The extremely violent yet highly effective battle robots often depicted in many forms of science fiction may be a long way from actual, real-life production, but the U.S. army is looking into far more versatile alternatives. In late December of last year, a post on the official Federal Business Opportunities website called for the submissions regarding a special super suit that could be worn by U.S. soldiers. It has called upon any “industry, academia, individuals and government organizations” who may be interested in submitting prototype designs for the military combat suit of the future. And it has some clear goals in mind.
First and foremost, they want the super suit to prevent common brain injuries that tend to occur in the heat of battle. They also require all submissions to include an “operable exoskeleton” that offers a human range of motion and will not be a problem when soldiers operate heavy machinery. Apart from a “wish list” of specifications, the military has also assigned a nickname to their future super suit for soldiers already: TALOS, which stands for Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit.
According to a report on the call for TALOS prototypes designs from the military, it is expected to effectively give any wearer the equivalent of human superpowers, such as the ability to see clearly in the dark, superhuman strength, and an easy way of deflecting bullets or at least preventing them from doing any significant damage. Some prototypes of the suit already exist, and the military is currently testing it out in the field.
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Cmdr. Matt Alen, a spokesman for the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM), said that the military wants to take all the ideas submitted so far by both the private and public sector and produce an up-to-date test version of the super suit by some time this year. “The ultimate purpose of the TALOS project is to produce a prototype in 2018,” he said. “That prototype will then be evaluated for operational impact.”
Apart from a highly-advanced super suit for soldiers, the TALOS project is also seen as an umbrella under which the military can develop other futuristic technologies such as advanced armor, enhanced mobility skeletons, power generators and systems for command and control of computers. Out of all these choices, the enhanced mobility skeletons are those that are seen as the mosts likely to appear in the not-so-distant future.
Professor Gareth McKinley, a professor from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who is working on something called “liquid armor” technology, once said that what the military is asking for sounds like the Iron Man suit. But even if there may be a firm basis for the existence of such a kind of suit, even he thinks that a more likely solution is something like the suit from the movie Alien. “The other kind of things that you see in the movies I think that would be more realistic at the moment would be the kind of external suit that Sigourney Weaver wears in Alien,” he said, “where it’s a large robot that amplifies the motions and lifting capability of a human.
In any case, adding features and capabilities to super suits and exoskeletons might not be the biggest problem that needs to be solved by scientists and other experts in the military. Professor McKinley notes that finding a suitable power source could be a bigger challenge. “Like all good superheroes, TALOS has one weakness,” he said, mentioning that “the weak spot is either the need to carry around a heavy pump for a hydraulic system, or lots of heavy batteries.” So unless a miniature arc reactor — a fictional source of seemingly limitless clean power — or something similar gets invented any time soon, it may be a long while before we can see any Iron Man-like suits in circulation.
See how else the military is beefing up its weaponry through NationalSecurity.news.