Tony Stark, better known to his fans around the world as Marvel’s Iron Man, is known for his distinctive red and gold suit of body armor and his ability to soar into the sky using computer controlled jet packs. While flying is not yet on the list of functions for the armor under development at the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM), soldiers may soon be outfitted with a cutting-edge suit that incorporates some of the same key concepts present in Iron Man’s gear. The Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) is a lightweight alternative to heavier body armor that incorporates cutting-edge technology to provide added protection and mobility for troops on the ground.
Climate Control a Key Element
Given the harsh conditions and extremes of climate faced by soldiers in recent conflicts, TALOS is expected to include climate controls to reduce stress and enhance performance on the part of users. Temperature management will also be important to maintain key computing elements inside the suit and to provide protection against heat produced by the suit itself.
Most military experts believe that TALOS will afford users greater-than-human strength through a powered exoskeleton that will be capable of lifting hundreds of pounds and will offer added protection against enemy firepower or severe impacts. By providing a well-shielded core for human occupants, TALOS will provide a safer working environment for service members in the field of fire while allowing them to perform their tasks with greater ease.
TALOS will likely incorporate heads-up displays and external cameras that will allow users to view their surroundings while completely encased in protective armor. Depending on the location and the situation, night vision, infrared and other advanced scanning techniques could be made available on demand to ensure the most appropriate visibility for soldiers throughout the day and night. The same technology currently used to display alerts for drivers on windshields can provide added help for navigating the TALOS from the inside of an enclosed suit.
Battery Life Still an Issue
Unlike Tony Stark’s Iron Man arc-reactor suit, however, powering the TALOS will require an ingenious new approach to the battery problem. Electric batteries require regular recharging and replacement. By finding ways to extend the life and reliability of these power sources or by developing new and innovative ways to power TALOS, researchers can improve the chances of soldiers in combat conditions.
RDECOM has announced that it will use magnetorheological (MR) fluid armor in constructing the external shell of the TALOS system. MR fluid uses magnetic fields to create variable hardness for body armor to allow greater flexibility when moving and solid protection against impacts. By incorporating this advanced protective substance into the TALOS system, RDECOM can ensure effective protection without increasing weight significantly.
Upon its completion, TALOS is expected to deliver added protection for soldiers in the field and will ensure the most effective response to threats against U.S. interests at home and abroad. The technologies used to construct this advanced armor system will also be useful in the development of consumer products to enhance safety in the civilian world.