US special forces may get 'Iron Man' suit (Update)

May 21, 2014 by Tamara Lush
In this May 20, 2014 photo, Michael Fieldson , the civilian project manager for the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit at McDill Air Force Base, looks at sketches of the body armor exoskeleton during the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa, Fla. Elite US special operations forces may be a few short years away from donning a similar suit. (AP Photo/Tamara Lush)

In the 2008 movie "Iron Man," the main character becomes a superhero after building a suit of armor with an exoskeleton that gives him incredible strength.

Today, elite U.S. special operations forces may be a few short years away from donning a similar suit, one that can monitor the user's vital signs, give him real-time battlefield information and be bulletproof from head to toe. The suit might eventually have other features unheard of only a few years ago, including an exoskeleton made of liquid armor, smart fabrics that could help stop hemorrhaging, enhanced sensory capabilities and Google Glass-like visuals.

The Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) project is coordinated through the Special Operations Command headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. Prototypes are expected to be shown to military commanders in June, with hopes that the suit will be given to high-risk units in 2018.

While the project sounds like something out of a science fiction novel, its mission is simple, said James Geurts, the Deputy for Acquisition of the U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill.

"We've lost a lot of guys to gunshot wounds and explosions," he said. "If there's anything I can do to more rapidly field technology, give better protection, better capability, any progress, I think we've done well."

Some companies working on the TALOS project are in Tampa, Florida, this week for the International Special Operations Forces conference. The four-day event showcases special military technologies, gadgets and tools—from pen-like systems collecting chemical vapors to underwater robots. Several top analysts and military brass are also scheduled to speak, including SOCOM commander, Adm. William McRaven.

McRaven is widely credited with initiating the TALOS project. Last year, he described SOCOM's unique approach to the project: By harnessing the expertise of professional engineers, the creativity of students and possibly even "local garage tinkerers," the military will end up with a truly innovative project.

"I am very committed to it because I'd like that last operator we lost to be the last one we ever lose in this fight or the fight of the future, and I think we can get there," McRaven said last July.

In this May 20, 2014 photo, Michael Fieldson , the civilian project manager for the US Special Operations Command's Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit at MacDill Air Force Base, looks at a 3D printer during a trade show inTampa, Fla. The military is looking into designing an Iron Man-type armor for US special operations forces. (AP Photo/Tamara Lush)

What might be more remarkable than the whiz-bang technology of the suit is how Geurts and his team are reaching out to recruit contractors in non-traditional ways.

SOCOM has held "Monster Garage"-type events for people with potential ideas, and even Geurts acknowledged: "It's certainly not the traditional Department of Defense model."

"Looking for #collaborators to help #invent the next generation of #sof combat gear via #talos @SOFTALOS," Geurts tweeted in September.

Frost & Sullivan Aerospace and Defense Senior Industry Analyst Brad Curran said this approach is novel for the military.

The biggest current challenge is making the suit light and comfortable for the soldier.

"For every pound the operator has to carry in armor, there's an additional energy supply," said Dan Stamm, a research scientist at Battelle, an Ohio-based defense contractor that's the lead contracting consultant on the TALOS project.

Dan Rini, president of Rini Tech in Orlando, is one of the contractors on the project. His company has made a "personal thermal protection system" for the military that runs off a 3 ½-pound battery and uses cold water and tubes to keep people cool.

Rini said he's trying to adapt that invention to the TALOS suit.

In this May 20, 2014 photo, James Geurts, Deputy for Acquisition of the U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Airforce Base, looks at sketches of the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) during the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Tamara Lush)

"We don't want that person inside the suit to get overcome by heat stress," Rini said "He might have to be in it for a long time."

Michael Fieldson , the civilian TALOS project manager, said the battery pack for the cooling system and the exoskeleton present the biggest weight hurdles.

"Nature did a pretty good job of designing the human body and we're trying to mimic that," said Fieldson. "Hollywood did a pretty good job of showing us what Iron Man could do on the screen, and the system may do some of those things—but we're not planning on flying."

Whether the suit is adopted by special operations forces, even in part, will remain to be seen, said Curran. He suggested that partial exoskeletons to help ease the strain on solder's knees would be likely used first.

Explore further: US Army seeks 'Iron Man' armor for commandos

4.8 /5 (6 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

US Army seeks 'Iron Man' armor for commandos

Oct 12, 2013

US Army researchers are working on building hi-tech body armor that would give soldiers "superhuman strength" in a real-life version of the suit featured in "Iron Man" films.

Exoskeleton to remote-control robot

May 08, 2014

Visionary 'rocket scientists' will share their ideas on Thursday, 8 May at the TEDx RocketMinds event at ESA's operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany.

Japan firm unveils robot suit for nuclear workers

Nov 07, 2011

The Japanese maker of an exoskeleton robot suit to assist walking on Monday unveiled a model that could help nuclear workers weighed down by heavy anti-radiation vests in contaminated zones.

First special operations MC-130J Combat Shadow II

Mar 30, 2011

Lockheed Martin rolled out the first aircraft in a new fleet of MC-130J Combat Shadow IIs for the U.S. Air Force’s Special Operations Command (AFSOC) during a ceremony here today.

Philips sues Nintendo over Wii remote

May 15, 2014

Dutch electronics firm Royal Philips NV has filed a suit against Nintendo in a U.S. court, claiming the Japanese company infringed two of its patents in the control system of its popular "Wii" video game consoles.

Recommended for you

Google to help boost Greece's tourism industry

5 hours ago

Internet giant Google will offer management courses to 3,000 tourism businesses on the island of Crete as part of an initiative to promote the sector in Greece, industry union Sete said on Thursday.

Enabling a new future for cloud computing

5 hours ago

The National Science Foundation (NSF) today announced two $10 million projects to create cloud computing testbeds—to be called "Chameleon" and "CloudLab"—that will enable the academic research community ...

Hitchhiking robot reaches journey's end in Canada

9 hours ago

A chatty robot with an LED-lit smiley face sent hitchhiking across Canada this summer as part of a social experiment reached its final destination Thursday after several thousand kilometers on the road.

Microsoft to unveil new Windows software

9 hours ago

A news report out Thursday indicated that Microsoft is poised to give the world a glimpse at a new-generation computer operating system that will succeed Windows 8.

Music site SoundCloud to start paying artists

11 hours ago

SoundCloud said Thursday that it will start paying artists and record companies whose music is played on the popular streaming site, a move that will bring it in line with competitors such as YouTube and Spotify.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Aloken
not rated yet May 21, 2014
Isn't that 'master chief' from the HALO videogame franchise in the sketches?