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Military hunts for real-life Iron Man armor

The Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit would give the wearer superhuman strength, night vision, and better protection from gunfire.

Future armor
New helmet, sensor, and communication technologies could feature in the TALOS armor.
U.S. Army

What if US special forces troops could virtually walk through a hail of bullets, lift objects with superhuman strength, and see in the dark?

A planned exoskeleton called the The Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) aims to give them those abilities if it can actually be built.

US Special Operations Command chief William McRaven has been asking industry, academia, and entrepreneurs to collaborate in building the sci-fi armor, which was inspired by the death of a commando in Afghanistan.

Special forces has been planning the armor for some time now, and last month it issued an appeal for proposals for "enhanced mobility and protection technologies in a fully integrated assault suit."

"Some of the potential technologies planned for TALOS research and development include advanced armor, command and control computers, power generators, and enhanced mobility exoskeletons," said USSOCOM in the appeal.

That sounds like a very heavy load to carry. But the weight could be mitigated by a type of liquid armor being researched at MIT. It would use magnetorheological fluids and transform from a liquid to a solid in milliseconds with the application of a magnetic field or electrical current.

TALOS could also have a powered exoskeleton similar to ones that have already been tested by the military, such as the Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC). It could help users carry heavy loads (such as the TALOS itself) or travel greater distances.

On-board computers could include medical systems for "embedded monitoring, oxygen systems, wound stasis, electromechanical compensation," according to a Federal Business Opportunities document from earlier this year.

The system would also have an array of sensors to keep track of the user's heart rate and body temperature, while other systems would provide air conditioning, heat, and oxygen if needed.

"It's advanced armor. It's communications, antennas. It's cognitive performance. It's sensors, miniature-type circuits. That's all going to fit in here, too," Karl Borjes, a science adviser assigned to Special Operations Command, said in a press release earlier this year.

"[The] requirement is a comprehensive family of systems in a combat armor suit where we bring together an exoskeleton with innovative armor, displays for power monitoring, health monitoring, and integrating a weapon into that."

Special forces apparently wants to build a prototype TALOS within a year, and then a more advanced one by 2016. How many "Iron Man" sequels will have been produced by then?

(Via Foreign Policy)