US Army Developing Special Ops 'Iron Man' Suit
October 11, 2013

US Army Aims To Create Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit For Soldiers

[ Watch the Video: Exoskeletons For Soldiers ]

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

The US Army is planning to develop a revolutionary type of smart body armor to give its soldiers Iron-Man style capabilities on the battlefield.

The idea to create a Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, or TALOS, originated as a request from US Special Operations Command, who wanted an advanced infantry uniform that provides “superhuman strength” with greater ballistic protection.

The TALOS, first announced in May, will use wireless networking and on-board computing similar to Google Glass to give operators improved situational awareness of the action around them and of their own bodies. The suit will also incorporate armor made from “smart” materials embedded with sensors, and will be powered with a hydraulic system to enhance the soldier’s physical capabilities, the Army said.

Lt Col Karl Borjes of the US Army’s research, development and engineering command (RDECOM) said a weapon system and communications equipment would also be integrated into the suit.

"It's advanced armor. It's communications, antennas. It's cognitive performance. It's sensors, miniature-type circuits. That's all going to fit in here, too," he said.

The Army has previously tested exoskeletons that allow soldiers to carry large loads over long distances, but TALOS takes these models to an entirely new level.

The suit’s embedded sensors will monitor the soldier’s physical condition by detecting indicators such as temperature, hydration level, heart rate, body position and core temperature, while the on-board hydraulic system boosts the operator’s physical capabilities.

"[The] requirement is a comprehensive family of systems in a combat armor suit where we bring together an exoskeleton with innovative armor, displays for power monitoring, health monitoring, and integrating a weapon into that – a whole bunch of stuff that RDECOM is playing heavily in," Borjes said.

The Army said it will likely collaborate with various public and private organizations, along with researchers in academia, to develop the new Iron-Man suit.

Last month, US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) issued an announcement that it was seeking proposals and research in support of TALOS development from academia, entrepreneurs and laboratories capable of “providing the design, construction, and testing of TALOS related technologies.”

“The intent is to accelerate the delivery of innovative TALOS capabilities to the SOF operator,” SOCOM said.

An Army statement suggests that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) may be participating in the design. The school is currently developing armor made from magnetorheological fluids – liquid body armor – that transforms from liquid to solid in mere milliseconds when a magnetic field or electrical current is applied. Though still under development, the technology may be submitted to support TALOS.

"There is no one industry that can build it," said SOCOM Senior Enlisted Advisor Command Sgt. Maj. Chris Faris during a recent panel discussion at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, reported in Defense Media Network.

In a recent interview with NPR, MIT professor Gareth McKinley compared the TALOS to the smart armor seen in some popular action films.

"It sounds exactly like Iron Man," he said. "The other kind of things that you see in the movies... would be the kind of external suit that Sigourney Weaver wears in Aliens, where it's a large robot that amplifies the motions and lifting capability of a human."

The Army says its hopes to have TALOS ready for deployment within three years.