In order to give the soldiers a helping hand, the US Army is working on the Third Arm Project to give them more than just a hand. The US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) is working on a prototype system called the Third Arm which evenly distributes the weight of heavy weapons, allowing soldiers to use them with a greater accuracy and less fatigue.
Dan Bauechle is the mechanical engineer that came up with the militarized version of the contraption that can take the weight of a weapon off a soldier’s arms. The Third Arm is actually a frame made of composite materials and is unpowered. It has the ability to distribute the weapon’s weight while allowing a free range of motion on the battlefield.
“We’ve actually tested it with the M249 and M240B machines guns,” says Baechle. “The M240B weighs 27 lb (12.2 kg), and we were able to show that you can take the weight of that weapon completely off of the soldiers’ arms.”
The Third Arm is not in its final form yet and is still an early prototype. The feedback from the users is being taken into consideration to make the necessary changes. It was worn by a sergeant with an M4 type weapon and he was able to aim the weapon with a greater accuracy and was successfully able to dive into a prone position from a sprint.
This project is a part of the army’s modernization program to improve the soldiers’ load-bearing, shooting, movement, protection, and sustainment in the field by decreasing fatigue. It is basically to enhance the performance of soldiers and the Third Arm project has already been subject to live-fire trials and the design is being improved to carry even heavier weapons.
“It falls in line with the direction that the Army wants to be heading in the future,” says Baechle. “We get comments from Soldiers who tell us different things about the way it feels on their body … about the way it redistributes the load. Some like it, some give us tips about the ways it could be improved, and we’re using that input to improve the device and improve the design so that it not only works well, but it also feels good.”
You can check it out in the video below: