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Activity title

Reducing the Dismounted Soldiers Burden

Activity Reference



Human Factors and Medicine

Security Classification



Awaiting Publication

Activity type


Start date


End date



Burden, Equipment, Load, Load Carriage, Personal Protective Equipment, Soldier Systems


Throughout history, the dismounted soldier has had to carry heavy loads, often over long distances under demanding terrain and environmental conditions. Once they arrive at the enemy’s destination, while they can doff their packs and much of their sustainment load, they must be fit to fight whilst still wearing significant assault or fighting loads. Contrary to expectations that advances in technology would reduce loads carried by the soldier, new technology has produced soldier capabilities that have contributed to increased loads. Whilst the use of mechanized transport is maximized, terrain and mission conditions have not eliminated the need to carry heavy loads long distances on foot, and the loads being carried by NATO soldiers on current operations are heavier than has been previously reported. There are significant ongoing research programmes to address the problem of soldier burden in many NATO nations. A great deal of work is being undertaken to understand the nature of the burden, to measure it and to then reduce it whilst assuring delivery of battle-winning operational capability. However, there is a need to take a comprehensive and holistic approach, so that NATO can learn from, and build upon this work in a more concerted and co-ordinated way.


The objectives are: [a] to scope the requirement; [b] to define the ‘burden’; and [c] to identify those factors known to influence the size and nature of the burden. The aim is to establish a NATO consensus concerning the threat to soldier performance from ‘burden’ and to identify strategies to mitigate the threats in order to maintain operational effectiveness.


• Review what is understood by soldier ‘burden’( e.g. physiological, biomechanical, cognitive, ergonomic ); • Identify the NATO requirement for reducing burden with reference to extant research programmes from participating nations; • Define measures of performance (e.g. reduced casualties/injuries) with which to assess the effect of strategies concerning the management of the ‘burden’; • Consider the trade off between the proposed strategies for mitigating soldier burden (e.g. physical preparation, configuration control); • Quantification of soldier burden (e.g. Operational Analysis); • Each of the above points would be considered for different mission types (e.g. urban, jungle etc.).

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