Iron Man suit, from the silver screen to the battlefield

Posted at 6:53 AM, Nov 05, 2013
and last updated 2013-11-05 08:53:10-05

By Larry Shaughnessy

CNN Pentagon Producer

WASHINGTON (CNN) — A U.S. Special Operations soldier kicks in the door of a terrorist safe house. The bad guys open fire with AK-47s, but the bullets just bounce off the soldier as he fires back.

It’s a scene that easily could have been included in any of the hugely successful “Iron Man” movies, but the man who runs U.S. Special Forces Command, Adm. William McRaven, wants to make it reality, and soon.

McRaven gave the green light to what the Pentagon officially calls a Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, but everyone refers to it colloquially as “The Iron Man suit.”

McRaven recently spoke about losing a special operator in Afghanistan. “I would like that last operator to be the last one we ever lose,” he said.

“If you think of that operator at the breech point of that door, and he’s got to open that door, not knowing what’s on the other side, he’s got to be in position to be protected as soon as that door opens.”

Many of the technologies that could be incorporated into McRaven’s idea of an Iron Man suit already exist. “But they still exist separately. So they are taking them all and they are putting them together,” said former Navy SEAL Chris Heben.

For example, Raytheon and the military have been working for two years on an exoskeleton that allows a soldier to lift 17 times the weight he normally could.

A company named Springactive has devices that attach to a soldier’s boots that converts every step the soldier takes into electricity that could power his equipment.

Even Adidas, one of the world’s top sports equipment companies, uses a technology for top soccer teams that could be easily adapted for teams of Special Operators.

“I can see exactly what all my athletes on the field are doing,” Adidas project manager Matt Hymers said.

On the battlefield, each soldier would carry on his back a small device about the size of a deck of cards that measures heart rate, perspiration, speed, distance and has a GPS in it to pinpoint his location and the location of his fellow troops. And the commander could monitor the whole team in real time.

Heben said if everything works out, TALOS will “take a group of guys that are extremely high functioning on the battlefield and make them completely unstoppable.”

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