Every so often, a technological innovation so out of the ordinary is unveiled, causing the entirety of the Google universe to back away from their keyboard and double-take. This is exactly what happened in February when President Obama announced that the U.S. government is “building Ironman.” For many years the military along with private-sector partners have been working towards making the tactical advantage cut straight from the pages of Marvel, a reality. In June, prototype designs were shown to military commanders for the first time.
Much has been speculated about the so called Ironman suit, but little is actually known among the public. Tony Stark references aside, what we do know (or think we know) is that in addition to teaming up with Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Boeing, the TALOS project and it’s 10 million dollar a year budget (the official name for the Ironman project, standing for Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit) now involves Underarmour and Nike in some capacity. The suit’s intended use is as a combat edge for troops, however, mystery surrounds its’ functionality.
The most pressing question the public has for the TALOS project is will it feature an artificial exoskeleton or will it be more of a light weight enhanced uniform?
Our guess is as good as the next, but some of the imagined specifics of the suit are straight out of a Sci-Fi movie. For a light-weight suit, it is assumed night vision and increased protection would be included. Interestingly, MIT is currently developing liquid armor said to be capable of keeping the wearer safer when under gunfire, by transforming from a liquid to a solid in milliseconds with the application of a magnetic field or electrical current.
Given the length of time the Military has been working towards developing robotic exoskeletons, it would not come as a shock if the suit incorporated this technology. Robotic exoskeletons have been of interest to the Military since the 1960’s when Neil Mizen developed the man amplifier. An artificial exoskeleton could potentially enable a solider to have the ability to carry a tremendous surplus of weight, as well as gain added mobility and agility. Navy Admiral William McRaven has said "That suit, if done correctly, will yield a revolutionary improvement in survivability and capability for special operators.”
The inclusion of a wearable computer, similar to Google Glass is widely considered a given. This tech would be incredibly advantageous to troops engaged in combat. Computers embedded in the suit could help a solider aim their weapon, increasing the ability to shoot around corners. Furthermore improved situational awareness, regulated body temperature, deliverable oxygen in the event of blood loss, are just a few of the reasons why this suit is so highly anticipated.
Todd Lovell, The Director of Technology at Raytheon believes Google Glass is just the tip of the iceberg, claiming that “25 years from now we may be to the point where sensors are in the skin and the person will become the processor.”
Although the military projects the TALOS project will be combat ready for troops engaged in “dangerous missions” by 2018, a history of technological delays makes this time estimate seem dubious.
Assumedly named after Talos, the mythological Greek character tasked with protecting Europa, VA Home Loan Centers hopes that the Tactial Assault Light Operator Suit similarly defends the lives of military service members.
Author: Noah Perkins
Noah, a San Diego local, transplanted from Boston currently works as the CMS for VA Home Loans Centers, a V.A. sponsored third party lender, striving to find veterans and active duty personnel affordable housing.