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  (Source: The Disney Company)
Suit will enhance an operator's strength and will protect against small arms fire

Late last month the U.S. Military's Special Operations Command (SOCOM) broadened its call for comment looking for ideas on a high tech suit that could be fielded potentially within the next three years, with a less advanced preliminary prototype completed by the end of 2014.  

The request for an expensive new military technology comes at a problematic time as the government shut down at the start of October, and is on the brink of potentially massive budget cuts.  But experts believe that the suit will be critical to America maintaining military dominance in coming decades, and many comic book enthusiasts are salivating at its potential to make many some elements of superhero fantasies a reality.

I. TALOS: SOCOM's Iron Man Option

SOCOM overseas the U.S. Navy Sea, Air, and Land Teams (SEALs), U.S. Army Green Beret, the U.S. Air Force's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Night Stalkers), and other elite units.  In May, this elite sections of the U.S. Military drew a lot of attention when it announced a call -- commonly known as a "request for information (RFI) -- for research on high-tech exoskeleton suits.
Halo 4
Halo Master Chief and Iron Man are possible analogies to the new TALOS suit.  
[Image Source: Microsoft Studios]

The super-suit -- somewhat like Marvel Comics' (The Disney Comp.'s (DIS)) Iron Man or Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) "Master Chief" from the Halo universe -- is dubbed Tactical Light Operator Suit (TALOS) and is ordered to have the ability to enhance strength, block gunfire (offer "full-body ballistic protection"), and more.  SOCOM suggests the suit may even have some tricks Iron Man didn't always have -- such as though-controlled heads up displays (okay, he has that in the newer comics).

Talos wide
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Oliver showcases an example of what a soldier may look like in the year 2032 at the 2012 Chicago Auto Show. [Image Source: Army PAO]

The RFI -- placed via the U.S. Federal Business Opportunities (FBO) Office -- requested that responders limit their scope to technologies that would be available within a year.  Additionally it asked the participants to assess whether it would be feasible to field TALOS within 3 years.

DARPA Warrior Web
The DARPA Warrior Web project is similar to TALOS in many ways, and the Army suggests it could be used as a starting point. [Image Source: U.S. Army]

Later that month, the 2013 Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) SOCOM Senior Enlisted Advisors Panel, Senior Enlisted Advisor Command Sgt. Maj. Chris Faris acknowledged both the tough intellectual property and budget realities facing the suit, saying:

[Making TALOS a reality] might mean that you [the contractor] have to lay out intellectual property on the table next to a competitor.  We’ve got to get over that [fear], because if you can develop the articulated armor, the heads-up display for this, but you can’t develop the power, than how are we going to come up with something truly revolutionary?  [The RFI  mandates this as] any and all TALOS solutions must include all necessary software and hardware to accomplish the mission.

Shit [sic], as we look at possible sequestration and things like that and we go to … extend life-cycles of existing things we have today, you guys are going to have to come up with more innovative ways.  [We need] to work together as industry to be the revolutionary partner that we need as we move forward in the future.
Warrior Web
What the U.S. Army thinks a future soldier might look like [Image Source: U.S. Army]

Also in May, the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) responded to the request, suggesting that the suit should have an inner layer with embedded sensors to monitor "body temperature, skin temperature, heart rate, body position and hydration levels."

T1000 Melting
The new suit may use "liquid metal" technology similar to the T1000. [Image Source: Tristar Pictures]

The Army response also suggested that the program use an upcoming Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) bulletproof armor technology nicknamed "liquid metal".  The technology features magnetorheological fluids -- special metal-based fluids which can turn from liquid to solid in milliseconds when a charge is applied.

II. Brilliance or an "Uparmored Pinocchio"?

Things continued to roll, with a demonstration in July various components of the suit were demoed by various potential contractors and U.S. Military research departments:

In a short press release on Sept. 20, SOCOM made a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) -- which increased the visibility of the information gathering, potentially enticing more contractors to participate.

The request explains:

The BAA goal is to foster collaboration with government, academia, and industry representatives on the TALOS effort. Prior studies and analysis have determined a number of technical challenges exist for the SOF equipment that require improvements for missions into the future. Those challenges include trade space between weight, protection, power, and mobility, cost, and system component integration.

Jim Geurts, USOCOM acquisition executive, comments, "USSOCOM is interested in receiving white papers from a wide variety of sources, not just traditional military industry but also from academia, entrepreneurs, and laboratories capable of providing the design, construction, and testing of TALOS related technologies.  The intent is to accelerate the delivery of innovative TALOS capabilities to the SOF operator."

SOCOM wants to build the suit next year, field it by 2016. [Image Source: RDECOM PAO]

Not everyone is enthused at the potentially pricey getup.  Comments Scott Neil, a retired special forces master sergeant and Silver Star recipient, to the The Tampa Tribune at a recent TALOS-oriented convention:

My sense is it is an uparmored Pinocchio!  Now the commander can shove a monkey in a suit and ask us to survive a machine gun, IED, and poor intelligence all on the same objective. And when you die in it as it melts to your body, you can bury them in it! But in all seriousness, I'd like to see them invest in another kind of suit — a business suit. Not one of the operators who has been wearing 80 pounds of body armor and kit will be in Socom after hundreds of millions are spent, but we will be fighting a new fight — transitioning back to be ordinary Americans.

The current BAA closes in September of next year.  SOCOM's intent to is to produce a prototype by the end of 2014, if it receives sufficient support.  That objective is still very up in the air, but for now it's fun to at least think about this comic book worthy hodge podge of bleeding edge (no pun intended) wearable technology.

Sources: SOCOM [BAA], The Tampa Bay Tribune, MIT, FBO

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Body armor
By jimbojimbo on 10/10/2013 5:40:47 PM , Rating: 3
If they manage to find material that is light enough so it can cover the entire body yet still strong enough to stop a 7.62 round I'm all for it. Those SAPI plates are pretty damn heavy. Sure you don't notice them as much once you have the rest of your gear on but they are a lot of weight for a small area of coverage.

RE: Body armor
By Ranari on 10/10/2013 6:01:14 PM , Rating: 2
I agree! I also want to start seeing additional protection for our soldiers in the extremities and not just the chest area. This, of course, increases the complexity and cost of the armor, but things like this actually benefit both the soldiers and the citizens in the long run. We owe it to our soldiers who have lost limbs or have taken on debilitating wounds to continue supporting them via our tax payer dollars, and those taxes we gladly pay, but no doubt our soldiers would have loved to have had the chance to wear armor that could have prevented that.

RE: Body armor
By Souka on 10/11/2013 11:41:44 AM , Rating: 3
I look at the "future soldier" pictures and I see a lot of gaps in the armor

Yes it looks very Halo like... but all those black gaps are kill matter how good the armor is, if the projectile doesn't hit armor, you're in trouble.

RE: Body armor
By Reclaimer77 on 10/11/2013 6:04:16 PM , Rating: 2
Anyone else think the pic on the far right looks straight from Starship Troopers? Maybe it's that helmet...

RE: Body armor
By Manch on 10/12/2013 8:29:07 AM , Rating: 2
lol, you mean the chunky monkey recruiter in the holloween suit? It's just as side show to get potential recruits to come up to the booth.

RE: Body armor
By Mint on 10/16/2013 5:55:53 PM , Rating: 2
Something tells me that the best way to protect soldiers will soon be to not have them on the battlefield at all. I think in 1-2 decades they'll be controlling robots instead, humanoid or otherwise.

RE: Body armor
By FaaR on 10/10/2013 6:51:40 PM , Rating: 2
There's basically no chance of achieving protection against powerful rounds like that at a reasonable cost AND weight... It's a lot of impact energy to deal with...

Carbon nanofiber weave could do it - but even if we could manufacture tubes in amounts large enough to make a whole suit of armor out of it (difficult, if not impossible with today's manufacturing techniques or anything currently on the horizon), the per-unit cost would probably rival a NASA rocket launch... The military-industrial complex would love selling a bunch of such suits to the US armed forces at such prices though. :P

As for liquid armor, well... I dunno about you, but I'd prefer rigid armor myself. ;)

RE: Body armor
By Jeffk464 on 10/10/2013 7:48:04 PM , Rating: 2
Another problem is that if you develop armor good enough for a specific round then the other side can just switch to a more powerful round.

RE: Body armor
By Calin on 10/11/2013 2:18:53 AM , Rating: 3
I don't see the current enemies of the United States going easily to a more powerful round - most of them use the AK-47 and variants, and you won't find more powerful (at least at short range) general infantry weapons that are inexpensive, rugged, quick to build and easily available to any enemy of the USA.
And by the way, the tendency of the last century was to move to a LESS powerful round, not a more powerful one (as general infantry and even machine guns)

RE: Body armor
By Jeffk464 on 10/11/2013 12:54:18 PM , Rating: 2
Russia could probably come up with something pretty quick and they are global arms suppliers. Less powerful rounds are lighter and allow you to carry more of them, thats pretty much the reason. You can always go back to a more powerful round if its needed though. I heard that the army was even issuing old m14's out to units so that they would have more hitting power.

RE: Body armor
By Apone on 10/11/2013 3:40:26 PM , Rating: 2
You are correct,M14's have actually made a dramatic comeback with the U.S. Military. It was originally engineered (with the M1 Garand as its template) to consolidate multiple field team weapons into one (M1 Garand, M1 Carbine, M3 Grease gun, M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle) in order to streamline munitions logistics and reduce cost.

Because the M16 was considered revolutionary and had a "one size fits all" approach, it ended up stealing the M14's debut thunder and was shelved. After Vietnam, it was discovered the 5.56 NATO round sometimes didn't have as much stopping power as we would have liked so the M14's were dusted off and brought back to service. I've heard it's a favorite among Special Forces and it's here to stay.

RE: Body armor
By Manch on 10/12/2013 5:26:54 PM , Rating: 3

It's no secret that the 5.56 has less stopping power. They didn't discover this in Nam. It's a well known trade off. Small high velocity rounds vs slower heavy round. You can carry just about more than double the amount of ammo you can carry on a per pound basis than the 762x39(AK47) and even more than that compared to the M14's 762X51. Also when it comes to close and medium engagements, the M16 and its variants have proved to be the superior weapon.

The M14 has never gone out of service, nor are they making a dramatic comeback. They are used when needed for their specific purposes. It and many of it's variants have continued to be used through out all services. They merely ceased to be used as the standard issue rifle. It's primary variant is the DMR Designated Marksman Rifle used mainly by the Marines. Basically it's an accurized M14 with a scope. They are used for perimeter/airfield defense, counter-sniping operations, etc. They have continued to be modernized as new technologies developed over the years and it's core design has gone unchanged. A lot have been issued in Afghanistan since they need an accurate rifle for engagements past the 330yd mark. It has been in service longer than any rifle in US history.

If you like shooting, these or one of its many variants are one of the best rifles you can get.

RE: Body armor
By Manch on 10/12/2013 4:46:25 PM , Rating: 2
Russia primarily uses the 5.45 in their AK74's

M14's have never really ceased being used, they just aren't the standard issue rifle. It's a great tool when used to for what it's needed.

RE: Body armor
By Apone on 10/11/2013 3:28:20 PM , Rating: 2
@ Jeffk464

The next (more powerful) round up would be the .50 Caliber BMG used on sniper rifles like the Barrett M82A3/M107 and the Browning M2 (mounted on vehicles) machine gun. Calin does have a point, enemies continue to adopt the AK-47 because the 7.62mm round hits really hard and the AK-47 is ridiculously cheap to mass produce, purchase, maintain, and get parts for it.

RE: Body armor
By Schrag4 on 10/11/2013 5:08:52 PM , Rating: 3
I don't see 50BMG as the "next (more powerfule) round up" from the 7.62x39. To be fair, I think you must acknowledge that there's quite a difference between the 7.62x39 (used in the AK-47) and the 7.62x51, which is also in wide use by military forces around the world. I don't think I'm really nit-picking here either. Yes, there are tons of botique calibers between 7.62x39 and 50BMG, and I wouldn't count those, but the 7.62x51 is very, very popular, and for good reason.

RE: Body armor
By GTVic on 10/10/2013 8:48:01 PM , Rating: 1
Yes, plus there is no chance of surviving high impact rounds no matter how good the armour is. Even if the armour was invincible, you or your arm would suffer fatal damage just from the velocity/mass of the impact.

RE: Body armor
By Solandri on 10/11/2013 2:52:05 AM , Rating: 5
Newton's third law disagrees. If the bullet didn't kill the shooter when fired, it won't kill the (armored) target when hit.

RE: Body armor
By GTVic on 10/11/2013 3:17:31 PM , Rating: 1
Only if the bullet comes from a handheld gun. My point was that at some point, with increasing momentum of the rounds, the suit could be good enough to survive the impact but the person inside wouldn't. So it doesn't do any good to beef up the suit to survive beyond what the person inside can survive.

RE: Body armor
By Schrag4 on 10/11/2013 5:11:44 PM , Rating: 2
You're absolutely right, when hit with a tank round, the suit might survive but the occupant cannot. However, we're still talking about small arms fire and, again, if it didn't rip the limbs off the shooter then it won't rip the arm off the shootee if it can distribute the force appropriately. Only in Hollywood does small-arms fire send someone flying through the air.

RE: Body armor
By Reclaimer77 on 10/11/2013 9:13:54 AM , Rating: 1
That makes absolutely no sense. The armor takes the kinetic impact of the bullet and dissipates it over a larger area. Thus decreasing the force received to the personss body.

RE: Body armor
By GTVic on 10/11/2013 3:23:55 PM , Rating: 2
That is just stating the obvious. As the bullets get faster/heavier, at some point the kinetic energy will be too much no matter how good the armour is.

RE: Body armor
By Reclaimer77 on 10/12/2013 8:37:27 AM , Rating: 2
Now who's stating the obvious? The kinetic energy of bullets are insignificant compared to their ability to shred fragile human bodies. Remove the ability of a round to penetrate a person, and you've exponentially increased their chance of survival.

Bullets don't actually have all that much force. Kinetic energy is only half the equation. Acceleration in either direction is no longer a constant as soon as it hits an object, and the bullet itself begins to deform quickly.

So basically you're saying that eventually no matter how good armor is, if you hit someone with a tank shell or artillery cannon, they won't survive?

Well yeah, that's kind of obvious. Hardly a constructive observation though.

RE: Body armor
By Mint on 10/16/2013 6:01:26 PM , Rating: 2
Did you ever consider that someone has to fire these future faster bullets? If the momentum transfer to the armor is too much for the solder to take, then how is the enemy going to transfer that same moment to the bullet in the first place?

With a tank? This topic isn't about that. It's about armor against handheld arms.

RE: Body armor
By Da W on 10/11/2013 9:08:49 AM , Rating: 1
I don't think they carefully listened to iron man 1 et 2 and all the trouble Tony Stark had to create a proper energy source to fuel his armor.

Of course since its american it will propoably run with a natural gaz engine in the soldier's backpack ;)

RE: Body armor
By RedemptionAD on 10/11/2013 11:38:50 AM , Rating: 2

The Army response also suggested that the program use an upcoming Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) bulletproof armor technology nicknamed "liquid metal". The technology features magnetorheological fluids -- special metal-based fluids which can turn from liquid to solid in milliseconds when a charge is applied.

Depending upon the thickness required to achieve the effect, it might work. I saw a demonstration of 1/2" thick of a very cheap material go from liquid to solid and stop a hammer blow with no electricity years ago. A hammer blow is not a bullet, but considering I could make a large amount of the material for less than $20 with stuff I could pick up from Wal-Mart, a more advanced material put in a kevlar weave with a carbon nanofiber weave topcoat it may work and be cheap enough to be mass deployable, perhaps if only for special forces.

RE: Body armor
By Manch on 10/14/2013 5:23:10 PM , Rating: 2
You can try that experiment yourself. It's easy to do. Get a balloon and fill it with a mixture of cornstarch and water. Tie it off. It will move a roll around like a stress ball. Squeeze it really hard and it will lock up as if a solid. Now take it an bounce it on the ground. It's a fun experiment or kids. The link gives an ideal ratio and explains the basic science behind it.

RE: Body armor
By Schrag4 on 10/11/2013 4:48:12 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, really. According to the article, it hardens in milliseconds. Let's be very generous and pretent it only takes 1 millisecond to harden. That round that slowed to 2000 fps during flight will travel 2 feet during that millisecond. No thanks.

RE: Body armor
By Jeffk464 on 10/10/2013 7:45:52 PM , Rating: 2
Sweet, they should make a suit of motorcycle armor why their at it.

By kwrzesien on 10/11/2013 2:19:03 PM , Rating: 5
Shouldn't we be working on something more useful, like a lightsaber? Everybody wants one of those!

(Plus they will slice through your body armor like a hot knife through butter)

Rookies.. (some of ya)
By rippleyalienshakd on 10/11/2013 6:14:46 PM , Rating: 2
With regards to Armor..And most importantly, the Rounds being faced.

1. M14=7.62 Nato.. In Other words, Same round, for M60, M240
Extremely Devastating, highly accurate. Makes an AK round look like a M16 (5.56 Nato)..
2. Armor- Getting hit IN any Armor, a person will indeed notice it. The impact doesnt Kill the person, it is the Round going through, impacting the flesh, which causes the Damage.

7.62- 1x Round of 7.62 Weighs 2x as much as a 5.56 round. That IS the Absolute MAIN Reason the M16 was chosen. 5.56 Ammo, Is highly Accurate to 500M.. (Ask ANY Marine)..
60 rounds of 5.56 Vs, 30 rounds of 7.62 same weight, SO that means, a typical Infantryman can Carry 2x the same loadout as a Infantryman with a M14.. That added Weight, makes a HUGE difference.
Same reason, that the USMC, is phasing out M249 Saws. Weapon is Very heavy, carrying it over 2miles. + Barrel (second one), the Movement has been to a newer auto Rifle, to offer interchange in parts, (same Mags, Rails, Accessories).

Someone Mentioned a 50cal BMG.. ahhh, NO.. No SINGLE person on the Planet, can effectively shoot a 50cal Machine gun, Without a Tripod\vehicle mount. The weapon alone weighs 75+ Lbs.. (Barrel 25lbs x2, Reciever 35+lbs, and Tripod, 25lbs.). We used those 100% on Vehicle Mounted, as it weighs WAYYY to much to hump,setup effectively in time.. Not to mention, the Round ALONE, an Infantryman, cannot nor will not carry 100 rounds, of that ammo, in a pouch, weighs tooo much. IF a 50cal round SHOT from 1000 yards and hits a Man on his hand, It will Rip the entire arm off, just based on Inertia alone.

Hits a Armored Vest= Very nice hole through it.

The idea of the Body armor, Sounds very well, until you have to Walk with it, run in it, or SPRINT as your life depended on it. In about 5-10 years, there will be an improvement (There always is), in manufacturing capabilities. It will indeed come to us all, but just like Mice, Rats, other Critters. The moment you build a good piece of Armor, a Weapons Enterprise, will develop something to defeat said armor. Same thought pattern with Tank Armor. The moment during Desert Storm (1991), When 1x Sniper Disabled a T80 Tank, with 1x 50cal Sniper round (Highlights one post, about Breaks in the Armor), 1x Round, kinda changed the Soviet Unions Thoughts with regards to Armor on their Tanks..

RE: Rookies.. (some of ya)
By Skywalker123 on 10/12/2013 2:09:00 AM , Rating: 1
IF a 50cal round SHOT from 1000 yards and hits a Man on his hand, It will Rip the entire arm off, just based on Inertia alone.

Please stop repeating this bullshit. The bullet will simply go thru the man's hand. Don't be ignorant.

RE: Rookies.. (some of ya)
By DennisB on 10/14/2013 8:33:33 AM , Rating: 2
Well, M2 used to be carried to the battlefield in WWII and fired from the hip. Today there are plenty of 50's that can be fired while standing.
Gepard GM6 Lynx:
There's even a 50' pistol. In the last century there were large whale-hunting rifles...

When hit the whole hand will be gone not necessary the arm, though.

The russian use the 14.5 mm not the 50 caliber. Besides people will rather use the RPG round than some heavy guns.

Protection and enhanced strength
By w8gaming on 10/11/2013 4:36:44 AM , Rating: 3
Armor protection means additional weight, enhanced strength means motor. Where are they going to find an arc reactor to power that suit?

Global dominance
By roykahn on 10/11/2013 4:03:02 PM , Rating: 3
quote: on the brink of potentially massive budget cuts...the suit will be critical to America maintaining military dominance in coming decades

Isn't that brilliant? Why focus on improving one's own country and taking care of its people when one can instead focus on destroying another country?

Other countries can have their government services like healthcare, unemployment benefits, education, disability funding, aged care services, but they won't have their iron man suits! That will leave them open to "foreign intervention" by the Nobel Peace Prize winner Obama.

This is also an excellent way to intimidate other countries and bully them into doing something stupid liking agreeing to the Trans Pacific Partnership.

In a cave
By WayneG on 10/11/2013 5:50:28 AM , Rating: 2
SOCOM representitive Obadiah Stane (Deputy Head of Operations and Technology) was quoted on record as stating rather nonchalantly "TONY STARK BUILT THIS IN A CAVE!!! WITH A BOX OF SCRAPS!!!". Efforts are continuing to produce the 'arc reactor' power source required.

In all seriousness, surely we don't have the power capabilities for this kind of thing, a decent sized battery pack will weigh around 1-200kg meaning the motors would have to be 4 times the width of the operators leg. I think at our current technological prowess a better use of funding would be to produce a larger suit that can house a combustion engine or similar more akin to the suits used in Avatar (maybe not quite as big...).

Unless the power generation is something more exotic (wireless power coils/conduction units?).

By CatheyBarrett50 on 10/12/2013 4:04:22 AM , Rating: 2
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Iron Man IV
By Reclaimer77 on 10/10/13, Rating: -1
"Well, there may be a reason why they call them 'Mac' trucks! Windows machines will not be trucks." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

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