Brett Daniel Shehadey
Special Contributor for In Homeland Security
US Navy Admiral William H. “Bill” McRaven, Commander of US Special Operations Command (USSCOM), is joining forces with the US Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to upgrade the American soldier to the 21st century through Project TALOS.
The TALOS Project seeks to create a type of super soldier that augments US military commandos by increasing their strength, speed, protection, camouflage, self-healing and other technology and computer assisted capabilities. The TALOS suit will include: an exoskeleton, liquid metal body armor, full body protection (bullet and high-impact resistance); an on-board computer system, sophisticated sensors, personal real-time battlefield intelligence; health monitoring, wound healing and have a built-in weapon system.
Versions of this suit are expected to be ready in 3 years, while speculation is going around that the military is making the comic hero “Iron Man” suit or the body suit from the video game HALO. Prototypes are expected within a year. Still lacking is the “arch reactor.” Joke. No, a proper power source was of early concern but the people in the project think they can do this without using more than “100W of power” for the purposes and functions above mentioned within a 24-72 hour duration. That would include regenerating and possible self-generating power.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) initiated the Warrior Web program the 11th of September 2011. This can be seen as a feed-off program from an older idea that really took shape in the 1990s but more so in 2003.
The TALOS Project comes early in the midst of a larger effort in the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) and the Future Force Warrior or Future Soldier concept. The application of nanotechnology was originally thought to play a larger role and may still do so in the future- especially with self-replicating or regenerative nano-bots and even smarter materials. Breakthroughs in material and computer sciences and collaboration with a department wide approach to revolutionize the US soldier will continue to make science-fiction science-reality and the Army, like the Air Force and the Navy, will soon deploy forces at the infantry level based on the same innovation and technology driven age- one that goes beyond the human, blends human and machine and also works with autonomous machines that are mission partners and conduct limited decision making on their own.
Additional disruptive developments taking place in the US Army include: the Lockheed Martin “HULC” or Human Universal Load Carrier (not to be confused with the comic book hero HULK); numerous unmanned ground combat vehicles like “Riptide/Ripsaw” track vehicle or the autonomous six-wheeled “Crusher;” and the ATLAS-based humanoid “rescue” robot that is in the making.
Other countries will no doubt copy the US lead with TALOS, as they are with drone technology. None of them have such a strong fascination for hiring superheroes or great comic book stories to lead their future military forces. What seemed useless or childish, though, is now becoming the greatest game-changer in army history since the machine-gun.
America remains innovative, even on its innovations. It is this key characteristic and the focus of progress, not the massive funding- many of these projects cost tens of millions of dollars or less- that sets the US on top from the rest of the world; including the larger states. Other non-Western states continue to lack a culture of innovation and remain traditional or even reactivist with their security forces, defense tactics and procedures.
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