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back to article US military: 'Help us build the ROBO-WARFIGHTER OF THE FUTURE'

The US military has issued a formal solicitation for ideas about technologies that could help create a futuristic fighting suit for its special forces. TALOS-wearing US serviceman You can only hope that when this guy is suited up, he's on your side The United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), headquartered at …

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20ms is pretty slow...

...when you're talking about an incoming round at a velocity of around 600m/s (for an AR-15 to about 600m or an M16 to about 300m, based on the charts I found), it's going to travel 1.2m (through the armour, you, and the armour again) before the armour hardens. You'd need a personal radar in order for it to be useful!

Honestly, I thought they were further along with semi-liquid armour, and that it simply reacted to the impact of the bullet. Though as I think about it, it may be that it was too viscous in liquid state to allow fast movements.

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Imagine a microphone in every street lamp ...

The microphones listen for gun shots and speeding bullets, and transmit a warning by radio when a bullet goes passed. The suits listen for the warnings and lock solid if the bullet is going to hit. With an obese military budget, such a system could be demonstrated to work with current technology under ideal conditions. The really expensive research would be in methods to arrange ideal conditions in the front line of a war.

I can see this project lining the pockets of a few contractors. I am not convinced that it will lead to tanks with masts and sails or soldiers asking for a ceasefire so their solar panels can charge their batteries.

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Meh

@ Flocke Kroes - Re: Imagine a microphone in every street lamp ...

I like that idea of the armour reacting to external sensors.

It would make it so much more entertaining to stop an attacking force.

I envision some bad boy stealthily taping old iPods with Techno tracks on repeat to these active listening lamp posts. It would probably look like a stalled video game: Soldier enters zone where sensor misinterprets Techno as heavy gunfire, suit freezes up, soldier stands still and gets knocked out by 12-year-old guerilla wielding a stick with a nail in it.

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Re: 20ms is pretty slow...

"You'd need a personal radar in order for it to be useful!"

Of course, but a personal radar would be quite cheap and easy to make (lots of cars have proximity sensors and the like that would do fine).

It needs to be a short ranged system (detect incoming fire at a few metres) so as not to send out too great a sensor signature for enemy units to detect hence a quick rection by the armour is needed but other than than I see no particular technical difficulty in making such a system.

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Re: 20ms is pretty slow...

When I read liquid armour I immediately assumed it would be the shear-thickening fluid armour that's currently in the works- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYIWfn2Jz2g There's a lot less to go wrong with it than powered armout.

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Rol
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Wet Ware optional?

For the same reason it is now beyond comprehension that you would want to design a fighter plane that is constrained by the physical limits of a human occupant, why would you want to limit the tactical advantage of a robotic warrior, by imposing the unavoidable restrictions of fragile flesh.

Put the operator in a virtual reality play pen and let them act out their avatar fantasy at a safe distance.

The tech needed to make a turbo grunt suit would be just as hard, if not harder, than the challenge to make a remotely operated attack robot, which at least can now come in any size or shape and be totally expendable.

I suppose, to satisfy international treaties, if the robot is taken out by the enemy, a supervisor could take out his pistol and gently shoot the operator in the head, or, have an independent witness verify the operator hasn't just activated another robot, thus avoiding the immortal army scenario.

Then again, "Can't we just get along with each other", it'll be cheaper in the long run.

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Re: Wet Ware optional?

What international treaties? Your scenario certainly doesn't apply to currently flying drones, so why would it apply to walking drones? If we want to keep ROTM on schedule, it is essential that we start fielding military robots as soon as possible. We mustn't keep the apocalypse waiting.

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Rol
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Re: Wet Ware optional?

Yeah, you're right, I was confusing reality with science fiction, not unlike the US military!

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Re: Wet Ware optional?

Very good idea. But don't worry about shooting the operator. Why shoot any human beings? Simply fling as many robots as you've been able to manufacture and stock up on, against those of your enemy, fight it out to the bitter end, with any weaponry you can come up with, but strict rules against harming civilians, and against holding the fights in urban or agricultural areas, or areas of beautiful countryside, and let the country with the most robots and best software / command and control infrastructure win, and take over the other country's robot factories...and recycle all the destroyed robots and leave us little people to pursue our puny, private lives.

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Re: Wet Ware optional?

...Then again, "Can't we just get along with each other", it'll be cheaper in the long run....

Much cheaper. That's the problem.

You see, the guys making the decisions about what weaponry we will need are MILITARY guys. They get paid for preparing for and fighting wars. You are asking them to throw their jobs away. And there isn't much call for instant obedience, the ability to strip a rifle in the dark and a willingness to kill other people in Civvy Street...

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Re: Wet Ware optional?

"I suppose, to satisfy international treaties, if the robot is taken out by the enemy, a supervisor could take out his pistol and gently shoot the operator in the head"

There was a Star Trek TOS episode where war on a planet was carried out by war gaming computers. If the computer decided your city or area was toast, all those deemed "killed" went off to the local "suicide" chamber. I did notice at the time that the script writers chose not to look at "injuries". No one went off to the local hospital to be burned, blinded or to have limbs amputated.

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You will never eliminate the human in the loop

... So said Sargent Deathwish Drang.

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Anonymous Coward

In what sense is the USA now NOT a horror film?

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We have nice sunsets and you can get a 64oz soda for $1.99. Hotdogs are 2 for $1, with chili only 50 cents more.

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Barring the sunsets (I'm sure they're lovely), I'm not confident you've refuted our cowardly friend.

$3.50 for 5900KJ (68% of a healthy adult intake). Of course, I concede that that may have been your point.

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Happy

Yeah, that was the point :)

Unfortunately many people are satisfied with those things as quality of life metrics. Government overreach and decade+ long wars of questionable purpose are OKTM as long as a soda and hot dogs (with chili) lunch is under $5.

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FAIL

It's a brilliant idea.

The "enemy" will never be able to a)Listen in on those "soldier ready" signals (and hence know how many left to kill) b)Capture an officer (so they can see their display directly) c) Crack the control codes (so all that powered armour can start developing "random" faults).

I rather liked "The Warrior's Apprentice." It's a nice little case study of what happens when you rely on too much tech and not enough of the human touch.

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@ John Smith 19 - Re: It's a brilliant idea.

c.) : Why leave it at "random" faults? Hack the tracking so that the "red squad" now sees the "blue squad" as "enemy" and "enemy" as "blue squad".

Lean back and wait for autosolve of problem.

And for your point b.): I totally agree. It's the same as with password cracking, lock opening or getting the combination of a safe. A certain amount of sadism, a cheese grater and a pair of long nose pliers will get you access to any kind of needed information or control if applied to the right person.

As for "The Warrior's Apprentice", I take it you refer to the book by Lois McMaster Bujold? Haven't read it myself, but maybe I should . . .

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's a brilliant idea.

The Legend of "Super Soldier": The story of a mythical warriors roaming the world in enchanted armor in an epic quest for justice, loot, fame and adventure, yet forever doomed to get his butt kicked by some guy in pajamas and wearing sandals made from the tires of an old Renault!

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The problem is...

Those ideas sound cool, but in the end they will not be used for defence or not even fun, but to attack other countries, to cause war and chaos, to destroy civilisations and turn their life into utter destructive chaos.

Such things should not fall into the hands of the military.

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Unhappy

Re: The problem is...

You've got to update your politi-speak dictionaries.The definition of defense has been changed to mean preemptive attacks on those who aren't an immediate danger, but could become dangerous someday.

So by the new definition these things will definitely be used in a defensive capacity.

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Anonymous Coward

could they start by

Training their troops to NOT shoot their supposed allies? Get their bomber hitting the right country, that sort of thing?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: could they start by

Shooting their Allies is an old US habit.

My father took one in the Backside from a US soldier in France about a week after D-Day 1944.

Did he get an apology from the US Army? did he heck. They didn't even want to take him to their field hospital.

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Re: could they start by

My father took one in the Backside from a US soldier in France about a week after D-Day 1944.

Did the aforementioned yank buy him dinner and some flowers before the assault on his tradesman's entrance?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: could they start by

>My father took one in the Backside...

Did it break his watch?

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A suggestion to america

Please treat force as not being a first resort, nor a particularly cheap, effective or controllable one. And perhaps if you took some longer term political decisions, less of your people would be shot at anyway.

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A Statement of the Transparently Obvious to those in the Know and/or Who Have a Need to Know

2.15. Disclaimers/Notifications: USSOCOM reserves the right to select all, some, partial white paper content, or none of the white papers received in response to this announcement throughout its term. All awards are subject to the availability of funds. Offerors will not be reimbursed for white paper development costs. There shall be no basis for claims against the Government as a result of any information submitted in response to this BAA. White papers and other material submitted with the white paper for review purposes under this BAA will not be returned.

2.16. White Paper Disclosures: It is the policy of USSOCOM to treat white papers as sensitive competitive information and to disclose the contents only for the purposes of review. Non-government personnel may be used to facilitate the review process.

2.17. Technology Development Cost and Schedule: Offerors are advised to consider a limit of not more than $2 million total cost of development and not more than 12 months to complete all efforts for each submission. …… from the BROAD AGENCY ANNOUNCEMENT

FOR TACTICAL ASSAULT LIGHT OPERATOR SUIT (TALOS) TECHNOLOGIES FOR USE BY SPECIAL OPERATIONS FORCES

Peanuts for monkeys is never going to deliver anything worthwhile and earth shattering. It makes one wonder what on earth they are playing at, and one always ends up considering the fact that the plot has been lost and they don't know what to do next for the best. It certainly shows itself as such in the desperate measures that the media portrays them considering.

Might I suggest playing an altogether completely different and highly intelligent and unusually creative Great Game …. for an Ab Fab Fabless Great Change. You know it makes Perfect Sense and with IT Command and Control of Computers and Communications and CyberSpace is it not at all difficult …… although one does have to be somewhat unusually smart to be a driver and/or catalyst but that is not a problem for there are surely as many as are needed to succeed practically everywhere where one would look for them …. and if not where one is looking, then can they always be provided from elsewhere, for that is what our technology is easily able to do today for a better and completely different tomorrow which can hosted and toasted by media moguls and cloud systems with breaking novel news of fantastic discoveries in virtual methodologies.

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Re: A Statement of the Transparently Obvious to those in the Know and/or Who Have a Need to Know

Long process extremely streamlined follows. Parties who submit a proposal that meets the project requirements and seems the most plausible will be given up to $2M each to build a proof of concept. That is a fairly good sized sum for the people who apply as they already have the equipment, resources and talent to do it.

After the proof of concepts are built they'll (or maybe it) be evaluated against benchmarks set out by the DoD. If those benchmarks are met and a production version is ordered, the bulk of the contract is generally given to the group whose proposal and proof of concept was selected. Often there are a lot of IP 'bonuses' as well which the bidding companies will use for other projects.

Basically you're entering into a break even contract in order to land a profitable production deal. The whole thing is setup as a barrier to entry for small and/or inexperienced companies. If you don't already have the capabilities to build it then $2M isn't going to get you those capabilities. If you do have the capabilities then you get a $2M revenue bump and an opportunity to get some big dollars.

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Ideas

360 degree haptic feedback to the wearer is ideal with degrees of stimuli dependent on distance from the wearer or level of threat.

Modular armour with low RCS that can be added or removed dependent on the level of threat so that a risk balanced approach can be taken and mobility versus protection can be decided.

Integrated sensor and multi bearer tactical communications, including:

The ability to turn off all radio emissions (airplane mode) to avoid location.

Close range (up to 1.5km) encrypted optical signalling.

Integrated situational awareness (an actual use for Google glass) using multiple bearers.

Hyper spectral imagery megapixel fixed array sensors translating to threat or imaging via HUD.

Automatic communication with individual, squad, platoon and company weapon systems (auto spotting for rounds?).

And most importantly, the facility to make Brews on the move.

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Re: Ideas

And most importantly, the facility to make Brews on the move.

Nah, it'll just be piss.

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Anonymous Coward

More stupid, probably flawed, warfare gadgets

Someone needs to pull the plug on the Military Industrial Prison (Corporatist) complex before it get us all killed or brings on a new dark ages, and start by removing the rabid Facist Neo-Cons from the gene pool, then hunt down the rest of the out-of-control Psychopaths, and cronies helping them.

We need to advance as a race, and have fun, not waste valuable resources on stupid and hugely wasteful warfare.

An INTJ.

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Rol
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Re: More stupid, probably flawed, warfare gadgets

I assume you are ignoring the Roman Catholic church that had kept the Roman elite at the centre of power for many many centuries, long after the last cohort got a kicking from some loutish barbarians.

All it took was an intelligent rethink of what the essence of power really was, not controlling the land, but controlling the people of many lands, Rome's power didn't disappear it was rebranded.

Do you for one moment think your country fights for you and its many citizens, it fights to maintain its ruling elite, and that you are also under that umbrella is only a quirk of current economics, once power can be maintained by technology alone, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise, as your contribution to the struggle becomes surplus to requirements.

The pen is mightier than the sword, unless of course, you can't read for toffee!

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@ TaffiaCapoDeTuttiCapo

"Or go the way of Ancient Rome, abandon military aspirations as expensive and frivolous, liberalise and focus on developing our society and its artistic nature?"

Boy, you really don't know ANY history, do you? Where did you get your facts about ancient Rome - Hollywood?

Briefly, the Roman Empire gradually left behind the features that had allowed the Roman Republic to conquer most of its known world. Government was more and more centralized, until a single man - the emperor - was effectively in control of everything that happened. Meanwhile, economic changes saw bankers and the rich steadily hoover up more and more of society's total wealth. The super-rich bought immense estates (latifundia) worked by super-cheap slave labour, while the free small farmers who had previously been the backbone of Rome (and the main source of its citizen armies) disappeared. The Roman world become more and more sharply polarized between the vastly rich and the grindingly poor - whether slaves or impoverished share-croppers most of whom were actually worse off than the slaves. Even in towns and cities the same thing happened. In frantic efforts to raise taxes still higher, the government eventually forbade all social mobility, ordering sons to follow in their fathers' business and stay in their place of birth.

With the destruction of the free smallholders and the middle class, it was no longer possible to raise free citizen armies. Instead, the emperors resorted to paid mercenaries. As they had no loyalty except to whoever was paying them, those soldiers became a dangerous political force - often murdering unsuccessful generals and even emperors. As the surrounding barbarian tribes closed in, the emperors had to find more and more colossal sums with which to buy them off (and to pay the mercenaries as a way of bluffing the barbarians that the cities could actually be defended). And that meant the taxes had to be increased still more.

Finally, the barbarians became the mercenaries, so that when they revolted and killed an emperor it was natural for them to replace him with one of their own chiefs. That's about when Rome actually fell. (A similar process later reduced the Byzantine Empire to a tiny remnant). But Roman civilization had already dissolved - slowly, imperceptibly - over hundreds of years. If you have read this comment carefully, you may have noticed a few trends that are reminiscent of our world today. An ever bigger and more centralized government; monomaniacal focus on military improvements; and the gradual takeover of society by the super-rich. It's all playing out again.

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Re: More stupid, probably flawed, warfare gadgets

"It's an inevitable part of the competition for common resources in a globalised world."

You really believe that, don't you ? Do you also happen to believe that the earth is 6000 yrs old and men walked with dinosaurs ? That would explain a lot .

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Re: More stupid, probably flawed, warfare gadgets

When will the fuckwits get it into their heads that having a military advantage over someone makes them feel threatened. You may think that by having an advantage makes you safer but it doesn't - it just makes you the target. If the US were to actually get close to being able to truly defend itself against all attacks the world would have to attack it because we know it would attack us at some time and we would have to get our retaliation in first or not at all.

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Alert

Re: More stupid, probably flawed, warfare gadgets

Actually it is pretty stupid to build and stockpile large quantities of mechanized weaponry. You are limiting yourself to battles that meet scenarios compliant with your stockpile. Additionally you are more vulnerable to asymmetric attack and/or aggressive defensive pushback as it is far easier to design countermeasures or force an environment that renders your inventory largely useless and eliminates any technological advantage you had.

As an example: Helicopters, VTOL and tilt-wing aircraft in the desert are really, really dumb. The out of duty maintenance schedules are exponentially longer and more expensive due to extensive wear, significantly beyond their design thresholds, so the service life is cut dramatically short. Those aircraft also make fabulous targets as they are fairly slow, defenseless when taking off and landing, especially in the desert where line is sight is often very, very far. The only solution is to capture and hold massive, difficult to defend, secure areas where they can take off and land out of range of man portable weapons.

The problem is, helicopters, VTOL and tilt wing aircraft are what we have. The investment is already made and your funds are committed. The solution since Vietnam (and to some extent Korea) have been bolt-on adaptations to existing equipment which always results in a sub-optimal system. There's no money left to develop scenario specific weapons so you have to fight on the enemies terms which is always really bad.

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Re: More stupid, probably flawed, warfare gadgets

Someone needs to pull the plug on the Military Industrial Prison (Corporatist) complex before it get us all killed or brings on a new dark ages, and start by removing the rabid Facist Neo-Cons from the gene pool, then hunt down the rest of the out-of-control Psychopaths, and cronies helping them.

We need to advance as a race, and have fun, not waste valuable resources on stupid and hugely wasteful warfare.

An INTJ. ….Anonymous Coward Posted Saturday 7th September 2013 20:15 GMT

That be a stealthy intelligence mission and current work in future progress hiding in plain sight, AC ……. http://cryptome.org/2013/09/nsa-cowboy.htm …. and quite understandably so too, is it not at all something or anything one might have expected from the heart of present discredited and newly revealed action, but one cannot have incompetents at the levers of government and global control systems, can one, unless one wants madness and mayhem to collapse and destroy all monstrous systems.

Words control worlds and with IT Command and Control of Creative Cyberspace Computers and Communications and Global Operating Devices are Universal Programs and Pogroms a Doodle of a Masterful Great Game to Virtually Realise and AIdDriver ….. with Internet Server Provision Intellectual Property Portfolios …… SMARTR IntelAIgent Scenarios with Global Command Head Quarters in Cloud Hosting Advanced Operating Systems for a Relatively Anonymous Virtually Autonomous Remote Power with Control Leverage in Everything for Anything and vice versa.

And quite a Perfect Live Operational Virtual Environment for an INTJ too, AC.

And something somewhat quite alien and of foreign intelligence interest to a Special Cyber Forces Operations BAA, Don Jefe [who Posted Monday 9th September 2013 02:17 GMT], and worth every last nickel of an initial multi million $ punt, which as you say whenever you have the capabilities, is just the beer money ……..

Basically you're entering into a break even contract in order to land a profitable production deal. The whole thing is setup as a barrier to entry for small and/or inexperienced companies. If you don't already have the capabilities to build it then $2M isn't going to get you those capabilities. If you do have the capabilities then you get a $2M revenue bump and an opportunity to get some big dollars.

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Internet Crash Testing for Dummies ...... Flash Market Crash Version

Do you for one moment think your country fights for you and its many citizens, it fights to maintain its ruling elite, and that you are also under that umbrella is only a quirk of current economics, once power can be maintained by technology alone, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise, as your contribution to the struggle becomes surplus to requirements. .... Rol Posted Saturday 7th September 2013 23:24 GMT

And if one realises that power is currently maintained by technology alone, Rol, what be in Command and Control? [Real] Men or [Virtual] Machines? And what if developments for the future do not need to distinguish and separate the one from the other with an advanced intelligence drivering both with a Powerful Novel Enabled and EMPowering Operating System ..... Pioneering AI with NEUKlearer HyperRadioProActive IT ProgramMING.

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Mushroom

Want our help?

Then go tell your buddies in the NSA,TSA, etc etc to stop syping on everything we do.

No? Can't do that?

Sorry, we can't help. Tit-for-tat and all that...

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Nice gear

But with all the electronics required, can it stand being immersed in water? Or is it only intended for desert use?

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Unhappy

Re: Nice gear

"But with all the electronics required, can it stand being immersed in water? Or is it only intended for desert use?"

You are perhaps thinking about that F117 shot down in Bosnia when it's stealth coating started to break down in the more humid conditions of Eastern Europe. More humid that is than the Mojave desert, where they tested it.

Hopefully this being all war military grade hardware it'll all be IP67 rated, like that new Samsung tough mobile.

Of course that won't stop water collecting in any nook and cranny and (potentially) the operator developing a case of all over jock itch if the wrong sort of fungi take root. .

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Happy

If I were a real spoilsport..

I'd actually be investing in man portable EMP generator technology to knock this stuff out.

Improved training with printed maps and astro navigation skills.

Sun filtering glasses to allow the navigation stars to be seen during the day (not joking about this. Both the SR71 and B2 employ astro-nav systems good to, in theory, 6m).

Study chemicals to improve night vision by either eye drops or food additives.

Train more of them in the use of the carbon fibre composite bow and arrow.

Most of this is time consuming, cheap and primarily defensive.

Just a few thoughts...

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Facepalm

Re: If I were a real spoilsport..

"....,Sun filtering glasses to allow the navigation stars to be seen during the day (not joking about this. Both the SR71 and B2 employ astro-nav systems good to, in theory, 6m)....." Both fly above cloud when using the astro-nav systems.

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Re: If I were a real spoilsport..

Alternatively you could just build a bunch of stairs with an extremely tall rise.

I'm only kind of kidding. Total range of motion with any type of armor is always constrained to a greater or lesser degree. An unburdened Human could lift their legs high enough to reach the next step. A person wearing any kind of armor won't be able to do that. Not easily anyway.

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Boffin

Meh, an armoured HUMVEE will be cheaper.

The problem with all these supersuits are they end up too bulky to be used in urban warfare, where we spend a lot of time on "peacekeeping" duties. It's no use having oodles of gadgets if they don't fit through a doorway, in which case you might as well just leave the gadgets in the HUMVEE you used to travel between urban targets, where the armour protects four or more soldiers at once, all with current vehicle tech. Same then goes for non-urban warfare - if you can stay inside the HUMVEE (or Bradley, or Abrams) and kill the enemy from a distance then why dismount? The real onbjective should be to send a better drone to look for the bad guys, no need to even put fleshies in harm's way. I know Spec Ops is seen as a having special needs (LOL!) but the SAS have shown for decades that the most important bit of kit is between the soldier's ears, not in his hands. Without the scale offered by general deployment, supersuits will stay an expensive dream, IMHO.

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Alien

Re: Meh, an armoured HUMVEE will be cheaper.

I don't know - a bit more battery and motor tech with some extra carbon fibre then your feeble fleshy door size standards don't matter anymore (apart from the lintel falling on your head on the way through maybe)

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Still way behind

Until they can be launched from spaceships in orbit, brake, and make a soft landing ready to fight, these suits will still be way, way behind the MI's equipment in "Starship Troopers".

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Devil

Man Down

Do I shout 'Medic' or 'Mechanic' ?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Man Down

They're more or less the same thing anyway. Keep the fluids in where they're supposed to be and if something stops beating just turn it off and on again.

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