US Army developing ‘Iron Man’ suit

By Julian del Prado

Just days ago, the United States Army called on industry, technology and government alike to aid in the creation of a new weapon: the “Iron Man” suit. The Army wants to get their hands on exoskeleton technology in order to fashion a new breed of super soldier. Although the modern soldier is still bound by limitations such as fatigue and human strength, the battlefield of tomorrow is increasingly becoming more technologically impressive.

The U.S. Army/Flickr

Based on technologies currently being developed, the super soldiers of our future could well be an unstoppable force, capable of feats reserved for movies and nightmares. Telescopic contact lenses currently in testing allow the user to see nearly three times farther than would normally be possible. A new device called the Eidos mask allows the wearer to isolate specific sounds while simultaneously improving vision and hearing. Another invention, albeit a few years down the road, allows the wearer to “feel” a short radius around the body. The SpiderSense suit enables wearers to maneuver by touch alone, detecting incoming threats and stopping them even while blindfolded.

These technologies aren’t even the most advanced in terms of military feasibility. Bionic exoskeleton technology is continuously progressing, with the Lockheed Martin HULC suit currently taking the lead. With it, soldiers can carry an additional 200 pounds and run up to 10 mph with equipment in hand. The suit carries its own weight, can be fixed in the field and will assist in moving a load 12.4 miles before running out of charge. These features are only the beginning, as the suit is currently in line to become a battle-tested reality.

More recently, the U.S. Army has announced the development of the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit. This marvel of engineering would combine the works of several industries to combine smart communication technology with mechanical enhancements. With this new system, soldiers will be able to monitor each others’ health, status and position. In addition to being outfitted with weaponry, the TALOS will use liquid body armor developed at MIT that turns solid when exposed to an electrical current.

What do these advances mean for the future of war? Through the addition of nuclear weapons, drones and robots, we will be introducing the Terminator to the battlefield. Enemies of such an army would face almost invincible super soldiers and an endless arsenal of mindless self-guided weaponry. Once again we will look to see if the weapon to end all wars has been created, because in a world where your opponent has these weapons at their disposal, one must wonder what countries without this capacity will be willing to do to assert their authority.

Overall, I wish that the invention of super-soldier technology would spell the end of manned conflict, ushering in an era of proxy warfare where only fully mechanical soldiers are sent into battle. I think, however, that any transitional period where the United States holds a monopoly on super-soldiers is going to set a precedent for one-sided warfare. During this period, countries without this capability will surely attempt to procure it. Alternatively, nuclear weapons use could be justified as a deterrent against the creation of super-soldiers, or as a defense against them. Regardless of how this transitional period will play out, it’s going to be one hell of a ride.

Julian del Prado is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].