Feature

The U.S. military basically wants to build Iron Man

Calling Tony Stark ...

Is Tony Stark secretly on the U.S. military's payroll? Because the proposed Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) certainly looks like something out of Iron Man.

The man in charge of the country's special forces, U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) Chief Adm. William McRaven, wants the the Defense Department to develop a powered exoskeleton that does the following (via Foreign Policy):

    • Provide "superhuman" strength
    • Protect against bullets
    • Monitor and react to vital signs
    • Display personalized "battlefield intelligence" and provide night vision
    • Integrate a weapon into its design
    • Stop bleeding with "wound stasis" technology that sprays foam into injuries

Yes, all of that equipment sounds extremely heavy, which is why the military is counting on liquid body armor to make the whole thing workable. Currently being developed by MIT, it's a gel that can be pasted onto a surface with particles that transform "from liquid to solid in milliseconds when a magnetic field or electrical current is applied."

In other words, once a bullet hits, the particles lock together to form instant body armor. That might sound like science fiction, but you can see the same principle at work by mixing iron filings into vegetable oil and holding a magnet nearby.

TALOS isn't the only technology out there ready to transform soldiers into battlefield superheroes. Lockheed Martin is working on its own exoskeleton — the Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC) — to help soldiers carry heavy loads with powered titanium legs.

And VICE just produced a short film on "smart rifles," which use tracking software and custom bullets to allow even novices to hit a moving target from 1,000 yards away. (Unlike the previously mentioned technology, these rifles are available to anyone for the price of $25,000).

So when can soldiers expect to see a flightless Iron Man fighting next to them? SOCOM says it wants to test the first-generation version of TALOS within a year and a more advanced one by 2016, so it might not be that far off.

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