Elite Soldiers Testing Lockheed Martin ONYX Exoskeleton

Elite soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division, a light infantry division in the United States Army based at Fort Drum, New York, will be the first to test exoskeleton technologies from Lockheed Martin that reduces the metabolic cost of transport to improve endurance and reduce fatigue on the modern battlefield.

Lockheed Martin ONYX exoskeleton screen grab via YouTube. (Source Lockheed Martin)

The U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC), a developer and tester of new material systems for U.S. Army soldiers, including the Future Force Warrior System, partnered with the 10th Mountain Division in February to prepare the transfer of the exoskeleton technology to the Army.

According to the Army Times, NSRDEC has spearheaded the movement in transferring exoskeleton technologies to the Army. One of the more advanced exoskeleton technologies that will soon be fielded is designed and manufactured by Lockheed Martin.

Army Times spoke with Lockheed officials about the next-generation powered lower-body exoskeleton, ONYX, which has demonstrated its overall capacity to enhance mobility and dramatically reduce fatigue of its users during previous pilot tests.

“Despite the variation in cost of transport difference between participants, the knee-exoskeleton consistently decreased the cost of transport of walking up an incline with a load,” said a report from the University of Michigan in a 2017 evaluation of ONYX.

Lockheed officials said the ONYX device would complete three phases of testing with the Army, starting as early as Fall 2018.

ONYX™ boosts leg capacity for physically demanding tasks such as lifting or dragging heavy loads, walking with load, or walking up or down hills. (Source: Lockheed Martin) 

“The first phase will include a six-month development effort in which researchers work on the quality of life portions of making the knee- and hip-focused device fit comfortably and correctly to the soldier’s body,” said Keith Maxwell, senior program engineer of Lockheed Martin’s exoskeleton technologies.

The second phase of the program will start in 1Q19 to upgrade “faster, quieter actuators to the device,” said Army Times. Then the NSRDEC will transition into the third phase in late 2019 for ruggedized operational tests. Army officials told the Army Times that the exoskeleton could be fielded in a combat zone as early as 2021.

ONYX is embedded with sensors that report speed, direction, and angle of movement to a micro-computer attached to the user’s hip. Based on the compilation of data in real-time, the machine works with the human using electromechanical actuators at the knees, to assist knee flexion and extension with limited latency to complete a task.

Among other benefits, ONYX enforces orthopedic alignment to help evenly distribute weight and avoid skeletal overstress and pressure injuries. (Source: Lockheed) 

In other words, ONYX will enable the solider to go the extra mile while carrying mission-essential equipment by boosting leg capacity. Lockheed Martin said the solider can now carry heavier weapons, increase the ability to cross rugged terrain and complete combat missions without overstressing the body.

“Despite the variation in cost of transport difference between participants, the knee-exoskeleton consistently decreased the cost of transport of walking up an incline with a load,” said Lockheed Martin in a statement.

It seems as the Army is just that much closer in turning its soldiers into cybernetic organisms, which will eventually lead to Skynet robots.

Video: Lockheed Martin ONYX exoskeleton


philipat Oh regional Indian Thu, 06/07/2018 - 01:58 Permalink

What are the longer-term impacts of the additional stresses from such gear on the human body, especially the joints and skeleton? Not that they give a shit, all they need to do after the damage is done is precisely what they do now; provide terrible VA medical care with an emphasis on over-prescribing patent Big Pharma drugs (Big Pharma is in on the racket) and "Thanking them for their service"? Which doesn't cost anything..

In reply to by Oh regional Indian

glenlloyd pods Thu, 06/07/2018 - 08:02 Permalink

I have to say that this could really have applications in the jumbo industry and elder care for patients (in category 1) who are really just too obese to lift themselves and 2) where old age have rendered legs too weak to do much.

I can see granny in NYC chasing down purse snatchers with these things....

And yes, this is exactly how you get the Borg..

In reply to by pods

RightlyIndignent Oh regional Indian Thu, 06/07/2018 - 09:18 Permalink

It's not what you guys think it is . . . . this isn't to help the soldiers . . . it is to help Lockheed train their AI how walk over a huge variety of terrain.  These guys are collecting data, not easing their load.  In the not too distant future, when quadruped and biped robots go bounding through the forest up and down hill, they will have these guys to thank. . . . but will Skynet be thankful?

In reply to by Oh regional Indian

glenlloyd GreatUncle Thu, 06/07/2018 - 08:09 Permalink

Exactly. The whole premise of this device is that there wont be any interruption of power, which is the first thing the enemy will now take out.

This new tech will be rendered useless the minute the EMP goes off, it'll be a pile of stuff on the ground if you can manage to get yourself out.

If you want to move faster and want to pull more you get stronger. These types of devices just 1) allow weaker to compete with stronger and 2) will in the end create weakness in those who use them.

But again that's only if the device isn't rendered useless in the first 5 min of the ground war by the EMP.

In reply to by GreatUncle

ed31337 strannick Thu, 06/07/2018 - 02:13 Permalink

Ripping the soldier's leg off is highly unlikely in my opinion.

Tesla is a high speed moving object that has complete and utter control over your entire body. It's fast enough and bulky enough to kill you flat dead when the AI goes wrong.

A little exoskeleton booster kit like this isn't going to be moving fast enough nor have enough brute force torque to do any damage to the soldier even if the AI goes berserk. Sure, you could hamper his ability to move, but if the kit was designed right, the kit would never be strong enough to completely overpower the soldier's own ability to move as he desires. The goal of the kit is to simply give the soldier a slight extra boost in his abilities (when everything is working right), not completely take over the entire work of the soldier.

In reply to by strannick

Vilfredo Pareto ACP Thu, 06/07/2018 - 06:52 Permalink

Lol.   No, but it is the part where a partisan force cannot risk engagement  in a set piece battle in a non urban area and probably can't do so in an urban area either, provided the conventional force is fully resourced without compromise.


Assymetric war is the future.  Even that will be incredibly difficult against a fully modernized force.  These scenarios are interesting to me to game out.

In reply to by ACP

D503 Dolar in a vortex Thu, 06/07/2018 - 17:53 Permalink

And you imagine that hastily strapped on pair of anchors are going to stay in place to properly articulate with the bend of the joint? 

Without a full exoskeleton that allows for major tolerances on the user this is a waste of time.

Worse still is the weight of the battery, and the unit, when it powers down.

I guess just leave it in the field with the casings.

In reply to by Dolar in a vortex