U.S. Special Operations Command’s (USSOCOM’s) commander, Adm. William H. McRaven, used his keynote address on the opening day of the National Defense Association’s 25th Annual Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict Symposium to give an update on progress on the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS). The symposium, held at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park, Washington, D.C., Feb. 10-12, was an opportunity to discuss TALOS with an audience of key industry and military players.
Often compared tongue-in-cheek to the futuristic suit from Iron Man, TALOS’ goal is to give special operators a suit that is lighter, with more efficient full-body ballistics protection, and adding beyond-human strength as well as other capabilities.
Since the program’s announcement on May 15, 2013, TALOS has captured the public’s attention. Often compared tongue-in-cheek to the futuristic suit from Iron Man, TALOS’ goal is to give special operators a suit that is lighter, with more efficient full-body ballistics protection, and adding beyond-human strength as well as other capabilities. TALOS will utilize integrated heaters and coolers to regulate the temperature of the suit, as well as embedded sensors to monitor the core body temperature, skin temperature, heart rate, body position, and hydration levels of the user. Additional antennas and computers embedded in the suit will provide user-friendly, real-time battlefield information. The final version of TALOS may even be capable of administering oxygen or controlling the hemorrhaging of a wounded user. One of the challenges with TALOS that McRaven identified was how to power the suit. “You can’t have the power hooked up to some kind of generator,” said McRaven.
McRaven also shed some light on the genesis of TALOS. He said that the death of a special operator in Afghanistan triggered a reevaluation. “Afterwards, one of the young officers asked me a question I couldn’t answer: ‘After all these years in combat, why don’t we have a better way for the tactical operators to go through a door?’” Although recognizing that forced entry is a narrow subject to trigger such a program, McRaven sees TALOS as having larger implications. “We are trying to solve what appears to be a very narrow tactical niche, but I am convinced it will have greater applications across the [special operations forces] enterprise,” he said.
Continuing an ambitious development timeline, three prototype TALOS suits are being assembled for a June delivery to USSOCOM. Once delivered, the prototypes will undergo rigorous testing, with the goal that the first suits will be combat deployed in August 2018.
Referring to a Discovery Channel show, McRaven envisions the TALOS team holding a Monster Garage-type event. When you consider that the last episode of Monster Garage aired in 2006, one can imagine the workload of McRaven. The Monster Garage-type event will be a chance to pair the creativity of garage tinkerers with the expertise of professional engineers, designers, and craftsmen, in order to develop components for TALOS in a collaborative environment. “The unique collaboration effort is the future of how we should do business,” said McRaven. “If we do TALOS right, it will be a huge competitive advantage over our enemies and we give warriors the protection they need in a very demanding environment,” emphasized McRaven.
The TALOS program has seen an unprecedented collaboration by 56 corporations, 16 government agencies, 13 universities, and 10 national laboratories. “The TALOS project is leveraging the expertise of leading minds throughout the country to redefine the state of the art in survivability and operator capability,” said McRaven. Even though the program was announced less than a year ago, McRaven seems impressed with the progress so far. “We’re already seeing astounding results,” he added.
The 2014 Special Operations Forces Industry Conference, also hosted by the National Defense Association, in Tampa, Fla., May 20-22, will be another opportunity for McRaven and USSOCOM to highlight TALOS.