For several years, the US military has been working on an armor that can improve the physical abilities of the soldiers employed on the battlefield. The research could soon become reality in next 12 months, when the special forces of the United States will have a prototype of TALOS (Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit), a suit with some characteristics similar to those of the Iron Man armor suit.
The USSOCOM (U.S. Special Operations Command) has commissioned the creation of a uniform that can protect the military during operational missions. The suit will create a “super-soldier” with night vision, increased resistance and protection against firearms. The armor will integrate an onboard computer that will provide the wearer all the information in real time to react to any external dangers. TALOS is also equipped with an exoskeleton that will enhance the physical capabilities and allow soldiers to carry weapons or other heavy objects.
With sensors attached to the skin, the suit will be able to monitor vital functions of the soldier, such as temperature, heart rate, body position and the level of hydration. Furthermore, it will be able to provide a life support, by heating, air conditioning and oxygen. Scientists of Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing armor composed of magnetorheological fluid (MR fluid) that transforms from liquid to solid in few milliseconds when a magnetic field or electric current is passed through it.
SOCOM Senior Enlisted Advisor Command Sgt. Maj. Chris Faris said that there is no industry that could build an iron suit during a panel discussion in May, and then Adm. William McRaven opened a call for research and development organizations, private industry, individuals, government labs and academia to submit their proposals.
The first practical demonstration of the suite will be made within the next 12 months while the final version should be available by 2016. If you want to be picky, the armor doesn’t allow you to fly like Iron Man so it would be more correct to compare this prototype with John-117, aka Master Chief.
This isn’t the first time when we have heard of such armors. From a long time, scientists, students and organizations are working on such exoskeletons not only to help the military but the handicaps, as well. Believing the motto “Nothing is impossible”, we disagree with Sgt. Maj. Chris Faris statement “There is no industry that can build it” but it will definitely take years to get the real deal.
Here’s a list of top five exoskeletons developed to help us.
- HULC: Not the Stan Lee’s green HULK, but it stands for Human Universal Load Carrier. Under the guidance of Lockheed Martin (Defense technology developer) team succeeded to develop the carrier which can carry 200 pounds at a top speed of 10 miles per hour. With an anthropomorphic design and a titanium body, HULC can work at any geographical level without putting any strain on the soldier’s body. Because of such sophisticated design, NSRDEC (Natick Soldier Research Development and Engineering Center) had a $1.1M contract with Lockheed Martin’s company. Soon, they will launch the next version of HULC.
- NASA X-1: NASA designed this to help astronauts in space. They can be used to lift a heavy load and for exercise, as well. X-1 has sensors that quickly senses person’s movement and help it. It can be used by handicaps.
- Raytheon XOS 2 Exoskeleton: It was developed by Sarcos for military purposes, later acquired by Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems in Massachusetts. It helps soldiers to put 200Kgs of force per square centimeter and lift up to 180Kgs. The primary problem with this exoskeleton is external power supply. However, XOS team is hard at work to develop fuel cells that would power the armor for a long time.
- HAL: Human or Hybrid Assistive Limb developed in the collaboration of Japan’s Tsukuba University and the robotics company CYBERDYNE to improve physical capability. With its unique hybrid system, it can be used by disabled people and as rescue support at disaster sites. It detects the signals sent by brains to muscles and act accordingly. Its battery lasts for approximately 2 hours 40 minutes.
- Walking Assist Device: Since 1999, Honda has been doing research on its Walking Assist Device with Bodyweight Support System. It just reduces the pressure on leg muscles and joints. It has a seat along with shoes. 6.5kg machine can work for 2 hours as supported by Li-ion battery, and really useful in a crouching position.