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Coming in 2014: Scary super-soldier exoskeleton suits from the US military

Iron Man-esque armor prototypes next year, deployment in 2018

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The US military is accelerating its program to build a Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) – an exoskeleton-mounted computer system for the soldier of tomorrow.

"[The] requirement is a comprehensive family of systems in a combat armor suit where we bring together an exoskeleton with innovative armor, displays for power monitoring, health monitoring, and integrating a weapon into that - a whole bunch of stuff that the US Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) is playing heavily in," said Army Lt. Col. Karl Borjes, the command's science adviser.

"It's advanced armor. It's communications, antennas. It's cognitive performance. It's sensors, miniature-type circuits."

In September the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) announced the TALOS program and asked for partners in industry to help them build it. On Tuesday USSOCOM announced it had had 80 representations from industry, as well as 10 universities and four national laboratories.

So far the TALOS team has been trying out commercial exoskeleton systems, liquid armor that turns hard on impact, high-tech power supplies, and micro-generation systems to power the entire thing when away from an outlet. But USSOCOM has decided to take an unusually hands-on approach because it wants to speed up the process.

"Because of the technical challenges and the compressed timeline, we are going to take more ownership on the government side than we typically take," said Michael Fieldson, USSOCOM's TALOS project manager.

"We are really changing the process. The reason we are doing that is to try to streamline the overall effort and drive down both the cost and the schedule. That way, we get the best possible equipment to our force as quickly as possible."

The military's timescale is certainly optimistic. Fieldson wants to get a TALOS prototype out there by next year and have the battle armor ready for deployment in whichever war the US is going to be fighting in 2018. ®

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