TALOS

IN search of TALOS: For centuries, humanity has fantasized about the idea of a super warrior. With the latest technological advances of the last few decades, it has never been so close to creating an actual weaponized suit.

The Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) is a piece of mechanized armor conceived in 2013 that was supposed to provide its wearer with benefits beyond what is possible for a human being, including superior protection against the effects of gunfire.

The ultra-advanced protective garment, boasting bewildering robotics and high-tech innovations, was a joint effort between universities, laboratories, and the industry to protect those most at risk on the frontline.

The TALOS suit was actually accelerated due to one unfortunate incident in 2012.  

The Selfless Act became the foundation of TALOS. 

It was December 8, 2012, and the Taliban had just captured an American doctor. U.S. Navy’s elite Special Operations Task Force SEAL Team 6 was supposed to launch a covert operation at night to free the hostage from the Taliban’s grasp.

The target compound was seen to have an alert guard from the air. Through their efforts in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the squad was able to infiltrate the Taliban stronghold, where a well-equipped and strong security force met them.

Led by Chief Petty Officer Nicolas Checque, the primary assault force skillfully maneuvered and approached the Taliban compound, having identified the exact building where the criminals were holding the hostage.

nicolas-checque
nicolas-checque

Soon, a sentry spotted the incoming American commandos and sprinted inside, presumably to alert the terrorists about the impending incursion.

The 28-year-old team leader immediately realized the hostage’s life was at risk, as the enemy now knew of their intentions and position.

Without hesitating, Checque then chased after the guard and rushed inside to confront the enemy single-handedly. Acting on instinct, the young hero engaged the guards at close range and was taken down.  

His selflessness earned him a posthumous Navy Cross, whose citation reads:  

 “His bravery and unhesitant commitment in pursuit of the target was pivotal in saving the American hostage and the ultimate success of the overall mission.”

Indeed, the doctor was rescued and flown to safety. In the aftermath, Special Operations Commander Admiral William. 

McRaven stated: “I am very committed […] because I’d like that last operator that we lost to be the last one that we ever lose, in this fight or in the fight of the future.”

The concept, first presented by Admiral McRaven, was conceived in May of 2013 as a direct consequence of the promising young man’s loss and the fact. 

That standard combat gear still needed to evolve significantly from the days of World War 2. It was named the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, or TALOS.

Military analyst Jared Keller connected TALOS and Checque in his reporting for Task and Purpose. 

Established via first-hand interviews, Keller determined that Checque was likely a catalyst for the program, writing in an article titled “The inside story behind the Pentagon’s ill-fated quest for a real-life ‘Iron Man’ suit” that: “Checque’s sacrifice isn’t just another story of courage and valor from the annals of U.S. military history.

Just one year later, it would end up reigniting the U.S. military’s attempt to reimagine the warfighter of the future—one cloaked in the safety of a suit of robotic armor.”

Historian and author Adrienne Mayor further suggest that the acronym is a tribute to the Greek myth of Talos, a giant bronze android appearing in epic poems from 700 BC.

Inspired by centuries of military imagery, the United States Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, set out to design a real-life exoskeleton with the help of universities, laboratories, and the technology industry.

The project’s brief outlined a bulletproof and weaponized suit with the additional ability to monitor vitals. In addition, it would also enhance the user’s strength and perception and would be built-in layers of smart materials and sensors.

The collaborative effort included the cooperation of no less than 56 corporations, 16 government agencies, 13 universities, and 10 national laboratories, namely the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command, and the Army Research Laboratory.

It was presumed that the enterprise would achieve 1st generation capability within a year, with three prototypes expected to be delivered by the summer of 2014. However, such an ambitious endeavor would prove more complicated than expected.

What was the Mechanics of TALOS?

For some time, the fondly-called Iron Man suit became the favorite topic in defense circles. But notably, it was never officially seen as a program but more like an effort.

SOCOM aimed to incorporate a powered exoskeleton, full-body armor, situational-awareness displays, and promised capabilities beyond ballistic protection.

Enhanced combat capabilities enabled soldiers to run faster and longer, but more importantly, without fatigue. 

TALOS

Furthermore, the suit would allow commandos to not only lift heavier objects than normal but to carry and hold them for significantly longer periods.

Anchored on the back and running down the operator’s legs and arms, TALOS would create a superhuman warrior. Still, the exoskeleton was never intended to clothe every soldier within a squad. It was initially envisaged to protect The most vulnerable, like those who breach through doors first, such as the lead operators.

One of its major components was a specialized fluid that would sustain a low-density state until impacted from the outside.  Then, in an instant, the material would harden enough to stop a bullet in mid-air.

Meanwhile, several other features were designed to increase comfort, namely internal heating and cooling, with adaptive temperature control depending on the climate.  

TALOS

In the desert, the ability to keep lower body temperatures would significantly decrease a commando’s fatigue. In contrast, heating could prevent joints from getting stiff or numb due to freezing temperatures.

Additionally, the intelligent armor would gather health information from the operator and even observers, such as heart rate, stress, and injuries, all in real-time.  

At one point, it was also suggested that the system could administer wound-packing gauze, but the concept was never clarified.

While Lieutenant Commander Li Cohen completed the prototype selection process on behalf of SOCOM, the enterprise soon proved out of reach for current technologies.

Reality is Different 

Many industries already use exoskeletons in a variety of ways. From the construction to the automotive industry, top companies have been experimenting with such types of machinery for years.

 Many were even led to believe that the military would already be in the fine-tuning stages of operational advanced mechanized warrior suits.

In reality, some defense officials have asserted that the futuristic concept would only be practical or even functional in at least 2026.

When SOCOM failed to meet the initial deadline to deliver a prototype by 2018, command leadership expected the testing of a powered exoskeleton by the summer of 2019.  

However, the project was abruptly shut down that year. By February, it was announced that the super-suit was not feasible as originally envisioned.

Still, the enterprise was not entirely a failure. The five-year effort came closer to producing a suit of armor than any other project the Pentagon has carried out.

Ten somewhat mature subsystems stemmed from the program, including advanced body armor, an augmented reality heads-up display, and a lower-body booster to support running and long marches and reduce wear and tear – provided it is removed before combat.