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Futuristic TALOS Delivering Immediate Benefits

 

 

The Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, better known as TALOS, has become a favorite of both media and industry. Media have dubbed it the “Iron Man Suit,” and companies both within and without the defense industry are eager to be a part of the program, which would include a suite of capabilities and technologies.

Future development of a complete TALOS combat ensemble was the focus of a number of events and sessions at this week’s Special Operations Forces Industry Conference, or SOFIC show. Daunting challenges to the development of an operational suit remain, such as reducing the weight of the required armor protection and generating enough power for the suit from a source or sources that are of a man-portable weight and size. Despite these challenges, the program has already borne more immediate spinoffs to benefit SOF today and in the near future.

“Last year, we developed an increased tactical data storage capability, which is currently transitioning to our forces to fulfill an immediate operational requirement. This new capability will allow for ten times the capacity of current-day, data storage with an added weight of only six ounces. The team also discovered a novel armor solution, [and] shared it with USASOC, who now uses it on their non-standard commercial vehicles.”

“Yes, the TALOS task force has identified a number of technologies that are along the path to the combat suit which are candidates for transition to SOF, conventional forces, and potentially other government agencies in the near term,” SOCOM Commander Gen. Joseph Votel told The Year in Special Operations.

Revision KOS

Revision Military’s Kinetic Operations Suit demonstrates TALOS technologies such as an exoskeleton, integral armor, and helmet with SA gear. Photo by Art Dubuc

“Last year, we developed an increased tactical data storage capability, which is currently transitioning to our forces to fulfill an immediate operational requirement. This new capability will allow for ten times the capacity of current-day, data storage with an added weight of only six ounces. The team also discovered a novel armor solution, [and] shared it with USASOC, who now uses it on their non-standard commercial vehicles.”

SOCOM has streamlined acquisition procedures and created rapid development and cooperative arrangements with industry to speed the maturing of cutting-edge technologies as well as modifying commercial technologies for SOF uses.

“This idea of doing TALOS is a lot about finding ways to do things more efficiently, take the projects and programs and efforts that other people have done,” said Project Manager Michael Fieldson last year. “Maybe some local expertise or expertise that was focused on something else. Maybe there is some technology out there that we weren’t aware of or wasn’t for defense purposes. Think of your iPhone. It wasn’t developed for defense, but there is probably some good technology in there that we could possibly incorporate.”

“This year the team is working on transitioning a small, individual soldier SATCOM antenna, an unpowered, loadbearing exoskeleton for reduced soldier fatigue, and a powered cooling vest to sustain body temperature and improve individual performance,” Votel said.

SOCOM has traditionally been open to taking an “80 percent solution” into the field to be tested in real-world combat conditions, and then working closely with warfighters and industry to make the changes and improvements that could transition the piece of equipment into something that could be issued throughout the force. While TALOS today is about development of cutting edge technologies, it is also about the art of the possible, employing technologies that exist today in new ways, and improving existing technologies.

“We’ve been focusing on many of the underlying technologies for a long time. Power, body armor, communications, we’ve been doing all of those things,” Fieldson said. Meanwhile, development efforts continue at a rapid pace, and more technologies are nearing the day when they will make it into the field.

“This year the team is working on transitioning a small, individual soldier SATCOM antenna, an unpowered, loadbearing exoskeleton for reduced soldier fatigue, and a powered cooling vest to sustain body temperature and improve individual performance,” Votel said.

“Next year, we anticipate transitioning five technologies, including a next generation antenna that includes dynamic tuning, the Future Interoperable Radio Enclosure (FIRE) with current and future radio modules, a tactical radio sleeve for cell phones, lightweight multi-hit ceramic-metallic hybrid armor, and a biosensor equipped combat shirt that can monitor a soldier’s physiological status.”