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Army Tests New Super-Soldier Exoskeleton

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(Photo: lockheed)

The Army is testing an exoskeleton technology which uses AI to analyze and replicate individual walk patterns, provide additional torque, power and mobility.

Army evaluators have been assessing a Lockheed-built FORTIS knee-stress-release-device exoskeleton with soldiers at Fort A.P. Hill as part of a focus on fielding new performance enhancing soldier technologies.

Using independent actuators, motors and lightweight conformal structures, lithium ion battery powered FORTIS allows soldiers to carry 180 pounds up five flights of stairs while expending less energy.

“We’ve had this on some of the Army’s elite forces, and they were able to run with high agility carrying full loads,” Keith Maxwell, senior program manager, exoskeleton technology, Lockheed Martin..said.

Lockheed engineers say FORTIS could prove particularly impactful in close-quarters urban combat because it  enhances soldier mobility, speed and power.

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[VIDEO] SR-71 Blackbird: How to Fly the World’s Fastest Plane

Colonel Rich Graham flew the Blackbird from 1974 until the mid-1980s, first as a mission pilot and then as a trainer. He later took command of all Blackbird detachments – in California, Mildenhall in the UK and at Kadena on the Japanese island of Okinawa. He has also written several books about the aircraft. Here he tells BBC Future about what made the SR-71 such a remarkable plane.

It was a plane which flew at the edge of space; so high that most other jet engines would seize because of the lack of air. A plane that flew so fast that its airframe heated and grew during flight. A plane that, if needed, could outrun missiles launched to bring it down.

[See Colonel Rich Graham’s book: SR-71: The Complete Illustrated History of the Blackbird, The World’s Highest, Fastest Plane at Amazon.com]

The Lockheed SR-71 was a product of airplane maker Lockheed’s Skunk Works, a secretive project which came up with some of the world’s most advanced aircraft. It was designed after the loss of a U-2 spyplane over the Soviet Union in 1960 – a plane thought to fly too high to be shot down. The Blackbird would fly even higher, and at speeds of Mach 3.3 it would be fast enough to outrun any missile fired at it. Read the rest of this entry »


Test Pilot Bill Weaver Tells About a Mach 3.18 in-Flight Breakup of an SR-71 Blackbird

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Among professional aviators, there’s a well-worn saying: Flying is simply hours of boredom punctuated by moments of stark terror. But I don’t recall too many periods of boredom during my 30-year career with Lockheed, most of which was spent as a test pilot. By far, the most memorable flight occurred on Jan. 25, 1966.

Jim Zwayer, a Lockheed flight-test specialist, and I were evaluating systems on an SR-71 Blackbird test from Edwards. We also were investigating procedures designed to reduce trim drag and improve high-Mach cruise performance. The latter involved flying with the center-of-gravity (CG) located further aft than normal, reducing the Blackbird’s longitudinal stability.
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We took off from Edwards at 11:20 a.m. and completed the mission’s first leg without incident. After refueling from a KC-135 tanker, we turned eastbound, accelerated to a Mach 3.2-cruise speed and climbed to 78,000 ft., our initial cruise-climb altitude. Several minutes into cruise, the right engine inlet’s automatic control system malfunctioned, requiring a switch to manual control. The SR-71’s inlet configuration was automatically adjusted during supersonic flight to decelerate airflow in the duct, slowing it to subsonic speed before reaching the engine’s face. This was accomplished by the inlet’s center-body spike translating aft, and by modulating the inlet’s forward bypass doors.  Read the rest of this entry »