Overloaded Soldier: Why U.S. Infantry Now Carry More Weight Than Ever

Overloaded Soldier: In this age of computerized conflict, the dominance of cyber warfare, laser weapons, and drone piloting halfway around the world, it may be easy to overlook the importance of a soldier’s own power.

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Despite the relentless march of technology – and in some ways, because of it – the soldiers involved in the march are carrying more weight on their backs than ever before until they go back to the days of swords and weapons.

what happened? Over the past decade, hyped technologies such as robotic mules and wearable exoskeletons have promised to free soldiers from carrying so much. Instead, the demands of the modern battlefield only increased the burden.

This is a problem that technology alone cannot solve.

A Heavy History

Overloading pedestrians are not a new problem.

In 107 BC, Roman General Gaius Marius decided that his supply tail was slowing down his army, so he ordered the soldiers to take all their supplies with them. The load consisted of a fortnight’s ration, a saw, an ax basket, a shovel, water skins, a sickle, and a pickaxe, as well as weapons, armor, and a shield. These armies will march 20 miles a day with 80 pounds. Gear, nicknamed “Marius’ Mules.”

Fast forward to a thousand years or more in the Middle Ages. His entire field armor suit weighed about 60 pounds. The French knight, Jean de Mingeri, for example, could climb up and down the stairs using only his hands in full armor.

Heavy weapons disappeared as the age of firearms began. But soon, the heavy weight of ammunition caused a curse on soldiers. In the American Civil War, a typical Union soldier could weigh a total of 60 pounds. Luggage, including a ten-pound musket. By WWII, a U.S. soldier could weigh 75 pounds, which is why so many wounded soldiers drowned during a day landing in 1944.

The Armed Forces have always known that this is a problem. Since 1945, the military has conducted at least five major surveys of troop loads. They all agreed that the soldiers were overburdened and were looking for ways to lose weight. And all this failed because the burden for the modern soldier has not only increased but more than doubled.

In 2016, the Marine Corps Times reported a new standard for strength and endurance. An average Marine Corps infantry officer should be able to physically lift 152 pounds. For nine miles. This burden may seem overwhelming, but even official documents describe lifting up to 100 pounds. As standard. In the ensuing debate over whether this was realistic, a seafarer described lifting more than 200 pounds. During the mission in Afghanistan

Weight loss will be followed by fatigue and constant tiredness. The standard interceptor body armor plus helmet weighs more than 20 pounds and increases overall if additional elements are added to protect the neck, arms, back, and shoulders. Jack Watling of the UK’s defense thinks tank RUSI says “the lesson of operations in the Middle East has been that body armor saves lives, so the premise is to keep it going.” Watling was embedded in Iraq and has direct experience operating in several other theaters.

An M4 carbine and ammunition add another 15 pounds. or so. This was followed by a grenade, food and water, a poncho, and liner, as well as personal items such as a flashlight, night vision gear, and a medical kit. These personal belongings can easily carry up to 70 pounds.

“The lesson of operations in the Middle East has been that body armor saves lives, so the premise is to put it all together.”

We haven’t even mentioned squad and platoon weapons, and let’s face it: someone has to carry ammunition. A single 60 mm mortar round weighs four pounds, as does a rocket for an AT-4 launcher. A belt of ammunition for the squadron’s M249 machine gun weighs six pounds, and the soldiers carry as much as they can. “There’s a direct link between how much you can fire and who wins,” Watling said. “The need for ammunition is not going to decrease.”

And then there’s the disadvantage of using every technology: batteries. “Almost everything today requires batteries for a soldier. The platoon’s AN / PRC-117 radio batteries weigh four pounds each,” notes James King in an article for the Modern War Institute. One, and the radio burns fast through them. King estimates that the average soldier moves with 20-pound batteries.

Overloaded Soldier: Why U.S. Infantry Now Carry More Weight Than Ever

Lightening the Load

Howe & Howe to RS2-H1.
The problem of its weight seems to be increasing, the army is trying to find a light solution. The Pentagon already makes everything from Kevlar, carbon fiber, and other lightweight materials, though the trend has become a big joke: a soldier weighs 100 pounds. The lightest cut can be imagined.

In the past, of course, armies used the less technical solution of pack animals to move their gear. These days, tech companies are imagining robots to be modern military mules. Although square robots like the Big Dog from Boston Dynamics are no longer in the race (it turned out to be a bit noisy), there are several alternatives to wheels.

The US Army’s Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transportation Program is currently testing a variety of small autonomous refueling vehicles, including the “Punisher” from Howe & Howe. The Marine Corps issued a request for information on technologies to carry supplies to the front line, and in November the British Army’s autonomous combat exercise included a “re-delivery of the last mile” by small unmanned vehicles, including tracks. TITAN and wheeled Viking.

Such robots can either follow a leader on their own or plan their route across the country using GPS waypoints. An important requirement is that no soldier be taken off the front line to handle the robots.

“If you’re using this vehicle as a mobile weapon, it’s a big target – if it’s hit, you lose all your ammunition and kits.”

But the main purpose of these robotic mules is not to lift the weight of their human counterparts, but instead to reduce casualties by eliminating the need to expose soldiers while supplying. In fact, given a robot assistant, many commanders will carry even more weight, such as a .50-caliber machine gun.

There is another problem: placing all your ammunition on a large, noisy machine that cannot be covered has its own inherited dangers. “If you’re using this vehicle as a mobile weapon, it’s a huge target – if it’s attacked you lose all your ammunition and kits,” says Watling. “It’s a question of risk-sharing.”

The second way is to increase the soldier’s personal carrying capacity. Lockheed Martin’s ONYX is a powerful, low-body exoskeleton. Instead of being a hard shell, it is a series of straps and joints that take the load off the wearer. The U.S. military is testing ONYX, along with Delphi’s Easy ExoBoot, which provides power assistance to the ankles.

Once again, increasing the carrying capacity is an invitation to increase the load. An exoskeleton is a feast to add more protection, heavier armor, and possibly a more powerful weapon.

Carry Less, Risk More

So if adding the ability to lift more weight won’t work, then maybe the answer is the other side of the equation – just lifting less weight. A British Army study, called Project Drink, found that much of what was taken was “just in case” and that the amount of ammunition carried by the troops was excessive. Is.

Commanders and soldiers plan the worst and expect the supply system to fail, which it rarely does. The Project Drink study cites the Battle of Long Ten in Vietnam, where Australian troops fought for more than two hours with only three 20-round magazines without running out of ammunition.

But even this approach may seem risky. Faced with uncertainty, commanders set the least risky approach to making everything possible.

“When needs are uncertain, the safest condition is to give them everything,” Watling said.

Compared to WWII, modern armies are much more at risk. Excessive loads can cause back strain and knee problems, but providing more protection and firepower to soldiers – and communications and sensors with all these batteries – is a high priority. Light burdens are unlikely until we begin to accept the risk of more casualties, and in the modern age of 24-hour news, this does not seem to be the case.


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