The U.S. military is developing a real Iron Man suit using liquid metal
The U.S. military is working on the next generation of body armor, and it is both terrifying and awesome all rolled up in one.
Following the death of a U.S. soldier tasked with being the first to breach a hostile house, the military began to examine ways to prevent that from recurring. The answer it came up with is a new type of body armor that equips the soldier with an exoskeleton made of liquid metal. That would in theory allow for better movement will adding additional ballistic support. It would also improve communications.
“This is a program that we started after we lost an operator on a mission. The first guy coming into a particular building was engaged and unfortunately was mortally wounded. And in the wake of that, we asked ourselves, ‘Couldn’t we do better in terms of protecting him, of giving him a better advantage when he’s at the most vulnerable point that we put our operators?'” Gen. Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Special Operations Command, told CNN.
The proposed suit is called the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, or TALOS. The exoskeleton uses liquid metal that can solidify when needed, and remain loose at other times. A final version won’t be ready until at least 2018, but the program has produced several prototypes.
The suit is being described as a real Iron Man suit, which sounds neat, but isn’t really accurate. The exoskeleton doesn’t encase the soldier like a true suit of armor, but rather it outlines them to provide additional support.
It also can’t fly, which is kind of a bummer.
If anything, it’s closer to the suits seen in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare or the movie Elysium – that’s not really surprising given the research into future tech both projects invested in.
The big question mark on the TALOS project is how much it will cost. The military isn’t willing to comment other than to say it has enough money to finish the project, but one estimate CNN cites puts the cost at around $80 million. That isn’t really all that steep a price to better equip soldiers – the real question is how much each individual suit would run. You could argue that if it keeps soldiers safer it’s worth it, but try telling that to Congress.
Many futurists have assumed that exoskeletons will be arriving at some point in the near future, and it’s no surprise that the military is leading the way. Depending on their effectiveness, they will likely bleed into commercial use as well – think of people with intense physical jobs ranging from construction to dock workers to firefighters and you begin to see the possibilities.
This will, of course, also probably lead to an arms race of sorts, with exoskeletons becoming the new outfit of choice for the discerning soldier around the world. That makes these the future of warfare.