U.S. military turns to Hollywood to outfit troops

Special-effects company, Legacy Effects, is working on what seems a mission impossible.  The U.S. military has commissioned them to build an Iron Man-style suit to protect and propel U.S. troops by sheathing them in body armor equipped with an agile exoskeleton.  The goal is to give troops the ability to easily carry hundreds of pounds of gear.

The company is known for its creation of the armors of The Terminator, Robocop, Captain America, and Iron Man.  Being Oscar-nominated numerous times, who else would be better suited to create the gear the military has envisioned for their elite forces.

According to Fox News, military officials are currently examining three designs.  The prototypes, churned out by 3-D printers, are the first step to the creation of a new generation of protective armor.

“We are trying to be revolutionary,” said Mike Fieldson, the military’s manager of the project known as TALOS, the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit.

The design and manufacturing teams includes bioengineers, combat veterans, tech experts and a Canadian research.  Companies like prop makers, small tech firms and Raytheon Company are also involved in this major overhaul.

The Wall Street Journalreported the suit could change the way the U.S. military fights wars. For years, American forces have worked to shed pounds from the load they carried through the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan.  Soldiers are required to carry more than 125 pounds on some missions, including weapons, electronics and body armor.

“Hollywood has definitely made the Iron Man suit impossibly thin and light, and impossibly agile and impossibly energy efficient,” said Russ Angold, co-founder of Ekso Bionics, a Richmond, California company that mainly designs exoskeletons for medical purposes. “So we’re really trying to solve the problem and ask the question: What would Iron Man look like if it was real?”

The military has spent tens of millions of dollars over the years on prototypes that didn’t work out as planned. Lawmakers are concerned about past failures and the burden it will place on the already stretched dollars of taxpayers.

Special Operations Command has spent about $10 million so far. With no fixed budget, lawmakers are worried, and the House Armed Services Committee recently asked for a briefing to make sure the project isn’t wasting money.

“You can see the long-term vision but, for now, much of it remains in the realm of science fiction and entertainment,” said Peter Singer, a senior fellow with the New America Foundation’s Future of War project. “There’s a long way to go, but the technical barriers are not insurmountable.”

The prototype suits are unlikely to look as good as anything on the big screen, designers say.


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