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SOCOM Seeks TALOS (Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit)

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Few Requests for Information (RFIs) are accompanied by the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) Senior Enlisted Advisor, Command Sgt. Maj. Chris Faris, almost simultaneously saying, “there is no one industry that can build that.” But that was the case for the RFI solicitation for the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS), released on May 15. SOCOM is seeking technology demonstration submissions from research and development (R&D) organizations, private industry, individuals, government labs, and academia for inclusion in SOCOM experimentation events. According to the RFI, SOCOM sees these experimentation events as part of an effort “to accelerate the delivery of innovative capabilities to the SOF warfighter.”

Future Army Soldier

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Oliver showcases an example of what a soldier may look like in the year 2032 at the Chicago Auto Show, Feb. 14, 2012. U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) issued an RFI for a Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) that has the potential to make 2032 happen in 2013. U.S. Army photo by Anthony Taylor, 85th Support Command Public Affairs Office

The importance of industry/government collaboration for TALOS was emphasized by Faris at the 2013 Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) SOCOM Senior Enlisted Advisors Panel, where he laid out that TALOS, “might mean that you have to lay out intellectual property on the table next to a competitor.” If industry balks at that proposition, Faris has a message for them: “we’ve got to get over that, because if you can develop the articulated armor, the heads-up display for this, but you can’t develop the power, than how are we going to come up with something truly revolutionary?” The RFI itself is aimed at making industry work together since, “any and all TALOS solutions must include all necessary software and hardware to accomplish the mission.”

The SOCOM demonstrations will take place from July 8-10, 2013 at or near MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, Fla., with two goals in mind. The first goal is the identification of technologies that could be integrated into an initial capability within a year. A secondary goal is to see if the fielding of objective capabilities within three years is a feasible objective. That may seem like a relatively fast timeline, but Faris sees it as part of a larger investment. “If we are going to invest in revolutionary things, we cannot afford this incremental evolutionary thing,” he said.

The RFI, which is available at the Federal Business Opportunities website, suggests that TALOS submissions, “take into consideration ‘lightening the load’ of the operator, mentally and/or physically.” Besides that suggestion, the RFI also includes nine mobility/protective technologies that may be included:

  • Advanced Armor: Materials to support next generation full-body ballistic protection
  • Mobility/Agility: Enhancement platforms such as powered exoskeletons
  • Situational Awareness (SA)
  • Light/noise discipline
  • Command, Control, Communications & Computers (C4): Such as conformable & wearable antennae and wearable computers
  • Individual soldier combat ready displays: Including non-visual means of information display, and potentially utilization of cognitive thoughts and the surrounding environment to display personalized information
  • Power generation and management
  • Thermal management of suit occupant
  • Medical: Embedded monitoring, oxygen systems, wound stasis, electromechanical compensation

Faris was not trying to scare off companies from responding to the TALOS RFI, but rather acknowledging new budget realities. Using the “S word” to make his point, Faris said, “as we look at possible sequestration and things like that and we go to … extend life-cycles of existing things we have today, you guys are going to have to come up with more innovative ways.” He finished his remarks about TALOS by urging attendees “to work together as industry to be the revolutionary partner that we need as we move forward in the future.”

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Steven Hoarn is the Editor/Photo Editor for Defense Media Network. He is a graduate of...