Sunday, June 05, 2011

Mules, Porters and Bicycles: Low-Tech Solutions to Managing Soldiers' Loads

In the wake of a few articles about the proposed revival of the Army Animal Corps to help the troops in the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan ("Army could ditch robots for mules"), I thought I would follow up on my earlier entry about logistics and reducing soldiers' loads. (See "Everything I Learned About Combat Resupply, I Learned From Video Games.")

Assuming that cargo-carrying pack robots might be more expensive and more trouble to maintain than they might be worth, what are other alternatives the military might use to help soldiers haul stuff around, that don't involve UAV's, exoskeletons, robot walkers or other high-tech solutions?

(For the purposes of this discussion, we will forego political correctness.)
  • Porters: Yes, okay Gunga Din:

    Human porters, unarmed and probably unarmored, could carry around food, water, ammo, and other consumables. They might be locals, third-country nationals, or in a compromise measure on immigration, illegal immigrants seeking a path to citizenship.

    Downside: Porters bleed and die when they get shot or blown up.

  • Bicycles: Not combat bicycles for riding, but more like two-wheeled cargo carts for pushing.

    It worked well enough for the Viet Cong on the Ho Chi Minh trail. Hell, if you want to get fancy, use the center post as a pintle mount for an M240 or M249.

    Downside: None that I can see, really.

  • Rolling Rucksack: You know how rolling suitcases with built in wheels and handles revolutionized business travel. Why not something similar with a rolling rucksack? A rolling rucksack with wheels large enough to handle typical mountain terrain would roll most of the time, and be luggable enough to hoist over and around obstacles.

    You could even do a jogging stroller modified to be a rolling gun rack:

The point of all this is, do we really need cyborgs, robots, and cybernetics, when all we're looking for is a solution to lifting up heavy things and putting them down?

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