TALOS (Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit) was the name given to a robotic exoskeleton that United States Special Operations Command intended to design with the help of universities, laboratories, and the technology industry. The brief for TALOS states that it must be bulletproof, weaponized, have the ability to monitor vitals and give the wearer enhanced strength and perception. The suit would comprise layers of smart material and sensors. The suit may have not been intended for an entire squad, but for a lead operator who would breach a door first, to protect them as they are the most vulnerable team operator in that situation.
Despite recent reports that United States Special Operations Command missed the initial deadline to deliver a prototype for the high-profile tactical assault light operator suit, command leadership is confident that it will test a powered exoskeleton by summer 2019. Partners involved in the project include Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, and the Army Research Laboratory.
US Navy Admiral William H. “Bill” McRaven, Commander of US Special Operations Command (USSCOM), is joining forces with the US Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to upgrade the American soldier to the 21st century through Project TALOS.
The TALOS Project seeks to create a type of super soldier that augments US military commandos by increasing their strength, speed, protection, camouflage, self-healing and other technology and computer assisted capabilities. The TALOS suit will include: an exoskeleton, liquid metal body armor, full body protection (bullet and high-impact resistance); an on-board computer system, sophisticated sensors, personal real-time battlefield intelligence; health monitoring, wound healing and have a built-in weapon system.
Versions of this suit are expected to be ready in 3 years, while speculation is going around that the military is making the comic hero “Iron Man” suit or the body suit from the video game HALO. Prototypes are expected within a year. Still lacking is the “arch reactor.” Joke. No, a proper power source was of early concern but the people in the project think they can do this without using more than “100W of power” for the purposes and functions above mentioned within a 24-72 hour duration. That would include regenerating and possible self-generating power.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) initiated the Warrior Web program the 11th of September 2011. This can be seen as a feed-off program from an older idea that really took shape in the 1990s but more so in 2003.
The TALOS Project comes early in the midst of a larger effort in the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) and the Future Force Warrior or Future Soldier concept. The application of nanotechnology was originally thought to play a larger role and may still do so in the future- especially with self-replicating or regenerative nano-bots and even smarter materials. Breakthroughs in material and computer sciences and collaboration with a department wide approach to revolutionize the US soldier will continue to make science-fiction science-reality and the Army, like the Air Force and the Navy, will soon deploy forces at the infantry level based on the same innovation and technology driven age- one that goes beyond the human, blends human and machine and also works with autonomous machines that are mission partners and conduct limited decision making on their own.
Additional disruptive developments taking place in the US Army include: the Lockheed Martin “HULC” or Human Universal Load Carrier (not to be confused with the comic book hero HULK); numerous unmanned ground combat vehicles like “Riptide/Ripsaw” track vehicle or the autonomous six-wheeled “Crusher;” and the ATLAS-based humanoid “rescue” robot that is in the making.
Other countries will no doubt copy the US lead with TALOS, as they are with drone technology. None of them have such a strong fascination for hiring superheroes or great comic book stories to lead their future military forces. What seemed useless or childish, though, is now becoming the greatest game-changer in army history since the machine-gun.
America remains innovative, even on its innovations. It is this key characteristic and the focus of progress, not the massive funding- many of these projects cost tens of millions of dollars or less- that sets the US on top from the rest of the world; including the larger states. Other non-Western states continue to lack a culture of innovation and remain traditional or even reactivist with their security forces, defense tactics and procedures.
While Russia scrambles to refine and field its Ratnik combat armor suit, designed for frontline infantry usage, US Special Operations Command has been quietly working on a high-tech battlesuit of its own that could reach its target test phase by summer next year.
Known as the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, or TALOS for short, it aims to succeed where previous American initiatives geared towards enhancing the abilities of soldiers in combat using human-portable and worn technology have stalled.
Among the primary objectives of the TALOS program are developing a suit that’s energy efficient — able to function at peak performance without recharging for significant periods of time — and low profile, allowing ease of movement and maneuverability.
Similar to the now legendary Iron Man suit from the Marvel movies, TALOS will also be able to provide wearers with heightened situational awareness while streaming in huge amounts of data and information from other platforms, including drones, reconnaissance aircraft, land-based and naval sensors, etc.
Unlike Iron Man, TALOS won’t be able to fly or tangle with F-22 Raptors… but it will be able to solve a problem that has haunted the US military for decades upon decades — the weight borne by soldiers in the field.
In addition to their weapons and ammunition, soldiers can sometimes find themselves toting more than 60-70 lbs of additional gear and personal protective equipment. By integrating light armor plating into the chassis of TALOS and including force-multiplying motors, the new suit could allow wearers to carry even more weight without feeling a thing.
Life support systems that monitor the wearer’s vitals and health are also an expected part of the final TALOS product. Aside from improved night vision and a more compact communications suite, an upgraded audio reception capability is arguably one of the cooler features of this already badass suit.
3-dimensional sound pickups will not only allow the wearer to determine the source of incoming fire, vehicles, etc. (similar to the Boomerang countermeasures system), it will also allow special operators to covertly listen in on enemy ground movements and gather actionable field intelligence.
Unlike Ratnik, TALOS will exclusively be used by USSOCOM’s special operators, and not Army and Marine Corps infantry units.
However, while USSOCOM will be the first to field TALOS on operational deployments 9-10 years from now, the military hopes that this will be the first big step towards making battlesuits a reality for all combat arms units down the road.