American war fighters have the best equipment in the world, but the advanced technology at the disposal of U.S. infantrymen comes at a steep price: a whole lot of weight. The average war fighter today can expect to carry somewhere between 60 and 120 pounds of gear on their back while in combat zones.

All that weight leads to more than just tired legs. According to at least one recent study conducted by Marine Corps Capt. Courtney Thompson at the Naval Postgraduate School, anything over 58 pounds of gear begins to dramatically compromise one’s ability to function in a firefight, and long term back and leg injuries are far more common among those that carry heavy loads in combat.

The Army has long been looking for ways to lighten soldiers‘ loads, and many of these initiatives are focused on reducing the weight of essential gear. Now, however, the Army has another tool in its weight reduction toolbox: passing some heavyweight gear over to a robo-mule that can follow soldiers across the battlefield autonomously.

The U.S. Army has now agreed to purchase 624 General Dynamics’ Land Systems MUTTs (Multi-Utility Tactical Transport) for $162.4 million, though it seems possible that the branch may end up procuring thousands of these platforms if they prove valuable in combat. These vehicles (which come in a variety of configurations) use a wireless tethering system that allows them to track and follow an assigned soldier through all kinds of terrain–working like a pack animal once did in bygone eras.

The MUTT can carry up to 1,200 pounds of gear and can cover 60 miles without being refueled. It also comes equipped with a generator that can produce 3,000 watts of power–something of increasing importance in this age of digital warfare. The platform could even be used to haul heavy weapons, which wouldn’t otherwise be at the disposal of infantry troops navigating on foot, like the M4 Carl Gustuav recoilless rifle or Javelin anti-tank missiles. It can also be used to carry more ammunition to help keep troops in the fight for longer.


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