Royal Marines test Gravity jet suit in ship boarding exercise
Jet suits, jetpacks, jetboards ... The new range of crazy personal flight devices all share some things in common: plenty of people would love to fly one, very few have the cash to own one, and even fewer can probably be trusted to fly them safely and legally.
So they're more or less stuck doing demonstration flights these days, and as routine as these spectacular demos are becoming, it doesn't feel like we're any closer to seeing them hanging on the wall in the outdoor sports aisle at Walmart.
But the pioneers in this field have spent untold hours developing and honing their remarkable aircraft and their skills, and they're as keen as anyone else to see a return on their investments. And military organizations the world over have deep pockets, a wide range of mission capabilities they need to continue honing, and perhaps more to gain than anyone else from the shock and awe potential of airborne super troopers that can approach a situation vertically, riding on ear-splitting personal jet devices.
But how does that look in the real world? Gravity Industries is happy to show us. In a video released this week, three jet suit pilots demonstrated how their unique capabilities could assist in a ship boarding operation.
In one exercise, a jet suit pilot launches from a rigid inflatable in pursuit of a mid-size ship, lands on deck and drops a ladder over the side for the rest of the team to climb up on. In a second, he demonstrates the ability to quickly zip back and forth between the ship and the moving RIB, landing on the small boat even as it bounces around in gentle swells. In a third, three jet suit jockeys land on the deck of this ship in quick succession.
Gravity called the exercise "very successful," although I'm not sure exactly what was proven here. And I certainly wouldn't be rushing to put my hand up for this gig in a live-fire enemy ship boarding. These mini jet turbines verily cleave the sky in twain with their thunderous turbine noise; they're the opposite of stealth, your chances of landing undetected are zero.
And thus, there you'd be standing, alone and loudly announced, on the deck of an enemy ship with 5-10 kg (11-22 lb) of highly flammable jet fuel strapped to your back. The bad guys would want to put a bullet in your backpack just to see if you'd go flying about like an untied balloon. You wouldn't be able to defend yourself until you'd wrestled your hands out of your jet gauntlets, hung them up somewhere and got your gun out. And even then, you're gonna find it hard to run, roll, hide or squat with that giant, explosive turtleshell on your back.
This latter point is something Gravity is working to address; it's been working with YouTuber and robotics specialist James Bruton to develop a head-tracking shoulder turret that would allow jet suit soldiers to aim and fire a rifle in-flight or on the ground, aiming just by looking.
The above video is from 2019, so perhaps the idea has since progressed beyond this embryonic prototype. Either way, the parallels with Marvel's War Machine, or older sci-fi staples like the Predator or various Japanese gundam weapons are hard to miss, and it's certainly fun to think about.
Will these things end up seeing action? Who knows. They certainly offer some pretty unique capabilities, but they're not without their risks and drawbacks, and a man swooping through the sky has zero cover and a great big target on his back. Either way, we'll be keeping an eye on this sector just because these things are so freakin' cool.
Source: Gravity Industries