It improves lethality, it improves survivability.”

ARL’s video includes footage of testing from Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. Troops trained with 22-pound M249 and 25-pound M240B machine guns attached to the device.

The military website Task and Purpose aptly noted that third arm is well on its way to turning science fiction into reality.

“We’ve been obsessively tracking the Army’s work on the ‘third arm’ exoskeleton due to its delightful resemblance to the mechanical harness for the M56A2 Smart Gun from Aliens, and lo, our patience has paid off,” the website reported Friday. “Apparently, the third arm is getting enough attention from senior DoD officials that it may head downrange sooner than expected.”

• Douglas Ernst can be reached at dernst@washingtontimes.com.

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