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.
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.
While injury mitigation is a primary goal, a Warrior Web suit system is not intended to interfere with current warfighter “soldier systems,” such as external body armor, rather it aims to augment them to improve warfighter effectiveness.
The Warrior Web program will consist of two separate but related program tasks. Task A, called Warrior Web Alpha, seeks to develop a mix of core technologies critical to the realization of a Warrior Web capability. The Warrior Web Alpha effort examines five key Technology Areas: core injury mitigation technologies; comprehensive analytical representations; regenerative actuation; adaptive sensing and control; and suit human-to-wearer interface.
Part way through the Warrior Web program, Warrior Web Bravo, or Task B, is expected to develop an integrated suit capability by leveraging the technology developed by Task A efforts and incorporating the most appropriate breakthroughs into a suit that shows the best performance. The final suit is expected to be tested in appropriate mission profiles under realistic loads to evaluate performance.
LTC Joseph K. Hitt, USA, Ph.D.email@example.com