Given the spectacular special effects on display in Marvel’s “Iron Man” movies and the Defense Department’s clever allusions to the popular hero throughout the development of programs like their TALOS armored exoskeleton, you could be forgiven for thinking mankind is on the cusp of fielding some real-life superheroes. Many media outlets have been happy to latch on to reports of progress made on the Pentagon’s exosuit efforts, running headlines suggesting special operators will soon be tooling around in super-strong, bulletproof power-armor suits that will completely change the way combat operations are conducted.
It’s an exciting prospect, but realistically speaking, these reports of special operators fielding Iron Man-style suits on near-future battlefields are almost as fictional as the comics in which Iron Man can be found.
“When we get the exoskeleton here in a few months, we will have the best exoskeleton in the Department of Defense,” explained SOCOM Acquisition Executive James Smith earlier this week. “It will not be something our operators will feel comfortable putting on in a close [combat] environment today. So, moving, shooting, communicating in the face of enemy fire—not quite there yet.”
For the sake of emphasis, let’s revisit that last sentence one more time: “So, moving, shooting, communicating in the face of enemy fire—not quite there yet.”
The TALOS suit may not be the only exosuit under development in the Pentagon’s varied tool box, but it is, by most accounts, the most advanced and combat-centric. Back in 2013, the Defense Department even released this hype video that—it’s fair to say—could compete with the Kremlin’s work in terms of propagandized claims of “near-future” capabilities.