Ok, the full size mech idea seems to be as impossible as it is unecessary as of now. So lets outline a technology that (probably) reasonably could be
perfected within 10 years from now.
We have a powered exoskeleton that applies enough power to take the burden of equipment carrying from the operator. It doesnt have to give him/her
super-strength above that, just enough so that he could easily wrestle an enemy down or handle light obstacles (e.g. a door, a large crate) without
problems. This suit would also not need as excessive a power supply as a high-strength suit would need. Best guess at the moment would be a fuel cell
that can provide about 6 continuous hours of medium activity without refill. Main obstacle would be to create a suit that does not inhibit movement
speed significantly, or even increase it if possible.
The suit should be no more larger than 115% of a normal soldier carrying full equipment, because its main purpose would be close quarter / against
infantry assault. It is not meant to be a man-size MBT. Combined with the operators weigh it shouldnt be heavier than a piano, so it wont be in danger
of cracking house floors. It needs armour that can withstand grenade shrapnel at 5+ m and common highpower bullets like 7.62mm NATO AP in the vital
areas, maybe less elsewhere. The armour should consist of easily detachable panels for ease of access to underlying parts and quick repair of damaged
panels in the field.
The operator would wear a full covering sensoric suit, possibly with built-in capillar "air-conditioning" for use in hot/cold environments and
genmerally to cool the body of the operator. The sensors in the suit would be used a. for detection of penetration and health monitoring; b. for the
above mentioned bio-manipulative main suit control. Both technologies are existent, the cooling suit and health/penetration monitoring in space suits,
and the bio-manipulation has been in development for a long time now for controlling robots and virtual reality applications ("VR gloves").
Sensoric feedback to the operator would consist of either a visor section in the helmet or a fully artificial environmental depiction via
high-resolution displays in the helmet. At least it should have night vision with a quality similar or above the usual infantry helmet mounted NVGs,
maybe some sort of downscaled FLIR could be possible, not sure about that. But since the reliable viewing distance would not have to exceed 2-3 kms, I
dont think its impossible. And by marking all suits with easily recognizable IR signatures that would make threat identification even easier. With
fully artificial environmental depiction as described above it could even be possible to process image information, like automatically indicating
origins of muzzle flashes, loud noises or eye protection of very bright light sources like flashbangs and own and enemy muzzle flashs. Integrated
zooming would also be possible that way.
Under all conditions a limited HUD technology would be implemented with a compass and vital suit integrity details, possibly a positional indicator of
squadmates and designated threats. A problem could be hearing, but this could somewhat be solved via a sound processor and sophisticated surround
sound speakers, or even retractable ear covers (regrettably somewhat compromising armour protection). Main suit functions could be arrived by an
optical interface with eye tracking and voice commands, less vital functions could be integrated into a wrist interface.
Armament would consist of 2 standard weapons, built into the arm covers and ready-to-fire at any time: a taser of at least 10m effective range, and a
small low-caliber, low-recoil firearm with magazine feeding parallel to the forearm, maybe in the lines of a FN P90 or, more sophisticated, a caseless
carbine like a small HK G11. These would be instantly fird via pointing the respective forearms in the right direction and doing an unusual finger
gesture. One could think of the "heavy-metal-devil-horns" gesture to trigger the shooting (hey, whatever works for Spiderman cant be bad for us,
Main armament would be interchangeable, but in an assault situation most probably be a select-fire MG with either high rate of fire like a MG34 (1200
RPM) or a down-scaled gatling gun with no more than 3 barrels (with comparable ROF, multiple barrels only to prevent overheating - we want to defeat
the enemy, not bring the house down on him
). Vital would be the possibility to acurrately fire single shots at 500+ m. The weapons would either
have grips customized to fit the suit´s hands, or have a special connector to the hip with grip and fire controls on top of the weapon; maybe
comparable to current handycam gear. Though the mobility in that case would be restricted, it would be easier to stabilize the full-auto firing.
In any case all the weapons would have laser illuminators along their barrel axis, and the HUD would project a crosshair into the visor/display that
accurately shows the point of aiming. With attached small cameras whose pictures would also be projected in the sight of the operator full
corner-firing and surveillance abilities would be possible. All possible weapons would have a rugged datalink built into the grip or hip connector
that would accurately transmit ammuntion capacity and weapon temperature to the HUD. Also, every time a shot is fired an automatic impulse would be
sent to the motors which would induce automatic counter-force against the recoil. Ammunition feed to the main armament would be via a flexible
cartridge channel from the backpack as used ATM with Gatling guns on helicopters (or seen on Jesse Ventura in "Predator"... I know, I know, horrid
example...) . Magazines for the taser and forearm built-in gun would be carried with magnetic clamps on the thighs, along with grenades or other
Phew, that was a lot to write, but fun to think of the IMO realistic possibilities. Again, this would not create the uber-soldier, immortal and deadly
under all conditions, but I think it would boost the effectiveness of specialized infantry or even LE officers in an assault situation. In any case
the technology would not be suited for prolonged firefights because of the power problem. But hey, thats what this is all about; to prevent hour-long
engagements from fixed positions.
Most of the technologies I described here are either already available or under heavy research right now AFAIK. But lets not forget that all this
would only be possible if a working and reliable exoskeleton and power supply technique would be perfected. Feel free to add comments or point out
mistakes of mine.
[edit on 30/9/2005 by Lonestar24]