Back in February we told you about the military developing a high tech suit of armor called TALOS — Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit. (Yeesh. Almost as elegant as Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division, guys.) Apparently their ambitious plan to have an Iron Man-like prototype by 2018 needed a kick in the pants, so special effects company Legacy Effects was hired to help. (You may know them from such films as The Terminator, Robocop, Captain America, and, yeah, Iron Man.)
Basically, the military has seen Iron Man 3 a bunch of times and they want to get in on the action.
In December of 2012, SEAL Team Six (yeah, that one) conducted a rescue mission in eastern Afghanistan to free a Colorado doctor being held hostage there.
As commandos stormed the compound, and freed the doctor, one SEAL was shot and killed. Afterward, Adm. William McRaven, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command who oversaw the SEAL Team Six raid in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011, decided his forces needed better protection. [Wall Street Journal]
And so, despite millions of dollars and decades of attempts prior to this to create a super suit, the U.S. Military is going to try, try again. So far they’ve put $80 million in to the project, which is a drop in the bucket as far as the Pentagon is concerned.
According to Military News:
“To do it right, they need about a billion dollars,” said an experienced industry official who works for a large defense firm. He asked that his name not be used for this story. “Twenty million dollars a year in an R&D budget— you couldn’t even develop a pencil on that.”
So far Legacy Effects is using 3D printers to create several different body armor designs quickly, with prototypes presented to the military in late June. They’re running in to a few problems, however. Their test subject had trouble running with the current metal exoskeleton design strapped to his legs, and the motor that powers it kept kicking out of gear. And with all the bells and whistles they want on the suit — an exoskeleton, a cooling system, repelling ammo while also being flame retardant and somehow transforming from a soft flexible suit to hard metal, all while trying to figure out a real-life J.A.R.V.I.S. style heads up display — researchers estimate they need 365 pounds of batteries to power it all.
Basically this thing’s not going to actually happen until Tony Stark invents the Arc reactor. (They maybe should’ve re-watched the first movie to fully grasp that part.) The military is hopeful that assembling a “think tank” of geeks from special effects companies, Canadians researching how sumo wrestlers fight, experts in medieval suits of armor, and companies known for designing hi-tech bionic prosthetics, will in the long run be more fruitful than throwing fistfuls of cash at contractors like they used to.
By the way, the name of the real person who died during that Navy SEALs operation is Petty Officer First Class Nicolas Checque. He was 28.