DRDC’s CAN LEAP course an important tool in assessing soldier combat mobility

September 30, 2014

A Canadian Armed Forces soldier completes the CAN LEAP course.

Enemy threats and counter-insurgency operations have dramatically increased the focus on soldier personal protective equipment (PPE) and its critical role in ensuring survivability and mission outcomes.

While a soldier’s equipment (called an ensemble) provides essential protection, it can also contribute to soldier burden when combined with the heavy loads that soldiers must carry, and potentially interfere with a soldier’s ability to tactically manoeuvre and accomplish mission critical tasks.  Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) researchers want to understand how the weight, bulk, coverage and stiffness associated with the soldier ensemble design affect operational task performance and ultimate survivability. 

To address this issue, DRDC has been using the CANadian Load Effects Assessment Program (CAN LEAP) mobility course, located at DRDC’s Toronto Research Centre, to study combat movement with varying load conditions. In this course, the researchers observe and measure the movements of subjects with and without equipment that varies critical load levels such as weight, bulk, coverage and stiffness. The course comprises a timed series of 10 physical obstacles, such as balance beams, stairs and ladder climbs, and tunnels, followed by three separate performance task stations, including marksmanship and weight transfer. These obstacles and stations are representative of realistic combat tasks.  In addition, various tests of overall ensemble and participant characteristics are taken to quantify the many factors contributing to performance (three-dimensional (3-D) body scans for bulk, range of motion for stiffness, participants’ fitness level, etc.).  Results will be added to combat modeling tools to help determine the impact of performance on mission outcomes. 

This program and its results will help define soldier ensemble requirements and test methods for future Canadian Armed Forces procurement of soldier capabilities and equipment. In addition, they will support industry in the design of future soldier ensembles.  Results will also contribute to the development of decision tools for operational commanders on optimal use of protection or distribution of loads in order to maximize soldier performance and survivability for specific missions, tasks and conditions.  “The Canadian Army takes the protection of its soldiers most seriously,” stated Lieutenant-General Marquis Hainse Commander Canadian Army when touring the CAN LEAP course earlier this year. “We have a vested interest in ensuring that rigorous science and testing validate the design of soldier clothing and equipment. The safety and security of our members is of utmost importance."

Through this research, Canada is contributing to a multi-national effort to model the combat effectiveness and survivability implications of soldier load. This will ensure that Canada’s equipment evaluation efforts are consistent with our allied countries.

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