Defense Media Network

Army Seeks New Torso-borne Load Carrying Concepts

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As part of its never-ending quest to lighten the physical burdens on America’s warfighters, the U.S. Army’s Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) is exploring the possibilities of new technology designs that would allow the redistribution of combat loads on the human body.

As part of that exploration, NSRDEC has recently issued a “sources sought” notice to identify potential designs and devices that could “aid in a scientific inquiry to vary and manipulate redistribution of soldier torso-borne loads (i.e. the body armor and attached equipment) which are primarily borne by the shoulders to other surface areas on the torso.”

“NSRDEC is interested in systematically manipulating the distribution of torso-borne loads, which are typically borne by the shoulder and upper back,” it reads. “We are also interested in determining an optimal distribution of the load on the torso that leads to improved performance and mobility and an increase in comfort. To do so, we need to obtain a device that would allow us to redistribute the torso-borne loads (ranging from 30 lbs to 120 lbs), which currently are primarily borne by the shoulders to other surface areas on the torso (i.e. shoulder, pelvis, chest, mid back).”

NSRDEC representatives identify a preference for technologies that can “be easily placed under or integrated within the military equipment (i.e. body armor, pack, and attached equipment),” adding, “Adjustability of the device to accommodate various size individuals is also preferred.”

“Ideally, the device will also have the ability to vary the degree of re-distribution of the load,” the announcement explains. “This device must be comfortable enough to be worn for periods lasting up to 3 hours. Our end goal is to determine if there is an optimal distribution of the load on the torso that results in an increase in performance and comfort.”

“Sources are only sought for the available technology that would allow NSRDEC to redistribute the torso-borne equipment worn from the primary location, shoulders, to other areas on the torso,” it states. “NSRDEC will then utilize the device within an internal human use approved protocol(s) to conduct research with volunteers.”

Other recommended parameters for any new technology include: safety to human volunteers; ease and comfort of placing between upper body of human and equipment being worn; ability to vary the degree of redistribution; ability to redistribute the load to multiple areas on the torso; and no restriction to mobility of the upper body during the performance of normal soldier tasks.

Interested firms and manufacturers are encouraged to respond by Feb. 1, 2013.

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...