This is not the first time that the US Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) has talked about their desire to get a real life version of Iron Man's suit for soldiers, but now it's giving a very specific timeframe: "The goal is to have a contract in place by next fall and have suits ready for full field testing in about four years."
While the Army's Iron Man suit—officially called Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS)—will not have flying capability, little missiles, or repulsors, the feature list is still extremely impressive.
RDECOM wants TALOS to have ballistic and shock protection—using an armor that will get from flexible soft surface to hard metal solid, capable of repelling ammo when applying an electric current. Oh, and fire-retardant capability. The Army also wants the suit to "store and release energy to prevent injuries and increase performance."
And as if that wasn't impressive enough, the suit will have integrated communications, body and external sensors, and a head-up display that will give battle information graphics in real time along with night vision. It will be more Google Glass than Jarvis in this generation, but you get the idea.
Another feature for the suit is an optional attachable exoskeleton that will provide with hydraulic mechanisms to improve both strength and speed. Like the others, this technology exists already.
In case you haven't seen how they picture TALOS in physical form yet, here's their video:
Would they be able to get all this integrated in just four years? It seems like a fairly reasonable goal. The technology is there or almost there already. For example:
Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are currently developing armor made from magnetorheological fluids—liquid body armor—that transforms from liquid to solid in milliseconds when a magnetic field or electrical current is applied. Though still in development, this technology will likely be submitted to support TALOS.
They just need another push—like the kind of push that the military can give it—and they will get it all integrated in a single unit. What is for sure is that, if it's not four years, it will be five or six. But not more than that. Iron Man is definitely where the US infantry is headed: soldiers turned into superheroes, superstrong and invulnerable against bullets.