There has been a rash of stories about the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS). You can see some of the excitement here, hereand here and the military itself including SOCOM’s Admiral McCraven along with DoD are trying to fan the flames . The suit is supposed to provide ballistic/shock/fire protection, increased situational awareness, potential medical support and even superhuman strength like the “Iron Man” comic book hero for special operation forces (SOF) and in as soon as four years.
It’s not going to happen.
The Army has been playing with futuristic Infantry concepts for decades and the latest SOCOM iteration is just a rehash of several concepts before it. Some of the previous “power suit” concepts were Lockheed’s HULC and Raytheon’s Sarcos exoskeleton. The Army also had several programs for the future Infantryman starting with Land Warrior but including Future Force Warrior and Objective Force Warrior.
During my stint in the Infantry Battle Lab I had to model some of the FFW and OFW capabilities into the Future Combat System grunt. Watch this OFW video from 2003 and compare it to the current TALOS concept video to see how we’ve taken a step back with TALOS.
Here’s the OFW promotional video.
Here’s the TALOS promotional video for comparison.
There are a multitude of issues but the long pole in the tent for a powered suit suitable for tactical operations is power. Battery technology just hasn’t progressed to the point that suits can operate for more than a handful of hours. Carrying extra batteries to facilitate continuous operations almost defeats the purpose of creating a suit with superhuman strength unless you want to devote that strength to carrying batteries. Until we see a breakthrough in the battery technology field tactically operational power suits is quite far on the horizon. Much more likely are power loader type suits which would be helpful on FOBs or even forward airfields to help reloading aircraft and where power is available from fixed sources.
So since powered suits aren’t a real possibility why all the excitement? Well, the military IS interested in giving industry problems to solve and programs like these push the envelope. The Army played with equipping the individual soldier with a computer that would link grunts to each other so information and orders could be passed as well as incorporating the video, thermal and data feeds from drones. NETT Warrior has done many of these things and is incorporating the thermal and video capabilities that modern cameras and optics have delivered to the battlefield.
Another reason to build excitement is to justify budgets and in a period of fiscal frugality everyone is concerned with their budget and convincing the taxpayer that they are a good investment. Finally, Americans are enthralled with technology. It’s in our DNA. Becoming a real life comic book hero has recruiting value. The feature picture from this story is from a 2007 display used at various civilian events to showcase new technology the Army was pursuing. The weapon is the XM-307 Advanced Crew-Served Weapon (ACSW) by General Dynamics, a lightweight ground mounted 25mm.
Unfortunately, there is risk to this proposition because in four years there will be little to show for it besides potentially liquid body armor but the public’s attention span is short.Tags: FFW, Iron Man, NETT Warrior, OFW, TALOS