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U.S. Army studies 'third arm' device for soldiers

The Army Research Laboratory is researching the idea of soldiers using a body-worn weapons mount, freeing their hands and arms up for other tasks.

By Richard Tomkins
U.S. Army studies 'third arm' device for soldiers
An M4 is fired using a prototype body-mount device being tested by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory. Photo courtesy of the Amy Research Laboratory

March 27 (UPI) -- The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is studying the use of a body-worn weapons mount for soldiers to carry and fire their weapons.

The prototype mount is made of composite materials, weighs less than four pounds and is attached to a soldier's protective vest.

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"We're looking at a new way for the soldier to interface with the weapon," Zac Wingard, a mechanical engineer for the lab's Weapons and Materials Research Directorate, told the Army News Service. "It is not a product; it is simply a way to study how far we can push the ballistic performance of future weapons without increasing soldier burden."

Some soldiers are weighed down by combat loads that weigh more than 110 pounds, Wingard said. Those heavy loads may worsen as high energy weapons, which could be larger with heavier ammunition, are developed for future warfare.

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The laboratory is conducting a pilot program with a few soldiers using an M4 carbine on a firing range at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. As part of the pilot, soldiers wear electromyography sensors on their arms and upper body to measure muscle activity to determine if there's a change in fatigue when shooting with the device.

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Researchers also score the soldiers' shots to see if there's an improvement in marksmanship.

The M4 is the only weapon currently being tested with the device but there are plans to use other weapons, such as the M249 squad automatic weapon or M240B machine gun.

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According to the report, the ARL also plans to examine the device's potential applications for various fighting techniques, like shoot-on-the-move, close-quarters combat, or even shooting around corners with augmented reality displays.

"Right now we're just doing proof of concept, so we're not diving into the dirt with our only prototype," he said. "But that's something we would want to make sure we can do, because soldiers will be doing that," said Dan Baechle, a mechanical engineer at ARL.

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