Tomorrow’s Soldier Today

Speaking of Phil, he also has an interesting piece in Slate, Tomorrow’s Soldier Today – Robot soldiers! Bird-sized airplanes! The Phraselator! At DARPATech, the military shows off its coolest gadgets. Most noble is this:

In addition to building better machines, DARPA also wants to build better soldiers. American infantrymen since the Revolutionary War have griped about all the gear they have to carry—sometimes more than 100 pounds. Enter DARPA, with the idea of building an exoskeleton capable of supporting this weight and providing a powered system of robotic legs to help the soldier carry the load. Researchers from University of California at Berkeley are showing off their Lower Extremity Exoskeleton, which straps onto a soldier’s legs and lets him (or her) carry a load of 85 pounds without feeling it. The Berkeley team has tested it and plans to have a fully functional prototype by December 2005.

Of course, that’ll just give the Army an excuse to make soldiers carry more gear. . . .

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Tom says:

    Here is a blog from a VC that attended the DARPATECH meetings. A very interesting perspective, and someone who understands the tech and defense community.

  2. John A. Kalb says:

    The biggest problem seems to be that the Army won’t invest in the new, lighter-weight materials.

    Most backpackers have an awful lot of stuff made out of silicon-impregnated nylon (silnylon for short), which is a whole lot lighter than the stuff the army uses. Or they could use spectra gridstop for anything that needs to be really strong. If they would put a little into taking materials off the shelf, they’d be in much better shape

  3. James Joyner says:

    Agreed. Indeed, the SF started doing that years ago for things like sleeping bags. Now, granted, recreational campers don’t use their gear for months at a time. But there has to be a way to use civilian technology faster.

  4. John A. Kalb says:


    I’m not talking about recreational campers. They mostly have no use for the advanced materials, and typically don’t buy it. I’m talking about backpackers, and specifically long-distance hikers.

    The difference between what I carried in my 2002 thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail and what my friend in the Army reserves has is just sad.

    So far as I know, SF only carries standard Polarguard. There are actually several generations of it, and anyway, nothing compares to 800 fill power goose down (though that really is expensive stuff). And they only carry first-generation Gore-Tex (actually, Gore-Tex isn’t even really necessary; there are lots of lighter, cheaper derivative versions like Marmot PreCip that are plenty durable and weigh a whole lot less while being more breathable).

    They can do much better.