Though drone technology is on the rise and expected to be a key player in the future of armed combat, “combat evaluation” for brand new body armor with over 44% body coverage is now underway, according to SOCOM spokesman and Navy Lt. Cmdr. Tim Hawkins.
Hawkins explained to Task & Purpose on Wednesday that not only does the Lightweight Polyethylene Armor for Extremity Protection offer more than the 19% of coverage provided by standard infantry armor, but it’s also 25%, or 3 pounds, lighter and offers added defense for the wearer’s shoulders, forearms, groin and obliques.
The armor in question comes as a subsystem of the SOCOM’s longstanding Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) or “Iron Man” project. The suit, which initially looked more like a Master Chief concept sketch from the “Halo” video game franchise, has been in development since 2013 and, as of February, is nowhere near complete.
“When we get the exoskeleton here in a few months, we will have the best exoskeleton in the Department of Defense,” SOCOM Acquisition Executive James Smith said at a National Defense Industrial Association forum earlier this year, as reported by the Army Times. However, he added that the technology required to match the vision of TALOS’ 2013 concept video is currently “out of reach.”
According to early releases concerning TALOS, it would be constructed with a lightweight, moveable exoskeleton that would prop up bulletproof body armor. The operator of the suit would also have a number of sensors stuck to their body that would monitor their vitals.
Despite these hopes, Smith clarified that, TALOS is not “something our operators will feel comfortable putting on a close [combat] environment today. So, moving, shooting, communicating in the face of enemy fire — not quite there yet.”
While SOCOM has yet to present further progress details on the suit as a whole, Hawkins informed the outlet that the service is focusing on "further maturation and testing" on a total of 10 TALOS subsystems - one of which is the Lightweight Polyethylene Armor for Extremity Protection.
"This is a material that was part of a collaborative effort during the TALOS project, but that's not to say that this [armor] was the only effort," Hawkins explained. "With regards to the services and what they've taken on, there's some crossover ... our acquisition folks go to the same conferences.