The Army announced it has commissioned, at the request of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), a Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit that is similar in theory to the Iron Man suit of Hollywood acclaim. The TALOS – let's hope its going to be called something cooler than that – is the first version of a suit designed to increase the infantry soldiers' strength, ability to do damage, and provide increased physical resistance to enemy light arms.
For years, this idea has been floated around among conspiracy theorists, defense analysts, in children's books, and film featuring a super soldier in a metal suit moving around a battlefield deflecting bullets and killing enemies. The super soldier idea found recent success with the Iron Man trilogy in which Robert Downey Jr. plays billionaire-playboy-engineer Tony Stark, who develops a metal bullet-resistant suit in his garage that allows him to fly around the world saving damsels in distress while dishing out heavy doses of justice to baddies.
The Verge tells us that each suit will have a built-in computer to provide the soldier with night vision and enhanced situational awareness. According to the press release, the TALOS may use a type of liquid armor being developed at MIT that transforms from a liquid to a solid within milliseconds of a magnetic field or electrical current touching its surface, which would allow the soldier of the future to walk unharmed through gunfire. The suit will also have sensors that read the wearer's vital signs, and provide basic heat, oxygen, and maybe even fluids to the war-fighter.
There is no word if the suit will allow the user to fly like Tony Stark, although it would seem pointless to take an infantry soldier out of his primary ground-based role when planes and drones of all varieties are swarming future battlefields.
The TALOS certainly won't be ready for use in combat anytime soon, but it could have significant implications for 21st century urban warfare. While expected to be bulky and unwieldy at first, any type of technology that offers a soldier relief from standard caliber bullets has the potential to be a meaningful battlefield advancement.
The super soldier of the future could become common sooner than expected as technologies envisioned by science fiction, usually considered playthings of the distant future, have a way of becoming our reality.