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Special Ops Command Seeks Prototypes for ‘Iron Man Suit’

English: United States Special Operations Comm...

English: United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) emblem (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By David Vergun
Army News Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 18, 2013 –
U.S. Special Operations Command wants its operators to be protected
with what it informally calls an “Iron Man suit,” named after the
fictional superhero.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
An
artist’s rendering of what the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit
might look like with its desired capabilities. Defense Advanced Research
Projects Agency
courtesy graphic

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

In September, Socom announced it is seeking proposals for prototypes of the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, or TALOS.

The goal of TALOS is to
provide ballistic protection to Special Operations Forces, along with
fire-retardant capability, said Michel Fieldson, TALOS lead for Socom.

“We sometimes refer to it
as the ‘Iron Man’ suit, frankly, to attract the attention, imagination
and excitement of industry and academia,” Fieldson said. “We’re hoping
to take products we’re developing in several technology areas and
integrating them into a consolidated suit to provide more protection for
the [special operations forces].”

Other technologies include sensors, communications, energy and
material that can store and release energy to prevent injuries and
increase performance.

Materials that can store and release energy might be similar to the
Intrepid Dynamic Exoskeletal Orthosis, now used by some wounded warriors
for lower-leg injuries. So TALOS could benefit wounded warriors too,
Fieldson said.

The Homeland Security Department and firefighters have expressed an
interest in this technology as well, he said, and it eventually might
become available for other service members.

“Our goal right now is to try to get the word out and bring industry
partners together,” Fieldson said. The technologies that will go into
the suit’s development are varied, he said, so it is unlikely one
contractor would be able to specialize in the entire ensemble.

The traditional approach, Fieldson said, was to pick a prime
contractor, usually a traditional defense partner, give them the design
requirements and let them come up with the solution. That would take a
long time, he noted.

“In this case, the government will be the lead integrator, and we’ll
look to work with traditional or nontraditional partners in industry and
academia who are innovative,” he said. “We’ll leave no stone unturned.”

The goal, he said, is to begin integrating capabilities over the next
12 months and have the first suit ready for full field testing in four
to five years.

Fieldson thinks TALOS will become a reality because it protects the
warfighters and has the backing of Socom’s commander, Navy Adm. William
H. McRaven
.

“I’m very committed to this,” McRaven said to industry
representatives at a July 8 TALOS demonstration in Tampa, Fla. “I’d like
that last operator that we lost to be the last one we ever lose in this
fight or the fight of the future, and I think we can get there.

“I’m committed to this,” he
continued. “At the end of the day, I need you and industry to figure
out how you are going to partner with each other to do something that’s
right for America.”

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