SPECIAL OPS: Closing in on “Iron Man” Prototype Suit
BETHESDA, Maryland — The quest for a lightweight, ballistic protective suit for U.S. commandos is about 18-months away from a major milestone, the top acquisition official at Special Operations Command (SOCOM) says.
“We’re about a year and a half-ish out,” from unveiling the next prototype, James “Hondo” Geurts, SOCOM’s civilian acquisition executive told an industry conference on Wednesday (February 15).
In development since 2013, the Tactical Assault Light Operators Suit, or TALOS, was the brainchild of then-SOCOM commander, Admiral William McRaven, who was concerned that SOCOM operators were at particular risk during raids when they didn’t know what was on the other side of the door.
The futuristic commando body armor has been likened to the suit worn by the superhero, “Iron Man,” a characterization SOCOM has not discouraged – although TALOS won’t be able to fly.
Geurts’ estimate of when the prototype — the fifth TALOS test suit — would be ready is in keeping with the timeline envisioned by McRaven and his successors. In addition to lightweight body armor, the original concept of TALOS called for sensors to monitor the wearer’s heart rate, temperature and other vital signs. Using an integrated “system of systems” that would combine sensors, communications equipment and an electrically-powered exoskeleton, TALOS advocates believed it would not only protect special ops troops but also make them run faster, hear and see better and carry heavy loads without excessive fatigue.
“Will it do everything we want? Probably not,” Geurts conceded at the Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict Symposium hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association. But that was never the intent, he added. Research for the various TALOS components has explored improving night vision goggles, shrinking communications technology and developing more powerful, more portable and longer lasting power sources. One technology improvement, a powered exoskeleton, enabled a Marine Corps captain paralyzed by a sniper’s bullet to walk to his valor award ceremony.
Geurts is looking to leverage TALOS technology developments to get new capabilities into the field. The number of spinoffs arising from TALOS has been “phenomenal,” Geurts said. He noted SOCOM is always interested in bringing innovation and improvements into the field as soon as possible. “Velocity is our competitive advantage,” he said. Survivability doesn’t rely on body armor alone, said Geurts, adding “it’s also part ‘what information do you have and what’s your situational awareness.”
Entry filed under: Counter Insurgency, Counter Terrorism, National Security and Defense, Navy, Skills and Training, Special Operations, Technology, Unconventional Warfare, Washington, Weaponry and Equipment. Tags: "Iron Man" suit, James Geurts, Navy, Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict, TALOS, U.S. Special Operations Command.