US Army to develop Firearm Aim Stabilization Exoskeleton

Exoskeleton test © 2013 Daniel M. Baechle

IHS Global Spec (part of the publishing group that publishes Janes) have published an interesting article about developments in commercial and military exoskeleton. Apparently the US Army is developing an exoskeleton that would allow better control of small arms. Dr. Roger Pink writes

For instance, two weeks before the Robo-Mate prototype presentation, the U.S. Army announced that it was developing an exoskeleton for soldiers to automatically steady a soldier’s arm when firing a weapon. The Mobile Arm eXoskeleton for Firearm Aim Stabilization (MAXFAS) is equipped with accelerometers and gyroscopes that are attached to the soldier’s forearm and upper arm with Velcro straps. These devices detect minute arm movements then transfer that information to microchips where algorithms distinguish between involuntary and voluntary motions. A network of cables then pulls on the soldier’s arm to adjust and stabilize it. A test of the exoskeleton resulted in 14 of 15 soldiers shooting more accurately while wearing MAXFAS than without. Accuracy improved by 27% overall across the group.

MAXFAS was inspired by a medical exoskeleton—the wearable orthosis for tremor assessment and suppression (WOTAS). Tremor is one of the most common movement disorders in neurological medicine, and biomechanical loading has appeared as a potential tremor suppression alternative (IEEE Trans Neural Syst Rehabil Eng. 2007 Sep; 15(3): 367-378). The Army realized that reducing involuntary tremor also could improve soldiers’ weapons accuracy.

Imagine how useful it would be for designated marksmen, or even better a light machine gunner, to snipe from a standing position while leaning around a corner and be able to make their just by getting the scope on target.

A exoskeleton manufacturer has invited TFB to take their exoskeleton to the range to see how well it deals with firearm recoil. As soon as we do, we will report back.




Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Martin Grønsdal

    not too much gear for the already worn out soldier?

    • Matrix3692

      powered exoskeleton is also meant to take a lot of load off the soldier directly.

      • Martin Grønsdal

        I won’t deny that this is interesting, but that exoskeleton doesn’t strike me as something to help the soldier carry a backpack (it would have to follow the legs to the ground). This looks more like something that harness armwobbling. And that the soldier has to carry himself – unless there is skeleton for the rest of the soldiers body aswell.

        • Matrix3692

          You miss the point, the whole idea of a powered exoskeleton is to take the weight of the soldier’s load off his/her body directly, and support it with the exoskeleton’s frame.

          • Martin Grønsdal

            yes, as I wrote above – if this is part of a complete skeleton, then it won’t burden the soldier. If it is only on his arm – it will.

            It will regardless become yet another thing the grunt has to bring with him. Imagine taking cover in a prone position with all this junk.

          • Badwolf

            it’s a good start. as you know, with new materials and technology everything will get smaller, lighter, and faster. for example in the 40s, the ENIAC (computer) weighed 30 tons. and now we have hand held computers (iphone) weighing only 172 grams that can run circles around the ENIAC.

        • M.M.D.C.

          I think the idea is that this technology would be integrated into an existing exoskeleton design.

      • Jim_Macklin

        Raytheon is already developing prototypes for the US Army.

        • LCON

          that’s a few years old and as you can see larger then needed to be.

    • Budogunner


      I know the military must have a hard-on for Call of Duty:Advanced Warfighter but we simply don’t have good enough tech on the power supply end.

      What do you do when in a protracted situation, a la Blackhawk Down, and you run out of juice? You can’t operate while wearing the dead rig, you can’t leave it behind for the enemy, and destroying tens of thousands of dollars worth of hardware will get you court marshaled.

      • Martin Grønsdal

        Yes. A lot can go wrong from that perspective too.

      • patrickiv

        You wouldn’t be worrying about a court marshal in that situation. Isn’t it standard procedure to destroy abandoned equipment so that the enemy can’t use it?

        • Justanotherdude

          It is. I can’t see anyone running an exo without carrying some incendiary grenades or specifically designed destructive device to melt the thing if they had to evac. You’d still catch hell for it though…I’ve seen the Army try to bill guys for body armor cut off them during medevac, gets sorted out fine in the end but it’s drama.

      • noob

        By only stabilizing the arm instead of lifting the weapon (the muscles do that) your power requirements are a lot less.

      • whskee

        My 2 cents is this technology isn’t going to be on the pointy end for at least 15 years. It’s simply not evolved enough for combat rigor. It’ll likely go into supply units who need to move a lot of stuff around, and ordnance handlers loading bombs and the like. I’m thinking Aliens PowerLoader is probably spot on with how it’ll come into use initially.

        I think the pointy end will more likely see remote controlled drones, it’s just easier to take the squishy human out of the picture if you’re going to build something for fighting.

  • Damien

    I had a similar idea, but using reaction wheels to stabilize the weapon.

    • Matrix3692

      ain’t that a little too big?

      • damien

        I havent done the calculations on what kind of stabilizing forces are needed, so the sizes and weights needed are not clear. But, the idea is to have a pistol that could return itself to the same aimpoint after each shot.

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    The Army already spends millions teaching their best soldiers how to shoot, they aren’t going to waste money on robot arms for infantrymen.

  • Matrix3692

    Oh, and by the way, aren’t one of you guys have a full-auto M240? It would be fun to watch the exoskeleton and the wearer to hip fire it and burn through a 200 round belt.

  • Will

    Does the Army no longer have qualified firearms instructors???
    There are actually some people who are incapable of shooting a firearm well. Pistols, in the military, were never meant to be a primary issued firearm. Seems like just another example of unwillingness to face facts and move on.
    How much is THIS going to cost the tax payer?

    • LCON

      read the story, do not judge by the pretty pictures alone.

  • Xanderbach

    In the sci-fi book “Embedded” by Dan Abnett, the soldiers are wearing exo-arms that do just this. Maybe the inventor is a fan.

    • LCON

      Scifi often has a influence on life.

  • El Duderino

    Because long range aimed pistol fire is the best way to engage enemies on the modern battlefield.

  • barry

    Wouldn’t it be better to have a shoulder mounted weapon electronically aimed with some sort of google glass? I’m thinking the Predator had something going there.

  • MR

    Gotta start somewhere. Systems like this will probably show up on the battlefield sooner or later. Problems? Yeah, there’ll be problems. Can’t solve the problems if we’re ignoring the technology, getting further behind.

  • Seamus Bradley

    I cannot being to express how stupid this is.

    How many millions if not billions have been wasted trying to build “exoskeletons”? In the end they results are always the same (need better battery)

    This is either a pet project for some Colonel waiting to retire or this is a welfare program for a defense contractor. How much are they spending on this program and how much is being made on this program?

  • s

    Why does there even need to be humans on the battlefield? Just drone & robot the enemy.


  • John

    So, yeah. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare in real life. Or whatever game powered exoskeletons are in.

  • Jim_Macklin

    Iron Man isn’t so far in the future. These are the first steps. Raytheon is working on a powered lifting, running skeleton and this weapon stabilizer are steps to a true fighting armored suit such as Heinlein envisioned in STARSHIP TROOPERS or E.E. Doc Smith did in the Lensman series.

  • I’d be very curious to see a shootout between an exoskeleton and 92F vs a pistol with a nice SA trigger and a red dot.

  • Bal256

    Its like people in the comments section don’t realize that assault rifles and light machine guns are included in the category of “small arms”.


  • Badwolf

    in the beginning, it will only be used by people out of necessity. for example if you lose a leg get a bionic leg, lose an eye get a bionic eye, etc. but in the future, when the technology gets better and the bionic leg or eye or whatever begins to outperform the natural leg or eye, i have no doubt that some people will want to make it an elective procedure. Then there will be a big debate on the issue of fairness in competition. There was some debate already on Pistorius’ leg.

    • TJbrena

      I’m down for augmentations as long as I don’t have to pay out the ass for some drug that never goes generic so my body doesn’t reject the implants.

      • iksnilol

        Yeah, the necessity of neuropozyne made the augmentations less attractive for me. But if you didn’t need drugs then I would jump aboard the augmentation train.

      • LCON

        these systems are intended to be external not implanted. No implants, no Bone saw, no doctors. it’s a Exoskeleton emphasis on the Exo. No Borg assimilation, No Robo Cop

  • LCON

    just because they have a assist does not mean tossing the fundamentals at the end of the day despite the hype it will still revolve around training and use of the weapons system . Also just because the model has a hand gun does not make this only for pistol shooters. the aim of this is likely all around stability for weapons from side arms to Heavy anti-material rifles and more. partner it with a lower body exoskeleton and it could allow wearing of heavier weapons and armor.

    with smaller lighter soldiers ( IE Females ) in the infantry and combat arms inevitable as well as more aggressive threats and want of more tech as traditional equipment lightens but not to the magical demands you need to bridge the gap between human and equipment.

  • noob

    It’s sure better than trying to kill them with harsh language.

  • cbunix23

    Improving my upper body and hand strength over the past 2.5 years has done more to improve my shooting accuracy than anything else.

  • plus

    May I copy and translate this article into chinese ?

    I’m an assistant administrator of a Taiwanese forum’s military game block, I want not only link but also translate full articles to make discuss easier

  • smartacus

    As soon as it launches, it will be available to law enforcement at the same time as the military… yet will still be called selling off old military equipment

  • rrdonovan

    So I take it that our men and women in the service can’t shot a pistol? WTF? Are we drafting people with parkinsons or what? Oh, look, a turtle! Let’s talk about turtles. Every one likes turtles…..