SOCOM Engineers Examining Capability Tradeoffs of ‘Iron Man Suit’

By Allyson Versprille
 TAMPA, Fla. – Engineers at U.S. Special Operations command are in the process of sorting through the tradeoffs between size, weight and power as they seek to develop a revolutionary tactical assault light operator suit, according to program officials.
TALOS, also known as the ‘Iron Man suit’, is intended to protect special operators during raids and other missions. The armored exoskeleton needs to be thick enough to stop bullets but not limit the special operator’s mobility. The suit must also be supplied with enough energy to power the command, control, communications, computers and intelligence systems for extended missions, SOCOM officials have said.
Each of these requirements presents daunting technical and engineering challenges. When combined, the difficulties become even more acute. Improvements in one area can create problems in another. For example, increasing the armor or the size of the power supply system increases the weight of TALOS, placing strain on the exoskeleton and the operator, program officials said at a National Defense Industrial Association conference May 21.
Tradeoffs could be necessary. To get a better idea of how much a change in one aspect of the system will impact another, SOCOM is conducting a size, weight and power analysis for TALOS, the officials said. 
The first iteration of SWaP analysis, when completed, will be a critical step forward in the TALOS design process. “We haven’t defined those numbers,” said Cmdr. Anthony Baker, the program manager of Joint Acquisition Task Force-TALOS. “Engineers want finite numbers with which to work.”
Suzan Whiting, the program manager for mobility systems, told National Defense that the analysis, which will use modeling and simulation, is expected to be completed later this year in the “August timeframe.”
SOCOM officials are hoping to develop the TALOS system by August 2018.
Creating a sufficient power system that isn’t too heavy or tactically problematic is perhaps the biggest hurdle that TALOS engineers must overcome. It must be man-portable and packable so that special operators can carry it in the field. Baker said it needs to weigh less than 100 pounds to be “tactically relevant.”
Because the power requirements are so great and the size and weight limits are so restrictive, the energy density of the power source must be twice that of a lithium ion battery, according to Vikram Mittal, a SOCOM power systems engineer.
Technologists are looking at a number of potential solutions to the power problem, including the possibility of a hybrid system. “We’re not ruling anything out,” said Tyler Wagler, a SOCOM power systems engineer.
SOCOM officials are hoping that industry and academia can provide the breakthrough technologies that will solve the TALOS challenges. “There’s a lot of amazing technology out there,” Mittal said.

Topics: Defense Department, Science and Engineering Technology, Special Operations-Low Intensity Conflict, SOF Weapons Systems

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