Marines putting the Legged Squad Support System through its paces at Fort Devens, Massachusetts earlier this month. The system, or LS3, designed to reduce the load Marines carry in combat, can reach speeds of 6 mph and carry up to 400 pounds. I’m sure it’s ridiculously expensive, and it’s clearly got a ways to go, but you can’t just snap your fingers and be in the future. You’ve gotta get there somehow. . .

Police in Sanford, Florida have backed off a plan to ban the carry of personal weapons by members of the neighborhood watch. While the police chief refused to give any specific reasons for the reversal, it’s likely that someone pointed out to him that the explicit ban on carrying firearms would likely run the city afoul of state firearms law preemption. The carry of weapons will still be discouraged, but it won’t carry the implied “comply or don’t participate” message that it did before. (NB: We previously covered the ban here, but if you follow the link in that post to the Chicago Tribune, you’ll find that the original story there (“Florida city bans guns for neighborhood watch volunteers”), complete with the quote we used, has been memory-holed in favor of the updated “reversal” story. That’s one major drawback of internet journalism. Press a button, and the story (or mistake, or libel, or lie) never happened.)

Gonzaga University has said it will review its weapons policy following the recent incident at a university-owned off-campus apartment. Executive Vice President Earl Martin said Monday the university will try to turn the incident into a teachable moment by re-examining its no-weapons policy. “We will consider the scope of the policy, but always guided by what is in the best interest of student safety,” Martin said. He could not predict how long the process may take. I wouldn’t be holding my breath.

A man who’d just arrived on a flight into LAX on Friday is probably lucky to be alive today. According to airport police, the man either took out a gun or a gun carrying case around 9 p.m. Friday while in the baggage claim area. Witnesses called the authorities, and the bomb squad showed up and inspected his bag. The man had properly declared and checked the firearm prior to boarding his flight. He was arrested on suspicion of brandishing a weapon. Given the recent incident at LAX, he’s lucky that’s where it ended.

Richard Ryan decides to find out how many XBoxes a .50 BMG will go through. Answer: Fewer than I thought.

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89 Responses to Daily Digest: That’s No Mule Edition

    • Its ability to maintain and recover is pretty amazing, but it’s not going anywhere near the FEBA until they figure out how to make it stop buzzing.

      • Making the pumps and motors quieter is a detail. You can see a definite progression in the sound profile between the video doesky2 posted and this one to the one at the top of the post. Also, the payload’s going up as they figure it out.

        • Notice the guy with the umbilical in doesky2’s video – they’ve got the pumps and stuff in another room or something.

        • No offense, but I don’t understand your point. Yes, at the end of doesky2’s video they are running an umbilical and it’s quiet. I’m referring to the parts of that video where it’s autonomous. It’s very loud. That was two or three years ago. Then you look at the video I linked in my comment, and it’s autonomous and quieter. That was one year ago. Then you look at the video at the top of this post and it’s autonomous and quieter still. That’s current. My point was in response to Cliff H’s comment about the buzzing sound. As the technology matures, it’s getting quieter. Making it quiet is a secondary goal, after “making it work at all.”

    • Yeah, that one’s pretty cool, too. You can definitely see the progression from that video to the one at the top of the post.

    • So the Marine Corps is trying to re-invent the pack horse? A good pack horse or mule is $2000 or less, fuels itself, and offers additional security in the form of extra eyes and ears, and makes less noise than this mechanical contraption. Plus in the event you become stranded and run out of supplies, you can eat the horse, not much nutrician in that robot.

      • BS gimmcrak. Rebuild M274 Mule (or just breed original/real Mk1 Mule). Can’t buy a rifle/boots for 11B but always $ for BS. Try eating that POS when the Cl1 doesn’t get thru.

    • That was the first thing I thought of. Near miss by a mortar or a burst from an AK or other machine gun and those hydraulic lines are history. Yeah, the thing can carry 400 pounds, but how many men will it take to carry that 400 pounds AND the mule back to the rear?

      • What makes you think they’d carry It rather than thermite it or just drag it being the truck??? I rank sure wouldn’t bother carrying it on foot just thermite it and walk away.

      • I’m pretty sure they’ll put the “mule” out front, not in back. They want it to be the first thing encountered, not the last!

  1. That vehicle is just the latest on the list of “cool technology, but the last people I want using it is the government”.

    • Agreed. This’ll probably be right up there with all the other “military grade” equipment that we civilians have no use owning.

        • About 20% of what these cost. But how much does anyone need a $500,000 pack carrier? You or I would spend it on expendable goods, like the stuff this was designed to carry.

          These are just a showpiece for the hunter-killer surface drones they’re making to use on the People of the Gun.

    • Great, now I will need to mount a grappling hook cannon and winch to an ATV and practice driving in circles. Sure it’s no snow speeder, but this ain’t no AT-AT. Yet…

  2. The real life term for this is Bullet Magnet. Might as well strap on a flame thrower, if only to increase it’s lethality to Friendly Troops.
    HC: those Creeps this thing gives you is probably due to it’s resemblance to the Empire’s Snow Walkers from Star Wars

    • No, I’m pretty sure it’s the fact that it sounds like a hive of mutant hellwasps and moves just enough like a living thing to put it straight in the worst real estate of the uncanny valley. Those things are insanely creepy.

    • Gave me the creeps, too. Dorky and terrifying at the same time. I guess I need to watch Star Wars again — brush up on my Ewok-style anti-imperial ambush techniques.

      • Seems like a poor platform for a flame thrower. Range is too short, for starters. Even with a 400 pound load capacity, and assuming it is carrying NOTHING except the flame thrower, the fuel life of the thing would be extremely limited. Add to that the weight of the necessary ballistic protection for the fuel tanks.

        All-in-all, while this thing really looks cool from a sci-fi standpoint, it really seems like a huge waste of time and money to me.

        • Our opinion of “waste of money” is clearly at variance to DARPA’s. When you have virtually unlimited funding, you can expect a very small, but overblown “success” rate.

          Money is no object when you’re using other peoples’ money.

  3. It’s a “mechanical support mule”; I get it. If this is the one they’re waving, you’re not seeing the Giant Ruthless Hunt Dawgs, RIGHT (GRHDs), Matt?

    Do you have something says they can’t come for you? Because it’s obvious as SHIT to me they’re developing robot “soldiers” who’ll NEVER disobey ANY order. See that?

    Whaddaya bet they’re NOT for us?

    • The ability of Robocop to withstand small arms fire is pure Hollywood. The only way to get this monstrosity to wade through withering fire would be to up-armor which would mean good-bye to the 400 pound payload. Unless the armor and a .50 Browning WAS the payload. Anyway, the resistance in Europe figured out how to destroy panzers with low technology, I expect we could figure out more than one kind of home-made rocket launcher or other device to make these quickly obsolete.

      Somebody somewhere has a friend in the government who has authorized a lot of taxpayer bucks to be wasted on this kind of crap. I find it highly unlikely these will ever be practical as a military device, so you need to follow the money and see who’s making bank pretending they will or might.

      I see two weaknesses right away: 1) it needs some sort of gyro stabilizer that if damaged would stop it immediately, and 2) more importantly, I’ll bet it could not walk on only three legs.

      • Yup. Might be a top-dollar robot dog soldier, but when ten bucks still buys me a box of 12g slugs, I’m pretty sure it can be turned into a tripod.

  4. Matt,

    I don’t think ANYTHING Boston Dynamics creates for DARPA will be good for the common man. Those machines will simply be used to more efficiently suppress other human beings. Not a fan.

  5. That LS3 and its ilk are no more than a collection of shrapnel that hasn’t detonated yet. Give it to the least-popular squad mate to tend.

  6. The trot is a very unstable gait for walking. Is there any way to contact the designers of this thing? It’d be an almost trivial S/W mod (at least for a geek like me) to give it a walk gait, which has three feet on the ground at all times and doesn’t have to balance on just two feet.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrmWtGXK4Q4

    But when it was recovering from an almost-fall, and picking its way over the blocks, it did look very, um, “organic.” On the ice it was reminiscent of a video I once saw of a cow with “mad cow disease” stumbling.

      • If they show you the one-legged giant, you won’t think to worry about Giant, Heat-Seeking Hippos with banks of rocket bays.

      • That’s even more unnatural than that robomule. They both have to balance while they’re transferring their weight from one pair of feet to the other. It really shouldn’t be hard for them to come up with a way to keep the center of gravity between three points of support rather than just the two.

        But it’s not my call. Wah. 😉

      • Technologically, and as a feat of robotics, that’s pretty amazing, but show me what happens if it hits a pothole, a log, or a cable stretched across the road at that speed. This looks to me like a bunch of robot geeks having fun, but why the hell are we in the 21st century trying to re-invent the wheel?

    • Yeah, Rich… it’s a time-worn practice to show the Rubes a clunky, jerky version of the Real Deal, isn’t it?

      What I’m suggesting is a notion that’s as old as the hills: if they’d show you something that looked truly threatening, you’d naturally be expected to have a very different reaction to it, right?

      Seriously. Why would you ever expect them to arm you with alarm?

      • These guys are walking.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxiKlfq-Sw8

        (you might want to mute the sound – it was the first clip that came up for “imperial walker” and the dubbed sound sucks). The filmmakers had to do it that way because it was stop-motion, so it had to stay stable between frames, i.e., not tip over. If any of the ones we’ve seen got somehow stopped in mid-stride, it would tip over. the walking ones won’t.

        That’s my only complaint; I really am impressed with the way it recovers from that kick and slipping on the ice.

  7. Per the first video, I would hate to be the wounded Marine in that thing, it would be a bullet magnet. Especially when one of our enemies sees the first wounded soldier being carried off in one and they spread the word. I may be wrong, this is just, my humble opinion.

  8. The latest, greatest way to ease the grunts burden. It doesn’t matter. If the machine will double the carrying capacity of the troops the brass will just double the load and mission time. The grunts will still be overloaded and they’ll get to suffer for twice as long.

    Compare one of Marius’s mules to the modern grunt and see. Technology changes but the load doesn’t.

    • I’ve noticed this too. overtime the army replaces something with a new light weight version they find something else that “the average soldier needs more than food water and ammo” that or they’re too dumb to realize that 90lbs. of lightweight gear still weighs 90

    • If the concept was simply to reduce the load each soldier was forced to carry you could solve the problem by lining the rearward surface of the backpack with the same material they use for those roll-up plastic field stretchers. Connected to the shoulder harness by a strap the soldier could simply pull the load behind him like a sled instead of humping the weight. If necessary he would have a quick release, maybe with a 20 foot line so that when he found cover he could reel the thing back in.

      But you’re right, command would probably just decide to let him hump the same weight he does now and pull a load as well.

      And I don’t care how nimble these things appear, I’ve gone up a lot of slopes and across plenty of terrain that would stop them cold. Even a squad of grunts couldn’t make the top without teamwork and ropes, and that was without mud or ice or incoming fire.

  9. That mule thing is incredibly stupid. You could make a treaded vehicle that could do every thing that that thing can do even if that technology was perfect. And the treaded vehicle would cost way less to research, produce, and maintenance would be a lot simpler.

    Seriously what benefit is there to a legged walker robot in combat as compared a treaded/wheeled design even if you had a perfect walker system that never lost its step and completely stable.

    • A threaded vehicle can’t climb steep slopes with steps; this thing can. The whole point of going legged is to cover as much terrain variation as possible – it should be able to go wherever the soldiers go.

      • Exactly right; which is why they made it with legs. Who wants to trade their legs in for treads? Gotta huge deal, left over from Veterans’ Day! BLOWOUT!!!!

      • Sure they can with the right design. Four treads that can independently angle themselves will easily go up a steep stepped slope.

    • I’m glad some one got to it first: As soon as I over came the creepy feeling this thing gives me every time I see it I had the same thought; I’ve known some grunts and that thing is a riding toy when no one is around.

  10. Marine: Permission to speak freely sir!
    Superior: Granted.
    Marine: My squad and I do not want to take the noisy, ridiculous, robotic, walking POS weenie dog Sir!

  11. This MULE LS3 reminds me of NASA’s effort to develop a pen that would write in zero gravity. Millions of taxpayer dollars spent doing so. In the meantime Soviet cosmonauts were issued pencils. Worked regardless of gravity/no gravity. Simple.

    Why not issue an actual, living, breathing MULE ? Common sense. No costly tax dollar burden to what is left of us taxpayers. Simple.

    • Actually, the Russians had problems with the pencil lead/graphite getting into their lungs and other inconvenient places. The story always leaves that little tidbit out.

      • Plus, log entries written in pencil can easily be erased and / or revised when (not if) something goes wrong. Pens, not so much.

    • Negative: One of my biggest pet peeves is when people repeat an anecdote without doing any research. My current job is as a contracting specialist in the U.S. Navy and yes, there are many examples out there of government spending far too much for something, but this isn’t one of them. Whenever, I hear such stories, I like to do a little investigating, and I have heard this one before. The infamous “Space Pen” did not cost millions of dollars to develop (some accounts of this story assert that NASA paid $12 million over 10 years to build this pen). In fact, the government didn’t spend a single dime on its development. An enterprising man by the name of Paul Fisher, who just so happened to own the Fisher Pen Company, saw a need for a pen that could write in zero gravity and perform under extreme temperature and environmental fluctuations. So, using his OWN money, he developed the first pressurized and sealed pen capsule. The exact cost of the project is not known, but it certainly didn’t cost millions of dollars, or the company would have gone out of business. BOTH Russia and the U.S starting using the pen once it came onto the COMMERCIAL market. Yep, anyone could buy this pen. Now, they were a bit pricey; current iterations cost anywhere from $35 to $50, but it was new technology and demanded a premium in its day just as any new cutting edge technology does when it first hits the scene.

  12. All this is going to do is cause commanders to expand the gear list because “Hey, we’ve got that new thingie to shareload so bring more stuff”, and the mule will break so then you’ll have squads carrying more shit that they really don’t need anyways.

  13. I suppose this robot mule is an interesting technological development, but there are some serious issues here.

    Why only four legs? Wouldn’t it be more stable with six, or eight, or more? I also think it’d have a much better chance of surviving an attack if it had more than just four legs.

    Why not have some durable wheels on the bottom of the legs? It could provide a much smoother ride. The wheels could deploy studs for additional traction. If feet are absolutely necessary in certain cases, they could make a joint above the wheel that rotates it out of the way and allows a foot be “deployed” on the leg.

    The “walking” part of this thing is disturbing, because if they ever plan to use it to take wounded soldiers out of an area, the movement could kill the soldier. Unless they can make it a lot smoother (which is why I strongly favor wheels over feet) then the jarring motion could rip open clots or damage a compromised spine.

    A wilderness rescue is the best civilian use I can think of for this thing … so it’d be nice if it didn’t kill the patient in the process of rescue.

  14. Snap your fingers to the future?
    Well ,Silver, Trigger, Toranado and Francis all came to serve with just a whistle, I’m sure that with directional sound detection software, it will do as well as Equine 1.0

  15. That robot is a neat toy but everyone here is right: a mule would be faster, cheaper, and have greater range. Hell, have a horse and then you could ride it if you needed.

    If the military wants to resupply teams in the field, assuming we have air support, they should just develop a package that uses smart-guidance technology with a low altitude parachute. Need water? Drop it. Need ammo? Drop it. Need food and extra kit? Drop it. You could make the things out of plastic with a crumple nose or airbag in the cone, rack them like bombs, and deploy them anywhere on the battlefield.

      • Somewher in some obscure building theres probably 30 some odd Colonels that are grabbing straws to remain relevant in the Marine Corps, and this pet project is one of them. This will be the Marine Corps’ “Land Warrior” debacle.

      • Right, which is why I think an airdrop would be better. You could have a large drone aircraft loiter over the battlefield and drop a resupply package within minutes.

        Those colonels trying to keep their jobs with machines like this are the same people who think the marines need stealth fighters to drop bombs on mud huts.

        • Here’s an idea – make these autonomous using GPA and send them out on their mission. Follow them in the air with an A-10 or C130 gunship. Blast the hell out of the masses of enemy troops that come to try to kill them.

        • When you say, “enemy”, I hear the words of someone who has a very limited understanding of human beings. Stop thinking like a tool.

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