The US Army isn’t just looking to giving soldiers a hand, but a whole extra arm. At the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland, the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) is testing a prototype passive support system called Third Arm, which evenly distributes the weight of heavy weapons, allowing soldiers to use them with less fatigue and greater accuracy.
In the 1986 sci-fi classic Aliens, one of the signature props was the fictional M56 Smartgun, which was a dressed up MG42 machine gun stuck on a steadicam mount. This mount, which in reality connects a hand-held cine-camera to the operators body to stabilize it, made for some very cool action scenes and has now apparently inspired a real-life counterpart.
Mechanical engineer Dan Baechle has come up with a more advanced, more articulated, militarized version of the steadicam mount that can take the weight of a weapon off a soldier’s arms. Third Arm is an unpowered, articulated frame made of composite materials that helps to distribute the weapon’s weight while allowing enough range of motion to be practical on the battlefield.