DARPA's Warrior Web augments carrying capacity and endurance


May 23, 2013

DARPA's Warrior Web program aims to build a suit that makes life easier for soldiers in the field

DARPA's Warrior Web program aims to build a suit that makes life easier for soldiers in the field

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Unless you've been there yourself, it's hard to imagine being a soldier in the field, trekking through rugged terrain while carrying gear weighing 100 lbs (45.35 kg) and beyond. There has a been a lot of research into exoskeletons over the years to alleviate these heavy loads, but strapping a person into a robotic outfit just isn't practical in a combat zone yet. Instead, DARPA's Warrior Web program aims to build a lightweight suit that improves a soldier's endurance and overall effectiveness, while preventing injuries.

The basic goal of the Warrior Web program is to produce a soft, flexible suit that can be worn underneath clothes to redistribute the wearer's weight without any added discomfort. Ideally, the final suit would specifically accommodate the soft tissues connected to the skeletal system as well as ankle, knee, and hip joints to reduce the chance of injury. The developers would also like the suit to augment the wearer's muscle movements and detect any injuries, while only requiring 100W of electric power or less from a small battery.

The project seems similar to Harvard's "smart suit," which was also funded by DARPA, but the Warrior Web adds more electronics and focuses on carrying abilities. Though the program is mainly geared towards improving soldiers' effectiveness in combat, DARPA is also exploring how the suit could be used to help locate and heal certain injuries.

Researchers are currently working on identifying which features would be absolutely required for the Warrior Web to function correctly, and then producing them. Their goal is to provide five essential components to the user: core injury mitigation technologies, comprehensive analytical representations, regenerative actuation, adaptive sensing and control, and a suit human-to-wearer interface.

Over the past five months, the US Army Research Laboratory Human Research and Engineering Directorate (ARL HRED) has been evaluating a number of prototypes to determine which approaches would work best to meet the program's goals. Using a motion capture system and numerous sensors, the research team has been studying how various devices affect a soldier's gait, balance, oxygen consumption, and muscle activity, among other traits. Later this year, the group plans to integrate the selected technologies into a wearable suit and begin testing its capabilities under realistic conditions.

The brief video below shows how a prototype Warrior Web is tested while a soldier carries a 61-lb (27.67-kg) load.

Source: DARPA

About the Author
Jonathan Fincher Jonathan grew up in Norway, China, and Trinidad before graduating film school and becoming an online writer covering green technology, history and design, as well as contributing to video game news sites like Filefront and 1Up. He currently resides in Texas, where his passions include video games, comics, and boring people who don't want to talk about either of those things. All articles by Jonathan Fincher

I like the concept of ankle, knee and hip support.

The only drawback to any supportive system is how well it allows the wearer's skin to breathe.

Chassis contact with skin would also eventually lead to chafing injuries, so you want a system that does not slide while walking.

The focus should shift to energy recovery by incorporating materials that take some of the weight and spring back to reduce the fatigue of walking long distances.

I would be in favor of a system that monitors your level of muscle strain then dynamically tightens or loosens different pack straps to shift the focus of the load. ie - take it off your lower back and put it further up, or shift it to the front.

Also why has a 'Dune' suit not been considered. Distribute 10 L of water over a full body camelback. Can use for drinking, cooling, etc

Said camelback can also provide adjustable water cushions to the shoulders and back so there is a constant cushion of water separating the wearer from their load. All with minimal electronics (only uses power when you change suit shape, requires a couple of micro pumps).


It's the beginning of the hazard suit from the Half-Life Series!

Sudo Bash

Seems like a good idea. I do hope it works. Anything to be able to help the soldier, but will it cause any slow down while in a combat situation?

Jerry Odom

Oh look, something we will never ever have.

I've been reading about this high-technology stuff that will revolutionize the common soldier and have seen none of it. I hate to say it, but some of us still use M-16's from 20-30 years ago. We need replacement parts for our Humvees and larger trucks. We need better pay. We need better body armor, better camouflage. When we do land navigation, it's more often that we use our smart-phones to confirm our points than the bulky and unreliable military answer.

These things look cool, but we need the right tools now, not ten years from now.

Scott Drapeau

All this fancy stuff is fine. It is DARPA after all and not Army requisitions dept, but the bottom line still is cost. Gear needs to be cheap to build so it can be cost effective and realistic for budget approval. Sending our troops out there with second rate gear seems a biblical sin on some level but that is the shine of a grunt off his/her pay grade. Unfortunately, a battle needs be affordable to wage it and a grunt is just not a high cost effective spend of money compared to intelligence systems and autonomous warfare systems. So, in my opinion, this is a bunch of morale BS and not much more. Until they start being real and work with consumer goods in creative ways to bring tech that is already amortized in terms of research and already tested in a slightly less bloody battle field of consumer athletics, this man's army is just blowing smoke up your grunt bung.


...or, this is just research.


Cooool! Sounds like a fabulous marriage of man and machine. Super soldiers are upon us people! I can't wait to see this come to completion. And if this would be commercially available, I think I'll get one. lol

Jessica Johnson
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