In the never-ending search for the next best technology, both the United States and Russia are searching for armor, camouflage, and exoskeletons to carry the next generation of Special Operations Forces into battle. And as they are both working on the latest upgrades for their troops, some of the newest technology looks like it came from a Hollywood backlot for its inspiration.
The Russians reportedly are already fielding at least parts of their Star Wars-like third generation Ratnik-3 Combat Suit, which more resembles the armor worn by the alien in the film “Predator” than it does anything out of Star Wars.
But now the Russians have supposedly upped the ante by displaying what they claim is a new paint which can change colors quickly, almost chameleon-like (does the Predator ring a bell here?) which will better protect Russian troops.
Russian defense contractor Rostec was showing off this new camouflage on a helmet at the Army-2018 Forum in Moscow that they claim will blend in to just about any surrounding terrain easily and can even display moving images.
In a media statement for the even, Rostec said, “The specialized electrically-operated material covering the helmet prototype is able to change color depending on the camouflaged surface and environment.”
They also added, “the material can display dynamic changes of color intensity and simulate complex images, for example, the motion of leaves in the wind.”
When combined with Ratnik-3 combat suit which the Russians dub a “Star Wars-like combat suit”, the helmet, if it works as advertised would give the Russian Spetsnaz, Special Operations Troops a stealth technology that would be unsurpassed. The paint can be applied to anything, including the rest of the combat suit and even armored vehicles and according to Rostec is applied like ordinary paint and doesn’t require, “great accuracy in terms of thickness and uniformity.”
The third-generation Ratnik-3 suit according to earlier media releases by the Russians, “comprises five integrated systems that include life support, command, and communication, engaging, protection and energy saving subsystems.”
The Russian suit even appears more akin to the “Predator” wear than a Star Wars armored suit that the stormtroopers wore. The Russian system like the American “TALOS Iron Man” armor has a built-in exoskeleton which is supposed to make it much easier for the operator to move long distances and carry more weight, without sapping his strength. The Russian system has 59 different pieces of gear, including a fully encompassing helmet and visor with a heads-up display.
However, the Russians did not supply any video or offer a demonstration of how well the new system works, if at all. The Russians have deployed parts of the 1st generation Ratnik suit in the Crimea back in 2013.
The TALOS (Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit) nicknamed the Iron Man suit is still a pie in the sky concept that is not even close to being ready for deployment. The Pentagon back in 2013 with the backing of Admiral McRaven of the Special Operations Command, announced plans to develop a high-mobility suit of armor that could better protect special operators tasked with entering contested spaces.
After 5-years and over $80 million dollars, the suit is nowhere near ready. SOCOM announced earlier this year that the testing will continue for the bulky, battery-heavy suit for quite some time before they’re ready for testing. In contrast, Lockheed-Martin has already produced a light exoskeleton that we profiled here last year.
That piece of equipment is form-fitting, has already been tested by a United States Special Operations Tier-1 unit and the results were quite encouraging. Plus, the battery pack in the rear of the exoskeleton, on the back of the operator is easily changed.
The system isn’t nearly as bulky although it doesn’t incorporate armor, which makes the TALOS system so heavy. SOCOM may be better served using an exoskeleton like that and then develop upgraded armor and targeting systems inside of the helmet.
So, in the not-so-distant future, Special Operations Forces may be going into battle with some futuristic-looking armor and camouflage. And it could just be that it is life imitating art.