The head of U.S. Special Operations Command said the first prototypes of a new, Iron Man-like protective suit could be ready for testing this summer.
Navy Adm. William McRaven said three unpowered prototypes of the so-called Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit -- known in military parlance as TALOS and dubbed the Iron Man suit after the one worn by the Marvel Comics superhero -- are being assembled and expected to be delivered in June. The plan is to evaluate the technology with the goal of fielding a system by August 2018, he said.
"That suit, if done correctly, will yield a revolutionary improvement in survivability and capability for special operators," McRaven said during the 25th annual Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict conference on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. The three-day event continues Wednesday and was organized by the National Defense Industrial Association, an Arlington, Va.-based trade group.
The idea for the project came about several years ago after a member of special operations forces was shot and killed while entering the door of a suspected insurgent, McRaven said. A young officer asked him a question he couldn't answer: After all these years in combat, why isn't there a way to better protect operators going through the door?
"With all the advance in modern technology, I know we can do better," McRaven said.
Some 56 corporations, 16 government agencies, 13 universities and 10 national laboratories are working on the program, McRaven said. "We are already seeing astounding results of this collaboration," he said.
The command also plans to hold a "Monster Garage" event to encourage mechanics and master craftsmen alike to develop components for the suit, McRaven said. It may also seek authority from the Pentagon to distribute prize money to generate even more interest in the effort, he said.
The applied technology project has the potential to provide the U.S. with a "huge comparative advantage over our enemies and give our warriors the protection they need," McRaven said.