Lockheed Martin continues to be a leader in developing the path toward a full-fledged super-soldier military comprised of Iron Man-type enhancements.
The FORTIS exoskeleton first appeared to the public several years ago and is currently undergoing a new round of upgrades according to a recent press release. The upgraded system was built “Using licensed DermoskeletonTMbionic augmentation technology, the FORTIS Knee Stress Release Device (K-SRD)TM is a computer-controlled exoskeleton that counteracts overstress on the lower back and legs and increases mobility and load-carrying capability. It boosts leg capacity for physically demanding tasks that require repetitive or continuous kneeling or squatting, or lifting, dragging, carrying or climbing with heavy loads.”
Naturally, this wouldn’t be limited to merely hefting things around, as increased strength and endurance could be applied to all areas of human fighting.
Here is a rather sappy video promo from Lockheed Martin which does, however, serve to illustrate the dual-use nature of this type of technology. It supposedly began as an application for industrial workers, and also offers potential benefits for the disabled. I would suppose the reverse is true and this actually began as military research that trickled down to these other applications.
Truth is, this is merely one small facet of a much greater push to merge man and machine on the battlefield. Other initiatives that we’ve covered include more wide-reaching augmentation:
iOptik – could enhance a soldier’s biology by offering simultaneous fields of vision, while enabling full data integration.
4MM Jet Pack – developed by DARPA and Arizona State University to offer even the nonathletic a 4-minute mile performance.
“Lucy” technology – This link leads to a Department of Defense video showing a skull cap outfitted with 22 electrodes that could be stimulated with ultrasound to give soldiers super-sniper abilities for a day.
T.A.L.O.S. – the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit incorporates biometrics, advanced body armor that will change a liquid to bullet-proof solid skin, an exoskeleton for improved strength and speed, as well as the latest in augmented reality computing. According to MIT, all that’s needed is a power source.
The trend bears watching, as these enhancements are introduced without much debate despite previous research that has called into question the ethics and policy dangers of such augmentation.
In 2013 a 108-page report entitled “Enhanced Warfighters: Risk, Ethics and Policy” was issued by The Greenwall Foundation, supported by California Polytechnic State University and Case Western Reserve University. Although it clearly fell on deaf ears, the researchers outlined the multi-front, multi-country mission to create “mutant powers” in war. To say that their conclusions were cautionary is an understatement. Perhaps now is the time to revisit that document and take it much more seriously as these military developments continue unhindered.