Private corps compete to improve SpecOps ‘Iron Man’ suit

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Oliver showcases an example of what a soldier may look like in the year 2032 at the 2012 Chicago Auto Show. [Image Source: Army PAO]

A proposal deadline of October 17 has been imposed on private corporations competing to improve situational awareness for troops wearing night-vision devices or other optics.

The Washington Post reported the challenge was set with the goal of improving on the disorienting effects for those wearing advanced optics designed to see individuals using infrared sensors and other various methods.

The technology would be used in an armor exoskeleton, currently being developed, that is designed to give its user super-human strength, sensors that respond directly to brain functions and liquid armor. Officially the program is called SOCOM’s Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS), but is frequently referred to as the “Iron Man” suit as in the movie super hero.

The program launched last year with a list of envisioned features. Visionaries image a suit that has a low power requirement, is able to fit under existing uniforms, remains compliant and flexible, stiffening only when needed and provides sensor cues to soldiers to reduce injuries. It should also weigh less than 400 pounds and be able to generate 12kW of power for 12 hours.

Retired Adm. William McRaven propelled the program with splashing publicity. His replacement, Army Gen Joseph L. Votel III, is also a strong advocate for the design and implementation of technologies that better protect and enable Special Operation troops.

“We have made significant progress in the first year of our TALOS effort and the TALOS team is diligently evaluating which technologies and features can be transitioned to the force in the near term and which can be developed and integrated into future designs,” Votel said.

In addition to the optic challenge, power generation has also been an obstacle. With the requirement of a light weight, low profile power generation system to fuel the TALOS “Iron Man” suit, funding has become a concern as well. In the past, programs designed to create “digitized” armor have cost in the upwards of $500 million. The Land Warrior took three major contracts, over the span of ten years, before its features became dependable.

Although a few small development deals have been signed, only a couple of the companies involved have been names. Last spring, SOCOM said that it had been in discussions with a wide range of industries, from Nike to Boeing.

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