first published on June 10, 2018 by Josh
Weaponized technology has been at the front of science and innovation since man-kind first started to develop tools. Many inventions and scientific breakthroughs have come out of the defense space, and the effort to increase the lethality of Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, and Airmen is a continuous operation at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory. As new innovations and technologies are born and fielded, the Soldier’s load has continued to increase since the first World War. While all of the equipment produced is “lightweight,” 80 pounds of “lightweight” equipment is still not something that is easy for the average Soldier to carry. That reason alone is one of the reasons that the third arm project is being worked on today.
Right now, a prototype third arm is being tested with soldiers by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, in Maryland. The four pound arm attaches to the back of the Soldier, and operates as tool to alleviate the weight of the weapon system on the Soldier’s arms by redistributing the weight elsewhere on the Soldier. Not a lot of technical information is readily available about the tool, as it is still in it’s earliest prototyping stages, and has only been minimally tested in live fire situations. That said however, the project has gained the attention of many higher echelons of command in the U.S. Army as the project falls directly in line with the direction the Army wishes to take warfare in the future.
“It can help stabilize the weapon and take the load off of their arms. It’s made from composite materials to make it as light as possible, but also to ensure the range of motion that Soldiers need. We’ve actually tested it with the M249 and M240B machines guns. The M240B weighs 27 pounds, and we were able to show that you can take the weight of that weapon completely off of the Soldiers’ arms.Right now it’s a prototype device, and it’s a fairly early stage prototype device. It’s been getting a lot of interest higher up in the Army, but also online with some of the stories that have come out. We’re using some of the interest to help motivate further development of the device.” Mechanical engineer Dan Baechle said in an interview with a Department of Defense Public Affairs officer.
Below this is the first video released showing a soldier demonstrating how the third arm system works. Baechle has also said that they are developing the system with the direct support of experienced Soldiers, who have been giving them constant feedback and direction on ways that the system needs to be improved as the prototyping process continues. In 2017 a pilot study of active-duty troops using Third Arm in live-fire trials was conducted, and the evidence showed that the Soldier’s marksmanship was significantly better, and arm fatigue as well as muscle activation was decreased for some Soldiers, allowing them to do more for a longer period of time while using the third arm device.