U.S. Special Operations Command is moving on to Phase 2 in the development of its “Iron Man” exoskeleton that would give Special Forces troops head-to-toe bulletproof protection while allowing for fluid movements. Socom has issued a grant to Ekso Bionics, a robotic exoskeleton company and one of the companies that worked on the first phase, to continue its work under the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, or TALOS, project, according to an announcement from the company. With this latest award, Ekso will now have garnered $35 million in contracts in the four-phase project, the company said. Its Phase 2 work is expected to be completed later this year.
The TALOS exoskeleton project is to create
* bulletproofing [likely with liquid armor]
* enhanced weapons
* have the ability to monitor vitals
* provide wearer superhuman strength and perception.
The suit would comprise layers of smart material and sensors.
The suit may not be intended for an entire squad, but for a lead operator who will breech a door first, to protect them as they are the most vulnerable team operator in that situation
SOCOM plans to spend $20 million per year on development to total $80 million, which some see as far too low. In previous endeavors to create “digitized” soldiers such as Land Warrior, the U.S. Army spent $500 million on three major contracts from 1996 to 2006 before its features became reliable. It is generally expected that successful development and deployment of heavy and light exoskeletons will exceed $1 billion each.
Admiral McRaven planned to have portions of a prototype by June 2014, with the first “independently operational combat suit prototype” delivered by July 2018. Science and technology officials believe that technologies envisioned for the suit won’t be achievable before around 2026.
Other TALOS objectives
* Advanced Armor: Materials to support next generation full-body ballistic protection
* Mobility / Agility: Enhancement platforms such as powered exoskeletons
* Situational Awareness
* Light / noise discipline
* Command, Control, Communications and Computers (e.g., conformable and wearable antennae and wearable computers)
* Individual soldier combat ready displays including non-visual means of information display
* Power generation and management
* Thermal management of suit occupant
* Medical: Embedded monitoring and biomechanical modeling [eventually seal wounds]
* Have the suit weigh less than 400 lb (180 kg) and generate 12 kW of power for 12 hours.
Although the objective of the program is to incorporate new technologies into a fully powered and integrated suit, components developed under it could be issued individually to troops in the short term to enhance their effectiveness. Non-lethal weapons, new armor materials, more compact communications gear, advanced night vision, and 3-D audio can be used as individual pieces of equipment before they are all put together in one powered exoskeleton
DARPA Warrior Web Light weight exoskeleton or soft exosuit
Warrior web would be light and low power. This would be more for reducing injury carrying the 100 pounds of gear and providing some more integrated sensors and displays
A successful Warrior Web suit would allow soldiers to run a 4 minute mile with a 100 pound pack with reduced chance of injury and with less fatigue.
Fictional Concept Art
Alex Jessup is an artist with interesting detailed future soldier concept art.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.