Our military may very well receive an augmentation straight out of science fiction with a mechanical third arm for soldiers.
Move over, Iron Man. Real heroes are already being armed with the sort of exoskeletal tech that could bring the big screen to the battlefield. The goal? Stronger, faster, better soldiers waging the wars of the future with superhuman endurance and abilities.
And while projects like Special Operations Command (SOCOM)’s Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) are making headlines, the Army Research Laboratory has been quietly toiling away at not merely enhancing the bodies of their soldiers, but quite literally expanding their reach.
Plainly dubbed “The Third Arm,” this additional appendage would serve a host of functions both in and out of combat. It would not be firing weapons itself — no three-guns showdowns just yet — but it could provide a means for soldiers to carry gear without the arm fatigue that can too often prove fatal in the heat of combat.
By transferring weight from the soldier’s arms to his torso with the use of this additional limb, our freedom fighters will, in theory, be able to greatly reduce the incidence and severity of combat fatigue that results in decreased accuracy and endurance at crucial life-and-death moments.
Increasing efficiency, comfort, and weapon steadiness could translate into fewer casualties and more effective missions. But future versions of the same tech might even allow soldiers to tote around weapons that would normally be too unwieldy to support high-mobility engagements. The 82-pound M2 .50 caliber machine gun is a brutally effective weapon against even attack helicopters, but it isn’t exactly something you can run around with. The aid in movement and positioning offered by a mechanical arm could bring weapons like this to bear in a wider range of scenarios, meaning our troops would be better prepared for more situations.
And even as we move into an age where mankind fights its wars from behind distant computer screens via mechanized warriors, keeping our brave men and women safe in the meantime is good news for all Americans.