DOD continues quest to make “Iron Man” exosuit for special ops

An Army soldier wears conceptual "future soldier" armor at the Detroit Auto Show in 2012. If the Special Operations Command's TALOS project is successful, soldiers may wear armored exoskeletons for urban combat in the near future. (credit: US Army)

At this week's Special Operations Forces Industry Conference, the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) cracked the door open a bit on its Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) program—an attempt to create a powered, armored exoskeleton for use by special forces such as the Navy's SEALs and the Army's Green Berets. TALOS is the system that led President Barack Obama to announce in 2014 that "we are building Iron Man.”

Navy Commander Anthony Baker of USSOCOM's Joint Acquisition Task Force unveiled the initial list of requirements for TALOS, which is intended to enhance the "comprehensive ballistic protection, situational awareness, and surgical precision and lethality" of Special Operations troops, particularly in urban combat.

Launched by then-commander of USSOCOM Admiral William McRaven in 2013 as a joint project with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the TALOS program is the latest evolution of "super troop" research that has been underway in secret for decades but has only become practical within the last few years. Initial prototypes demonstrating some of the technologies for TALOS were developed by MIT under the USSOCOM/DARPA program in 2014, and USSOCOM is now on course to produce a full advanced prototype of TALOS by August of 2018.

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