back to article Coming in 2014: Scary super-soldier exoskeleton suits from the US military

The US military is accelerating its program to build a Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) – an exoskeleton-mounted computer system for the soldier of tomorrow. "[The] requirement is a comprehensive family of systems in a combat armor suit where we bring together an exoskeleton with innovative armor, displays for …

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  1. Ted Treen
    Unhappy

    But...

    ...what happens if a grunt gets fired upon, pees himself and shorts out?

    1. Haku

      Re: But...

      Remember the death scene of Dynamo in The Running Man?

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5kgNCLl9PCY

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: But... @ Haku

        But he had the naffest car in the history of film.

    2. LarsG

      If I can bound over the highest buildings in one leap..... I want one.

      1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        Bounding over the highest buildings

        Terminal velocity (velocity when force of air resistance equals weight) for a human is about 32m/s. Double that if you try to land feet first instead of lying flat. You should increase it even more for metal armour, motors and batteries/petrol engine. You will get most of the way to 32m/s from a 50m building (16-25 storeys). Wakypedia has a list of 299 buildings over 240m, so reaching terminal velocity does not require Burj Khalifa (828m).

        When you land, you go from terminal velocity to 0 while travelling the distance you curl up. If that distance is 2m (standing in armour to lying flat), your acceleration from 32m/s is 26g - but that is an impossible combination. If you were vertical, your velocity was 64m/s (104g). If you want 32m/s, then you are falling flat into a press up, so you have to shed your velocity in 1m (52g).

        The actuators on the armour do not help - the best they can do is minimise the shock by spreading it over the whole 2m. Without the actuators, you would only lose a little velocity in the first 1.5m. Most of the velocity would go when you change shape from human to pancake. The armour itself is completely useless. Instead of hitting the ground, you hit the inside of the armour - and you hit harder because the density of the armour increased your terminal velocity. The armour may preserve your human shape, but bones at the bottom, meat in the middle and lungs on top is not treatable with modern medicine.

        The record for a human is 46.2g. That caused broken limbs, broken ribs, detached retinas, and burst blood vessels in the eyes. Fighter pilot seats are rated for 32g because pilots can walk (well hobble) away from such impacts. Unborn rats can survive accelerations of 100g. Filling the lungs with water, 100g of impact followed by resuscitation might be survivable - at the cost of your eye-sight.

        Plan B: polystyrene armour. A thick layer of polystyrene can increase the distance available to shed velocity. It will also increase your air resistance without adding much mass. Enough polystyrene would reduce the danger of the landing to bungee jump level. The down side is the jumping up part of your bound over a high building. Without air resistance, the jump requires surviving the same impact acceleration as the landing. In real life, you have to get your velocity well over terminal velocity so air resistance does not stop you before you get to the top of your building. The jump up is much harsher than the landing, and polystyrene armour would make it far worse.

        If you want to bound over high (not highest) buildings, get a jet pack.

        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Flocke Kroes Re: Bounding over the highest buildings

          ".....The armour may preserve your human shape, but bones at the bottom, meat in the middle and lungs on top is not treatable with modern medicine....." The obvious answer would seem to be take the fleshie out if the suit and run it remotely, kind of Iron Drone rather than Iron Man. Or maybe more Medal of Drhonor? With all the space and weight saved you could easily pack in plenty of battlefield sensors and a frequency-hopping secure link for remote control.

        2. Def Silver badge

          Re: Bounding over the highest buildings

          That was not an easy read before seven in the morning on the first working day after New Years.

          I can only hope you're not in the same time zone as me. Being able to think coherently let alone convey those thoughts into intelligible sentences this early in the year is seriously impressive. Have another thumbs up. :)

          1. Pedigree-Pete
            Pint

            Re: Bounding over the highest buildings

            Move to Scotland. Their 1st working day after New Year is the 3rd. Civilised behaviour.

        3. steamrunner

          Re: Bounding over the highest buildings

          "The armour may preserve your human shape, but bones at the bottom, meat in the middle and lungs on top is not treatable with modern medicine."

          - That is probably the best written sentence I have read in ages. Totally to the point and spot on, as well as making me smile. Nice. :-)

        4. Marvin the Martian

          Re: Bounding over the highest buildings

          So, mr kroes, if I follow the calculation correctly, what we need is a popcorn armour? Skinny when jumping up towards the building, then *pop* near the apex and a gentle floating down?

          On the battlefield, the big polystyrene bubble will attract small-arms fire but should also absorb most of their damage... Landing in an obviously-visible spot and then sneaking out of the crust may be a dangerous moment.

    3. Euripides Pants Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: But...

      "what happens if a grunt gets fired upon, pees himself and shorts out?"

      It'll shock his shorts off...

  2. Haku
    Thumb Up

    I've so got to get me one of those

    Not because I want the tactical benefits from it, I just want to look awesome sitting on the sofa watching tv.

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: I've so got to get me one of those

      Best get one specially shaped to go around the fat belly you'll grow

      1. Haku

        Re: I've so got to get me one of those

        Too late :(

    2. Evil Auditor Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: I've so got to get me one of those

      @Haku, want to look awesome

      Sure you won't just put it into your museum?!

  3. nice spam database '); drop table users; --

    Weapons of mass destruction... some countries make them and get literally raped, others not only get away with it but even brag about it.

    1. TitterYeNot
      Headmaster

      Bobby

      "Weapons of mass destruction... some countries make them and get literally raped, others not only get away with it but even brag about it."

      Sorry, my mind's boggling at the thought of a country getting literally raped. Anyway, is that you, little Bobby Tables?

    2. Psyx

      "some countries make them and get literally raped"

      Downvoted for use of 'literally' when making a metaphor...

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Facepalm

          Re: "Downvoted for use of 'literally' when making a metaphor"

          I think the problem that most people have with this one is that the improper usage means exactly the opposite of the original meaning in the "bad" meaning good way.

          So if someone says "literally" do they literally mean literally or do they mean metaphorically (only moreso)?

          At least in the "olden" days, you knew someone meant "good" when they said "bad" if they had their ring-festooned fingers splayed gangsta-style and wore their hat backwards.

        2. Psyx

          Re: "Downvoted for use of 'literally' when making a metaphor"

          "They literally cannot be arsed"

          Are they anally retentive to the point of their sphincters growing over?

          "... to try and enforce usage based on meaning."

          I now dearly want to live in a society where uniformed and jack-booted officers working for OED enforce proper word usage at gunpoint.

          1. Sheep!

            Re: "Downvoted for use of 'literally' when making a metaphor"

            Unfortunately the OED has changed the meaning of "Literally" so that it now can also be used metaphorically. A dark day for English. I believe El Reg did a story about it (but couldn't find it on a quick site search). From the OED:

            Definition of literally in English

            literally

            Pronunciation: /ˈlɪt(ə)rəli/

            adverb

            in a literal manner or sense; exactly:

            the driver took it literally when asked to go straight over the roundabout

            tiramisu, literally translated ‘pull-me-up’

            informal used for emphasis while not being literally true:

            I have received literally thousands of letters

  4. Vociferous

    Fielded in 2018? Optimistic, yeah...

    Here's how far they'd got this summer.

    But it's a cool technology so I hope I'm wrong and they manage to pull it off.

    1. Big-nosed Pengie

      Re: Fielded in 2018? Optimistic, yeah...

      That's the most uninformative video I've ever seen. And I include nyan cat.

      1. Vociferous

        Re: Fielded in 2018? Optimistic, yeah...

        > That's the most uninformative video I've ever seen

        That's the thing - there's nothing to show. They were still at the "early planning and collecting ideas" stage, on a project which is as ambitious as designing a new fighter jet.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Coat

    Eh, I doubt it will be very lethal...

    Unless you can pick up the chain saw, in which case it will be awesome! :)

    (Mission control, we have proper icon deployed!)

  6. sparkeh9
    Mushroom

    U.S.A - can it run Crysis? I guess we're about to find out :|

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    With all the technology the suit has surely it wouldn't be that hard to add a jetpack?

  8. roger stillick
    Black Helicopters

    IED's and RPG's make the Military Troop w/ Vehicle Redundant...

    Unless this puppy is invisible a/la Predator movie alien character, all this will be is a bigger target to blow up...

    2 years ago the US military admitted the use of actual troops was over and done with...the drone and smart bomb use in Libya recently is where we actually are on troop use...RS.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: roger sillick Re: IED's and RPG's make the Military Troop w/ Vehicle Redundant...

      ".....the drone and smart bomb use...." No matter how many flying drones and smart bombs you employ, you still need boots on the ground to actually hold and passify an area. In Libya that function was fulfilled by local militias. So the humble ground-pounding grunt will be around for a good few years yet, until we really can put infantry drones on the ground in sizeable numbers.

      1. I'm Brian and so's my wife
        Terminator

        Re: roger sillick IED's and RPG's make the Military Troop w/ Vehicle Redundant...

        How long until Robocop / ED209 equivalents?

      2. Tom 13

        Re: until we really can put infantry drones on the ground

        Even if we could technically do that, I think we'd still need people on the ground. Pacification is more psy ops than tactical. It's about getting people feeling safe enough around you to tell you the stuff you need to know and allowing them to construct a working local government not intent on killing and maiming people. Since the drone puts you well out of harm's way, I see them undermining that function.

      3. kraut

        Re: roger sillick IED's and RPG's make the Military Troop w/ Vehicle Redundant...

        Remind me of an area that the US military has successfully pacified over the last few years. Grenada, maybe.

        Passifying areas seems to be more the job of the media industry, and, to be fair, they have been remarkably successful ;)

        I'll get my coat. The one with the spell checker in the pocket, naturally.

      4. fajensen Silver badge

        Re: roger sillick IED's and RPG's make the Military Troop w/ Vehicle Redundant...

        you still need boots on the ground to actually hold and passify an area.

        ... And when the aforementioned ground happens to be in a 3-rd world shit-hole inhabited by people that nobody cares enough about to bother with "collateral damage"? Then "Pacify" is Good Enough! ("Local Militias fighting everyone else - so they are not fighting you" serves the same purpose, but is a more "hands off" and less reliable approach).

        Besides, Robots do not testify in military tribunals or post embarrassing pictures of their ear-collections!

        In this modern warfare, the "boot on the ground" is more like a collateral, getting the buy-in from taxpayers, who all know some nice young person in the military but also know very little of what actually happens in their name on the sharp end of the war-business.

    2. Psyx

      Re: IED's and RPG's make the Military Troop w/ Vehicle Redundant...

      "2 years ago the US military admitted the use of actual troops was over and done with...the drone and smart bomb use in Libya recently is where we actually are on troop use...RS."

      No they didn't and no they won't.

      Only infantry can take and hold ground. In any conflict where you need to take and hold ground, you need PBIs.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: IED's and RPG's make the Military Troop w/ Vehicle Redundant...

        >Only infantry can take and hold ground.

        Outsourcing.

        Your smart drone knife missiles take the ground then you send in a bunch of 3rd world cannon fodder managed by "security consultants "- no need to waste any white boys.

        It used to be you needed an empire (or a religious banner) to recruit a source of expendables - now you can just buy them from whichever country currently has more teenager boys than dollars

      2. fajensen Silver badge

        Re: IED's and RPG's make the Military Troop w/ Vehicle Redundant...

        Libya is a good example of where neo-colonialism is going:

        We didn't need land in Libya. The only requirement was that Libyan Oil be on sale in the world market rather than Ghadaffi wasting it all on his own people .... thus No Boots Need Apply!

    3. h4rm0ny

      Re: IED's and RPG's make the Military Troop w/ Vehicle Redundant...

      >>"2 years ago the US military admitted the use of actual troops was over and done with...the drone and smart bomb use in Libya recently is where we actually are on troop use...RS."

      Oh, humans are not redundant yet. It's just that the USA can get cheaper ones from other countries. (And perhaps more importantly to the politicians ones that don't come back to the USA in body bags). For example in the Lybia attack you mention, there were lots of foreign troops on the ground in Libya for the (so called by the Western Press) popular uprising. Only they weren't Western, they were from that bastion of democracy, Qatar. (So Western trained troops, rather).

      You see that's the USA's approach where possible. Don't send in your own troops - you're right that they want to use drones and airpower as much as possible in place. But they use these to support their proxies on the ground.

      Drones so far can only kill people. To control them, you still need other people.

  9. Tank boy
    Flame

    Another boondoggle.

    When I was in the US Army, they were looking for systems like these at a feverish pace, the tech just wasn't there when they started the much vaunted Force XXI Project. That actually bore some fruit after a few years (and much trial and error, sadly some in actual combat), but overall the Army wasn't tech saavy enough or really in touch with what the actual trooper on the ground wanted or needed. This will be a failure simply because the more power a system needs, the bigger the battery. That also means the longer the recharge time and something even more crucial, weight. Anyone that's been in a fight knows that lighter is better and the less that can break is worth it's weight in gold.

    Speaking of breaking, can it be fixed in the field with a Leatherman, some duct tape, wire and a little elbow grease? Because if it does go titsup because it's damaged, but all it needs is a reboot, fine and dandy if you happen to be sitting in a tent. From my experience, things in combat rarely break under the most ideal of circumstances.

    Just more money grubbing to try and fight that mythical "next war". Because clearly, the US Army and the civilians have been doing a bang up job so far with what is called "future planning". Just google Stryker. Or M2/M3 Bradley. Or MRAP. Those programs cost a lot of money, and don't get me started about what the Air Force and Navy have shoveled into the proverbial latrine.

    Sorry to be ranty. I'm an old Soldier and subscribe to the KISS philosophy. Keep It Simple Stupid.

    1. MrT

      One beneficial spin-off might be...

      ...Graphene power cell technology will suddenly see a massive boost in R&D funding. And then we can all forget about the other stuff because our phones will recharge in the blink of an eye and high energy users like these suits or the next gen electric cars will juice up in less than a minute...

      Regardless of the physics of delivering that much energy in such a short time, which would mean handy proximity to a high-power store or generator. Unless they also have plans for a Mr Fusion device, returning to the nearest nuclear-powered ship might limit things a bit.

      KISS isn't where stuff like this is at. It's not the next AK-47 or Land Rover...

    2. MrXavia

      Re: Another boondoggle.

      My thoughts would be that it needs to be light enough that the armour can be worn without the exoskeleton, and the exoskeleton,powerpack & extra weight can just be jettisoned in the event of malfunction but still leaves the soldier an effective fighter

    3. russell 6
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Another boondoggle.

      KISS. So very true. I reckon they are looking at 2018 because by that time there is going to be real friction between the American general population and those who suppose to govern them. Also I don't think they will ultimately been worn by humans. Considering the direction that robotics is going in, it looks as if they are looking to build some sort of drone that will be very well armoured and armed, which can be controlled from a distance.

    4. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Tank boy Re: Another boondoggle.

      ".... I'm an old Soldier and subscribe to the KISS philosophy...." Whilst many problems can be solved with KISS, some complex problems just don't fall to the KISS policy. Whilst I type this, Channel 5 here in the UK is showing the old "Dambusters" movie, which is a good example of both KISS and a complex solution. The bouncing bomb was hideously complex, but the two aiming devices designed to get the bombers into the right launching spots over the dams (converged spotlights for exact height and a silhouette sight using the towers on the dam itself to judge distance) were KISS solutions.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Tank boy Another boondoggle.

        So currently half the US army in Afghanistan operations are guarding fuel convoys to power the AC needed to keep the fancy electronics running (the famous $1Bn/month for air conditioning).

        Now every platoon is going to need it's own diesel generator

  10. J J Carter Silver badge
    Alert

    I reckon the exoskeleton's processors will have a higher IQ than the grunts wearing it.

    1. Tank boy

      Oh dear

      "I reckon the exoskeleton's processors will have a higher IQ than the grunts wearing it."

      Guess you've never had to plot and call in an artillery strike on the move with just a map and compass have you? Call in counter battery fire based on the 'flash-bang' method? Thought not, stick to the video games.

  11. pierce

    Shades of the original version of Starship Troopers....

    or every Gundam giant robot manga and anime out of Asia, hah.

  12. Autonomous Cowherd

    Any chance...

    We could stop spending ridiculous amounts of money on machines to effectively kill/assist killing people?

    At some point, you've gotta start wondering when a large and *consistently profitable* military industrial complex makes you 'the baddies'.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ToKcmnrE5oY

    1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: Any chance...

      And if they spent all that money on doing nice things for people (building schools, hospitals, water pumps, training teachers and nurses etc) then they wouldn't need all these hi-tech ways to kill all those terrorist children in the first place.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Any chance...

        We tried that. They STILL replied, "Get out, you infidels!" Sometimes, you just can't please people. In which case, if appeasement and persuasion don't work, you have to ramp it up to at least intimidation.

        1. Volker Hett

          Re: Any chance...

          To me it looks as if they happily do the killing themselves if left alone for some time.

      2. Slawek

        Re: Any chance...

        You are naïve. Really.

      3. Tom 13

        Re: all that money on doing nice things for people

        Actually, we spend more than that doing nice things for people every year. It doesn't work quite the way you think it does.

        No, we don't do it through government, because that never works right. We do it through non-governmental agencies, (e.g. churches), and even direct giving.

        1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

          Re: all that money on doing nice things for people

          Bet the church gifts work too: "Here, let us help you build a new well next to your mosque - oh yes, and here's a crate of Bibles as a bonus gift".

          Perhaps if they don't want to accept the kind gifts then the best thing to do is just walk away and leave them to it? Spending trillions on bombs is really not an answer. And I still believe that if they spent as much on focussed development aid as they do on bombs and guns, and didn't try to use it as a way to bribe and buy politicians, then they might get a more positive result. Yes, there are nutters with guns out there, but they aren't the majority.

          Some numbers:

          US development aid budget is approx $20 billion p.a. ($3 billion goes to Israel),

          Estimated private donations to overseas aid approx $10 billion p.a.

          US declared military budget is about $600 billion,

          Department of Homeland Fear and Paranoia budget approx $60 billion,

          cost of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan approx $6 trillion to date (that's $6000 billion)

          If the US had been giving foreign aid at the current rate since the country was established in 1776, it still wouldn't haqve spent as much as it has on the Iraq and Afghan wars.

          Makes you think, doesn't it? Or I hope it does.

          1. ian 22

            Re: all that money on doing nice things for people

            The US could have bought every tribesman in Afganistan a Toyota, then sell them gasoline. Win, win!

        2. Britt Johnston
          Trollface

          Re: all that money on doing nice things for people

          Finally, the military get some payback for all the effort they have put into prosthetics.

    2. Tom 13

      Re: Any chance...

      Sure. Right after all the bad guys beat their weapons into plowshares.

      Until then we follow Tubal not Jubal.

      http://www.kipling.org.uk/poems_jubal.htm

  13. hplasm Silver badge
    Meh

    The next war- 2018?

    The suit will just need to be good enough to withstand a "well regulated militia"... if the survivalists can be bothered.

    1. Vociferous

      Re: The next war- 2018?

      > if the survivalists can be bothered

      Tea party revolutionaries talk a lot about revolution, but the most they've done so far is fly a small aircraft into an IRS building, kill an abortion doctor, and shoot a couple of random airport TSA officers.

  14. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Trollface

    Next project: DARPA Dark Helmet

    "It's advanced armor. It's communications, antennas. It's cognitive performance."

    More like cognitive dissonance, am I right?

    Yeah I know. "Deficits don't matter" (conservatives) and "We owe it to ourselves (liberals) is the song we all sing while in the trash compactor. Empire demands its tools, gets its tools.

  15. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Usual glitch will be the power requirement

    Which will be huge

  16. Rol Silver badge

    and I'll say it again....

    Put the operator in a VR play pen and have them act out their avatar fantasy with an all terrain robot at a safe distance. Why this obsession with putting very fragile, high maintenance grunts in harms way? Why compromise the operational limits of a dynamic machine by encumbering it with mortal flesh? It just doesn't make any combat or strategic sense. In the same way no sane aviation company in the world is designing a new supersonic jet fighter with a cockpit, we shouldn't be designing high tech warriors to the limits of human endurance, Send the expendable drones in first, then when the battlefield is cleared of all combatants put the smiling faces of the marines in to calm and reassure the civilians, dressed like humans and not like something from a Borg nightmare. Although thinking about it, the only Borg nightmare I can recall is the one where I have 7 of 9 cornered in the shower, I set my weapon to stunning and it doesn't phase her in the slightest.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Rol Re: and I'll say it again....

      "....Why this obsession with putting very fragile, high maintenance grunts in harms way?...." Grunts are relatively cheap, easy to control (to a degree) and can react to changing situations by themselves after a bit of training. Drones are expensive, require secure coms, and reacting to a situation on the limited picture of a vid cam can be challenging.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Rol and I'll say it again....

        Not to mention humans are more mobile and agile, especially in unusual situations and terrain.

      2. Rol Silver badge

        Re: Rol and I'll say it again....

        I'm sure the NSA could help out with the coms, ha ha.

        Broad spectrum (Infra-red,microwave, ultrasonic, etc), multi noded, satellite assisted feeding to a mobile activity centre a few clicks away from the action (circling in a plane if needs be) Nano second time lag, with a multitude of signal paths, repeated across several frequencies. Full field Hidef cameras, a battle ground strewn with com nodes that serve to relay signals and collect acoustic data which once processed can pinpoint every gun shot and overlay this information on the operators HUD.

        The robots, no longer confined to the awkward dimensions of of a human can be designed to clamber over obstacles by any number of techniques, or for sheer simplicity be nothing more than a quad-copter with a tranquilliser dart gun.

        Now that's an interesting development, as non of your personnel are at risk of injury, is it really necessary to blast holes in your adversary in a hope they go down before they put one in you? The more I think about high tech remote robotic warfare the more humane war starts to look. That is, of course, humane on a relative scale. The greatest gain will be the lack of civilian casualties due to your actions, as an operator who isn't fighting for survival will have the opportunity to take that extra split second to assess who is who, so what, if his droid gets it full face, he has another five dozen to activate and an Amstrad no quibble returns policy.

        1. Rol Silver badge

          Re: Rol and I'll say it again....

          and in response to my other detractors..

          I very much doubt America and her allies will be applying for a milliwatt wifi license before they unleash hell, or otherwise caring that no one for ten miles around can listen to the Archers.

          And an armed presence in whatever form, is an armed presence and equally effective at discouraging tribal warriors from starting a nuclear Armageddon. Talk about fevered minds, lets get that whole brain up to body temperature or do I have to traverse through every facet of this in detail to accommodate for others lack of imagination.

          1. MrXavia

            Re: Rol and I'll say it again....

            Until some mythical unblock-able, lag free, communication system is invented, 'surrogate' style soldiers will be not viable....

            The key thing is soldiers on the ground are usually NOT there to kill, they are there to protect, and often to win the hearts & minds of the locals (unfortunately grunts on the ground fail on this mission a lot of the time)

            1. Rol Silver badge

              Re: Rol and I'll say it again....

              I think you're missing the essence of my argument. A robot is expendable, that it is a millisecond off its game and hence vulnerable isn't an issue when several dozen are now bearing down on the location now knowing what to expect.

              I have had conversations over thousands of miles, carried by not the greatest of CIVILIAN tech, that have not once collapsed into a stuttering farce, so one would expect the military to have the ability to communicate over a ten mile range, using the combined strengths of several methods of data transfer at once, like infra-red, microwave, ultrasonic, etc. Oh and get the frankly quite ridiculous idea this is all going to be run from Dallas out of the equation, it will be run from mobile ops centres, planes, ships or a few forty foot trailers, close to the action.

              and I would hazard a guess that the most easily observable and hence taken out at a distance target on a battlefield will be the "noise" generator, that is broadcasting its position loud and clear, not that it would have the sophistication to bleed over every possible means of communication. Not forgetting I have already specified the combat arena has already been seeded with hundreds of small comm relays each capable of transmitting and receiving over any number of mediums simultaneously.

              Then again, Iron Man would be far easier for the R&D folk to cobble together, as Marvel have already done all the hard work, right?

              Boots on the ground, is generally the one thing that antagonises an invaded community, that the same level of security could be delivered swiftly when needs arise, but otherwise kept unobtrusively nearby is surely better.

              Judging by the amount of nit picking to my off the cuff idea, I'm beginning to think the White House are avid readers of The Reg and some on here are worried for their budgets.

        2. fajensen Silver badge

          Re: Rol and I'll say it again....

          The greatest gain will be the lack of civilian casualties due to your actions,

          I bet that about five minutes into the first proper manned flight, someone on the plane was thinking: "All these people on the ground look like ants, I could soo squash them from up here"!

          What does the robot operator see? Pixels. Not People. Once they docks his/her pay/time off or offer mandatory "operations training" for losing too many expensive* drone bodies, he/she will be lighting up those pixels either on principle or just for fun just exactly like in GTA.

          If robot drivers are not evil to begin with, they soon will be - or they will be out of that career pretty soon, leaving the field to those "who can handle it". We can imagine what kind of character that will be.

          *) Anything that goes into operating costs is Too Expensive in corp-rat land. We have to fill in request forms that cost more to fill out than the item requested - because our time to do paper work is for free, of course.

    2. Guido Brunetti
      FAIL

      Re: and I'll say it again....

      Because controlling even a single droid like that requires serious wireless bandwidth. Did you ever try to operate a W-LAN-like connection over a few miles with a mobile target in combat conditions, especially when the opposition can just setup a 1 kw broadband noise emitter.

      It's one thing to operate flying observation drones that way cause flying is actually quite simple once you get the hang of it. Operating on the ground is much more complex. More obstacles, hindering your vision, your movement and blocking your radio connection. Then there is the issue of light speed. Controlling a drone in Pakistan from U.S. with one or two seconds latency may be OK, but try playing counterstrike with a 1 sec latency. You just get your ass handed to you - every single time.

    3. Tom 13

      Re: and I'll say it again....

      Because contrary to your fevered imagination, the purpose of grunts on the ground isn't to kill every thing in sight. It's to make it NOT necessary to nuke 'em till they glow.

  17. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    I suggest...

    ...and have the battle armor ready for deployment in whichever war the US is going to be fighting in 2018...

    ...that they pick their country to fight quite early - now would not be too soon, given the need to pick a quarrel, escalate it through the UN, and do all the logistics.

    To give it a good first outing, you probably need a country in a temperate zone - no dust or sand - lots of flat land - good communications with a major port - conveniently close to the US... I suggest Ireland. But watch out for the bogs...

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Mushroom

    Battlefield Realities

    It seems to me the only justified use for expensive enhanced musculature is to allow a grunt to carry really heavy body armor that can withstand hits which would penetrate the current armor in use. Attempting to enhance speed and agility seems like a stretch technically, and an unencumbered human is already pretty good in that department.

    So assuming the heavy armor, what is the result? A tall (for its mass) target, that isn't terribly spry. It may take hits better, but it will take a lot more hits, and draw the fire of bigger weapons too. Battle tanks solve this by being very low (compared to mass) while being quite speedy, if not too agile. Also, tanks place their armor in a thick belt around the low sides while letting the big flat top and bottom go almost unarmoured. That's not an option for our tall legged warrior. Finally, tanks mount a baddass main weapon, accounting for a sizable fraction of total mass. They can do this due to a wide and very strong base, along with a fairly unitary construction.

    So with the body suit we're left with the worst possible armoured solution: Tall, slow, clumsy, and with no more real firepower than before. Noooo. It's like those stupid Battlemech fantasies, only at least they have big weapons. A platoon of Battlemechs wouldn't last long against a platoon of tech-equivalent tracked battle tanks. Just a bunch of LSTs - Large Slow Targets.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Battlefield Realities

      "Also, tanks place their armor in a thick belt around the low sides while letting the big flat top and bottom go almost unarmoured."

      And that's exactly why tanks have their limitations, too. When the THIRD dimension (as in combat aircraft) became commonplace, tanks became a lot less dominant on the battlefield.

      Perhaps that's why humanoid bipeds keep invoking the imagination: because bipedal motion allows for otherwise-unusual forms of locomotion. For example, moving SIDEWAYS (one particularly effective way to evade an incoming projectile is to move perpendicular to its trajectory). Going back to the air, this is the reason helicopters, despite their relative difficulty to control, are still too useful to ignore: unlike aircraft, helicopters can (to a point) arbitrarily maneuver through the three dimensions.

      So perhaps bipedal locomotion in a machine isn't quite ready for prime time yet, but SOME means to move along the ground at arbitrary angles without having to turn would make for an excellent combat mobility advantage.

      1. kraut
        Mushroom

        Re: Battlefield Realities

        <blockquote>When the THIRD dimension (as in combat aircraft) became commonplace, tanks became a lot less dominant on the battlefield.</blockquote>

        1936 ?

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Battlefield Realities

          I still stand by my statement. In a tank vs. ground attack plane fight, the ground attack plane has the edge. The Allies showed this quite effectively following D-Day. The thing is, the battlefield can get complicated. Sure, a ground-attack plane can easily deal with a tank, but it has problems dealing with a pure dogfighter (that's what happened in the Battle of Britain). But deal with that shortcoming, and yes, ground attack aircraft can give ANY tank commander the willies (it was aircraft that Panzer commanders feared most, if you went by their testimonials--NOT Allied tanks).

    2. Psyx

      Re: Battlefield Realities

      "It seems to me the only justified use for expensive enhanced musculature is to allow a grunt to carry really heavy body armor that can withstand hits which would penetrate the current armor in use. "

      That's a flawed premise. By definition, infantry have always had too much s**t to carry. Even if no additional armour is mounted, being able to carry more ammunition or even to reduce the fatigue in carrying a modern combat-load is a good thing.

      You're also missing the non-tooth applications: Loading and transferring arty and tank ammunition in the combat zone, for example.

      There's more to the idea than just power armour.

      1. Tom 13

        Re: You're also missing the non-tooth applications:

        Same thought here. They pitch the tooth application because that's the sexy, tactical thing the congress critters will fund, but the real intention is better logistics which is what the professionals know wins wars.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: You're also missing the non-tooth applications:

          Pardon, but: Professionals do not win wars, they manage them (to keep them going until retirement)! Amateurs (draftees) want to go home quickly, Professionals want to get paid well, have career prospects and a nice retirement package also. Indeed the whole concept of "war" has been expanded so every problem now must be positioned as a war on something to get funding.

    3. John Sturdy
      FAIL

      Re: Battlefield Realities

      On top of which, every part will presumably be made by the lowest bidder (or the highest briber).

    4. Vociferous

      Re: Battlefield Realities

      > Just a bunch of LSTs - Large Slow Targets.

      I've been trying to imagine scenarios where a this suit would be a clear advantage, and the only thing I can come up with is urban combat, house-to-house, against lightly armed insurgents -- and even there this suit wont protect from the biggest problem, IED's.

      Actually, come to think of it, I know where it'd be useful: for police doing riot control.

      1. Psyx

        Re: Battlefield Realities

        " this suit wont protect from the biggest problem, IED's."

        It'll protect just fine if they're based more on fragmentation than blast.

        ""I've been trying to imagine scenarios where a this suit would be a clear advantage, and the only thing I can come up with is urban combat, house-to-house,"

        So... the same thing that dismounted infantry is useful for. Funny that.

        1. Vociferous

          Re: Battlefield Realities

          > dismounted infantry

          ...is the baseline. This suit will be worn by dismounted infantry, so troops WITH this suit must have a clear advantage over dismounted infantry with a normal flak jacket. And I have a hard time seeing that.

      2. kraut

        Re: Battlefield Realities

        For riot control, water cannons are far more effective.

    5. Tank boy
      Boffin

      Re: Battlefield Realities

      You don't know a whole lot about tanks or armored tactics.

      Most of the armor is towards the front, which under ideal conditions, you want to be pointed towards the bad guys. Turning sideways gives the enemy a much larger target to engage, the armor isn't all that thick, except on that beautiful Chobham armor on the turret and the skirts of an M1 family (mileage may vary on the Challenger II or the Leo family). Yes, the armor on top is weak.

      Modern tanks are designed based on a very old standard. They have to travel by rail or by heavy transport on road (. The M1 can ride on a rail car with 6 inches of track hanging of on both sides (and yes, they do use a ruler to check). The wider stance helps to spread the weight, the added value is that it has a lower profile (in the Armor community we call that less to shoot at).

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Battlefield Realities

        "Most of the armor is towards the front, which under ideal conditions, you want to be pointed towards the bad guys. Turning sideways gives the enemy a much larger target to engage, the armor isn't all that thick, except on that beautiful Chobham armor on the turret and the skirts of an M1 family (mileage may vary on the Challenger II or the Leo family). Yes, the armor on top is weak."

        I didn't say TURN sideways. I said MOVE sidewars: as in LATERALLY, moving to one side while STILL facing forward. Humans can readily sidestep, and we've learned to use sidestepping to our advantage: to dodge attacks and to flank defenses.

        See, what I'm thinking about is a Large AGILE Target. That's why maneuverability rules the skies and why we're designing missiles that swerve as they approach and so on: we're moving more towards creating agile weapons that respond to threats by being able to change directions quickly. We already do that in the air. Imagine such a thing on the ground.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Facepalm

          Re: Battlefield Realities

          "See, what I'm thinking about is a Large AGILE Target."

          There's another point I didn't mention before: ground pressure. Any armoured vehicle tends to be massy, and a battlefield often has soft ground underfoot. Tanks use many many treads to spread the load, and even then they sink in a bit. Consider the footprint of heavy body armor. Pretty tiny compared to mass. It's hard to be agile when your feet are sinking into the ground all the time.

          The obvious solution is to, uh, enlarge the feet. This would also obviate the need for weapons at all; The enemy would laugh themselves to death.

          1. Psyx

            Re: Battlefield Realities

            "The obvious solution is to, uh, enlarge the feet. This would also obviate the need for weapons at all; The enemy would laugh themselves to death."

            Simply maths dictates that a relatively small enlargement of the boots would double the surface area and half the ground pressure. So even if the suit weighs as much as the person in it, it's still not an issue.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: Battlefield Realities

              That's why such a simple thing as snowshoes work. So the feet need to have a better ground surface area; that could be arranged.

        2. Tank boy

          Re: Battlefield Realities

          Guess you haven't been briefed in about the concept of pivot steer. Please enlighten a tank commander how you would solve the problem of presenting a larger target to the enemy. Pretty sure I can pass on whatever you know to the Armor community.

  19. Robert Grant

    Just don't let Apple design it

    Or you'll be stuck in Beirut (or wherever) hunting for the right charger.

  20. Chris G Silver badge

    Hearts and minds

    I am making the assumption that these are not intended for the domination of an empty desert, in which case there will be people there.

    As with Iraq and Afghanistan amongst many others the US has failed to win hearts and minds; an essential ingredient in consolidating an occupied territory. American grunts in the armour they already wear with their mirror shades and inability to speak the local language are intimidating just by their presence.

    To upscale that to even more insular grunts in total armour or worse drones is not going to improve anything.

    If I was a local faced with occupying forces like this I would go out of my way to find ways of breaking them.

    I wonder how the ubiquitous RPG7 works agianst one of these?

    1. Psyx

      Re: Hearts and minds

      "As with Iraq and Afghanistan amongst many others the US has failed to win hearts and minds; an essential ingredient in consolidating an occupied territory. American grunts in the armour they already wear with their mirror shades and inability to speak the local language are intimidating just by their presence."

      So says the blithe opinion of an armchair reader. All of your points bear little relation to reality.

      Hearts and minds has been a cornerstone strategy in both operational areas. And it kinda worked eventually in Iraq. Unfortunately it didn't stop some elements still hating their countrymen.

      mirrorshades? Citation needed. Not ideal eyewear really are they: Actual mirrored glasses. But sure: People fighting in dusty, bright countries wear *tinted* goggles because it's stupid not to (and a yellow tint is good for contrast). Likewise they take them OFF when talking to people because it's patiently stupid to leave them on (FFS: There was even a British Army recruiting advert on TV a DECADE ago that specifically referenced doing so).

      Inability to speak the language? Well yes: Not every grunt can be trained to learn the local language. That's why troops are encouraged to learn some basics and have people with them who can speak the language.

      "If I was a local faced with occupying forces like this I would go out of my way to find ways of breaking them."

      Stop press: Foes deliberately try ways to attack weak points of stuff. What is your point?

      You've simply stated a number of non-truths based on the preconception that a million-strong army is too stupid to have thought of the things you have.

      They have.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OT "compressed timeline"

    we are grateful for this gem and shall dilligently implement its embodiment into our Official Office Speak

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    power

    down, bzzzzzz....

    I do hope they can evacuate the suit manually, when the battery's gone flat, rather than wait to be re-charged. And then go on foot in search of alternative power source (alternative to a good old plug in the wall).

    that said, power is not exactly a minor issue in this project, so hopefully the spin-offs (more efficient power sources) will trickle to benefit the rest of us, still struggling with flat AAs...

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Compressed timescale

    Was anyone else worried about the comment of compressed timescale? Are the US planning another major war?

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Compressed timescale

      The US is always planning another major war...

      Gotta have something to shoot those million dollar Patriot missiles at after all...

  24. Longrod_von_Hugendong
    Devil

    and this is the reason...

    Why we shouldn't let Role Players pick names....

    'The Faerûnian deity of storms and destruction'

    Of course - we don't want to examine why i know this :D

  25. Horta

    They're waiting for you Private Freeman... In the test chamber.

  26. Tom 7 Silver badge

    I have a very strange image

    of two hundred soldiers in exo-skeletons standing on a bluff masturbating furiously when the enemy (?) finds a way to hack into these things.

    Either that or someone with a bottle, a bit of cloth and 30cents worth of gasoline winning hands down.

    I cant see them being of much use in a war situation but bloody handy for cleaning and rescue missions.

    Would make for tireless burger flippers in the canteen too.

  27. willi0000000

    seems like some people read Haldeman's Forever War, didn't get the point and liked it.

    i hope my country smartens up soon.

    [i hope the human race matures too, but i'm not holding my breath]

  28. kryptonaut
    Happy

    Liquid armour that turns hard on impact

    Mmmm... custard...

  29. Interceptor
    Coat

    Have they lost their minds!?

  30. chris lively

    Missing something.

    In the link to the defense.gov site, the article ended with this tidbit:

    "I’d like that last operator that we lost to be the last operator we lose in this fight or the fight of the future. And I think we can get there."

    A few questions come to mind: Did they lose someone while testing a suit? Which fight is "this fight"? Does this mean they already have a suit that was deployed on a battlefield but it was destroyed?

    Kind of an odd statement unless I'm missing something.

  31. Mick Russom

    Perfect for the police state to lay the beat down and disappear pesky citizens that believe in liberty and freedom.

  32. Mick Russom
    Terminator

    Perfect for the police state to lay the beat down and disappear pesky citizens that believe in liberty and freedom.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    libity and freedom????

    an,t they a couple of certoon carictors from japan!

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