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Robot Armor Cage Match in the Works

by christian on September 30, 2010

Anyone who can remember Popular Mechanics magazines as far back as the 1950s can remember illustrated stories on the coming super-suits — those metal exoskeletons that would let humans lift incredible amounts of weight and run as fast as a speeding bullet. The concept got a boost in 1986 when Sigourney Weaver donned an oversized one in a movie to fight an alien.

But at long last they may finally be a reality.

One year after unveiling its Human Universal Load Carrier, or HULC, Lockheed Martin now has a $1.1 million Army contract to test out its robotic suit, and it had its latest version – 4th generation – on display this week at Modern Day Marine at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. The suit permits a wearer to carry up to 150 pounds as if it were a fraction of the weight.

The newest version weighs about 60 pounds — some 10 pounds lighter than last year’s model — and also affords better mobility than the one unveiled in 2009, Keith Maxwell, a Lockheed Martin business development manager who was wearing the muscle suit at Quantico on Sept. 29 tells Military​.com. The Marine Corps probably will start testing the suit for itself sometime next Spring, says Maxwell.

But HULC may be in for some competition from “Iron Man,” the name some media have given to the XOS-2, a Raytheon product that’s muscling in on the exoskeleton business.

Where HULC is sleek and wears right up close to the body, the XOS-2 is bulkier, its metallic arms, legs and joints extending well outside the body. In a Raytheon video, a wearer is shown lifting 200 pounds of weights with no effort.

But while Raytheon showed a number of products at its exhibit space at Quantico this week the XOS-2 was not among them. But it will be at the National Harbor outside DC next month for the Association of the US Army Exposition, said one Raytheon rep. According to a map of the expo, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin will not be far away from each other.

So will there be a HULC versus Iron Man smack down in Washington?

That would be fight worth paying to see. Even without Sigourney Weaver.

– Bryant Jordan

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