If it sounds like something from a movie, that’s because it is. You’ve seen it in the “Iron Man” films. Now, it’s becoming a reality.
By 2018, we’ll see the debut of the Tactical Light Operator Suit (TALOS) – developed by the US Department of Defense for use by specialized military units such as Navy SEALs and the Army’s Special Forces.
Like its counterpart in the Marvel franchise, TALOS will serve to increase the wearer’s strength and mobility. But it also comes with a long list of impressive features, including full-body ballistic protection, integrated heating and cooling systems, 3D audio, embedded sensors and computers, and life-saving oxygen and hemorrhage controls.
What may be even more impressive is its liquid body armor – an electrically-activated shield that changes from liquid to solid in milliseconds with the push of a switch.
It was two years ago that the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), together with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), began work on designing this next-generation, wearable full-body exo-skeleton for those who find themselves in harm’s way.
The head of SOCOM, General Joseph Votel told CNN. “This is a program we started after we lost an operator on a mission. The first guy coming into a particular building was engaged and unfortunately was mortally wounded. And in the wake of that, we asked ourselves ‘Couldn’t we do better in terms of protecting him, of giving him a better advantage when he’s at the most vulnerable point that we put our operators?’”
Regarding cost, not a lot of specific information is available. But a 2014 Defense Tech article reported that $80 Million was going into research and development and hundreds of millions more dollars would likely be invested in the project before TALOS is ready to be tested for effectiveness and operation impact. As the development process goes on, the prototype will continue to be updated with the best available improvements.
“It’s a holistic system with open systems architecture, so if a new technology rises we can swap it in,” a joint task force member at MacDill Air Force base said in January. “Survivability is our number-one tenet. We have to look not only at the integration of current systems for personal protective equipment, but also to augment the guy’s motion.”
So now the Iron Man suit has a real-life counterpart. We could say it’s “futuristic”. Sometimes, though, the future gets here sooner than we imagine.
Watch part of the TALOS development process here: