While Russia scrambles to refine and field its Ratnik combat armor suit, designed for frontline infantry usage, US Special Operations Command has been quietly working on a high-tech battlesuit of its own that could reach its target test phase by summer next year.
Known as the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, or TALOS for short, it aims to succeed where previous American initiatives geared towards enhancing the abilities of soldiers in combat using human-portable and worn technology have stalled.
Among the primary objectives of the TALOS program are developing a suit that's energy efficient -- able to function at peak performance without recharging for significant periods of time -- and low profile, allowing ease of movement and maneuverability.
Similar to the now legendary Iron Man suit from the Marvel movies, TALOS will also be able to provide wearers with heightened situational awareness while streaming in huge amounts of data and information from other platforms, including drones, reconnaissance aircraft, land-based and naval sensors, etc.
Unlike Iron Man, TALOS won’t be able to fly or tangle with F-22 Raptors... but it will be able to solve a problem that has haunted the US military for decades upon decades — the weight borne by soldiers in the field.
In addition to their weapons and ammunition, soldiers can sometimes find themselves toting more than 60-70 lbs of additional gear and personal protective equipment. By integrating light armor plating into the chassis of TALOS and including force-multiplying motors, the new suit could allow wearers to carry even more weight without feeling a thing.
Life support systems that monitor the wearer's vitals and health are also an expected part of the final TALOS product. Aside from improved night vision and a more compact communications suite, an upgraded audio reception capability is arguably one of the cooler features of this already badass suit.
3-dimensional sound pickups will not only allow the wearer to determine the source of incoming fire, vehicles, etc. (similar to the Boomerang countermeasures system), it will also allow special operators to covertly listen in on enemy ground movements and gather actionable field intelligence.
Unlike Ratnik, TALOS will exclusively be used by USSOCOM's special operators, and not Army and Marine Corps infantry units.
However, while USSOCOM will be the first to field TALOS on operational deployments 9-10 years from now, the military hopes that this will be the first big step towards making battlesuits a reality for all combat arms units down the road.
Ian D’Costa is a correspondent with Gear Scout whose work has been featured with We Are The Mighty, The Aviationist, and Business Insider. An avid outdoorsman, Ian is also a guns and gear enthusiast.