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SOCOM working on 'Iron Man' suit

Feb. 11, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Adm. William H. McRaven
Adm. William H. McRaven (Staff)
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Old-fashioned battery power is proving to be the biggest challenge in the military’s push to develop an “Iron Man suit,” a futuristic full-body armor that aims to offer individual troops a revolutionary level of protection and capability on the battlefield.

Adm. William McRaven, chief of U.S. Special Operations Command, said his team is in the final stages of procuring prototypes for the first-of-its-kind suit that will fully cover a service member with ballistic protection and also have internal displays to provide intelligence and communications.

The first three prototypes of what is officially known as the Tactical Assault Light-Operator Suit, or TALOS, will be delivered to SOCOM in June, McRaven said.

“We are going to rigorously evaluate them and use those lessons learned to inform the development of a deployable combat suit in August 2018,” McRaven told a conference of special operators Tuesday in Washington. “That suit, if done correctly, will yield a revolutionary improvement in survivability and capability for special operators.”

The suit will include a mechanical exoskeleton that will supplement the user’s muscle movements and help offset the weight of the armor, computers and sensors.

To do that, however, it will need a large and independent power source.

“Power becomes the biggest stumbling block to having an independent suit that the person can wear,” McRaven said.

The TALOS also will monitor the user’s heart rate and other vital signs to transmit back to commanders. The suit could even provide some automated emergency medical care to the user if necessary.

Development of the TALOS comes at a time when SOCOM is trying to put more money into research and development after 13 years of war that required a spending focus on operations and training.

“We’ve got to be prepared for the future. … We’ve got to put this back into balance in terms of the share of the pie,” McRaven said.

The TALOS concept began with a special operator who was mourning the loss of a teammate killed when he went through the front door of a building during a raid, McRaven said.

“He said ‘Admiral, after all these years of combat, why don’t we have a way to protect our operators on their way through the door?’” he said. “If we do TALOS right, it will be a huge comparative advantage over our enemies and give our warriors the protection they need in a very demanding environment.”

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