The U.S. Army is testing a device that would lessen the physical burden placed on soldiers on the battlefield.  Many of the weapons used by the military are heavy, and the weight of new weapons is expected to increase.  A mechanical third arm is being tested as a method for managing the load and freeing their hands for other tasks.

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Weighing less than four pounds, thanks to its carbon-fiber composite construction, the third arm attaches directly to a soldier’s vest to provide support for the gun, allowing the weight to be displaced from the arms to the torso.  The intent is for the passive mechanical device to reduce fatigue and also support advancements in weapons development without increasing the burden on those who will be carrying the weapons.

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As reported by Defense News, the device was displayed during a presentation at the Association of the U.S. Army Global Force Symposium, demonstrating how the device attached to the back of a soldier’s tactical vest and a gun’s Picatinny rail.  The third arm also features an ambidextrous design and is capable of supporting approximately 20 pounds.

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As reported by the Stars and Stripes, Initial testing of the third arm is underway at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.  Currently, the M4 carbine rifle is being used to test the capabilities of the device.  During the testing of the third arm, soldiers are equipped with sensors designed to measure muscle activity and fatigue to determine whether the device provides the anticipated physical benefits.

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Dan Baechle, a mechanical engineer, said, “Imagine shoulder-firing without the weight on your arms, and without all the recoil going into your shoulder.”

The third arm provides passive assistance, as it cannot aim or fire the weapon.  Its purpose is purely to alleviate some of the burden associated with carrying the weight of the gun.

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Additional weapons will be tested in the future as well as the use of specific techniques, such as shooting around corners.  If the initial tests are successful, it could eventually lead to testing in the field.

Some additional uses are also being explored, including the ability to carry a breaching saw or a shield.