The Future of Warfare: Iron Man is Coming!

iron_man_suitsAccording to a report filed last Tuesday by the US Navy’s top SEAL, the ambitious plan to build a high-tech armored suit for elite commandos has entered a new phase. After years of development, the military is preparing to analyze three new design concepts, and will begin receiving prototypes of these “Iron Man” suits by the summer.

Adm. William McRaven, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, said the military will receive the prototypes by June. This project, which was started last year, aims to revolutionize the capabilities and protection of Navy SEALs, U.S. Army Special Forces, and other elite commandos who perform some of the U.S.’s most dangerous and violent missions.

TALOSOfficially known as the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) – named after the Greek automaton made by Zeus to protect Europa – the designs have already been nicknamed the “Iron Man” suit. Obviously, the name is a nod to all the futuristic technology that powers the suit, including a powered exoskeleton, liquid armor, built-in computers and night vision, and the ability to monitor vital signs and apply wound-sealing foam.

However, there’s a catch with the prototypes. According to McRaven, who addressed reporters at a special operations conference in Washington. the prototypes will be unpowered. As it stands, no known means exists to provide a powered armor suit with the kind of electricity it would need without resorting to a gas-powered generator, or connecting the suit to the local grid.

Warrior_Web_Concepts_WideAs he explained, the challenge of finding a way to power a suit that is portable and ergonomic remains:

Obviously if you’re going to put a man in a suit – or a woman in a suit – and be able to walk with that exoskeleton… you’ve got to have power. You can’t have power hooked up to some giant generator.

Essentially, this means that the days of a genuine “Iron Man” suit are still years away. Best-case scenario, the admiral wants the suit to be used in combat situations by August 2018. Still, he also emphasized the “astounding results” that has been observed in the project so far. The prototypes in assembly now will be evaluated, with the results incorporated into the suits the U.S. will eventually deploy to the battlefield.

ghost_recon_future_soldier-1920x1080It’s unclear what the total price of the project may be, but McRaven said he would like to offer a $10 million prize to the winner in a competition. That hasn’t happened yet, but it’s likely the cost of developing the suit would be many times that, most likely ranging into the billion-dollar bracket. But of course, McRaven thinks it will be worth every penny:

That suit, if done correctly, will yield a revolutionary improvement to survivability and capability for U.S. special operators… If we do TALOS right, it will be a huge comparative advantage over our enemies and give the warriors the protection they need in a very demanding environment.

The admiral said the project was inspired by a U.S. special operator who was grieving the loss of a comrade in combat.  Despite more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. still doesn’t have a way to adequately protect commandos who “take a door,” a reference to the controversial raids that kill and capture insurgents all over the globe.

iron_man_destructionAlready, SOCOM has predicted the suit will include futuristic liquid body armor that hardens when a magnetic field or electrical current is applied. This is the most futuristic aspect of the suit, giving the soldier flexibility, mobility, and providing superior protection against ballistic objects. It also will include wearable computers, communications antennae, and a variety of sensors that link it to its wearer’s brain.

By merging digital technology, wireless access to army communications, GPS satellites and databases, and upgraded targeting and protection into one package, a single commando unit will likely have the combat effectiveness of an entire platoon. And from all indications, it’s only a few years away. I imagine the US Special Forces will see a serious boost in recruitment once the suits are available.

And of course, there’s a concept video provided by the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) showing what TALOS has to offer:


Sources: complex.foreignpolicy.com

The Future is Here: “Ironman” Spec-Ops Suit

 

ironman3Army researchers have been working for years to incorporate powered armor, exoskeletons, and high-tech weaponry into the arsenal of next-generation soldiers. And this latest development from DARPA – the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the research wing of the US Army – is being hailed as the closest thing there is to a real-life “Iron Man” suit to date.

Its known as the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) and is designed to deliver “superhuman strength with greater ballistic protection”. Named in honor of the Greek automaton made of bronze that Zeus assigned to protect his lover Europa, this suit incorporates a powered exoskeleton, liquid armor, built-in computers and night vision, and the ability to monitor vital signs and apply wound-sealing foam.

DARPA-Warrior-Web-660x495Put together, the capabilities would make the already elite Special Operation Forces nearly invincible in the field, according to the Army. As Lt. Col. Karl Borjes, a U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) science adviser, said in a statement:

[The] requirement is a comprehensive family of systems in a combat armor suit where we bring together an exoskeleton with innovative armor, displays for power monitoring, health monitoring, and integrating a weapon into that — a whole bunch of stuff that RDECOM is playing heavily in.

For the sake of the suit’s design and high-tech features, DARPA reached out to engineers from MIT, who are currently working to produce the liquid body armor that is perhaps the most advanced feature of the suit. Composed of magnetorheological fluids, this armor will “transform from liquid to solid in milliseconds when a magnetic field or electrical current is applied.”

TALOS_Future_Army_Soldier_WideThe suit is expected to make a first-generation appearance some time next year. Because of the high number of highly integrated technical challenges with advanced specifications, the Army is also drawing on a broad range of collaborators from multiple fields to complete the design in time. And as Jim Geurts, USSOCOM acquisition executive, in a statement:

USSOCOM is interested in receiving white papers from a wide variety of sources, not just traditional military industry but also from academia, entrepreneurs, and laboratories capable of providing the design, construction, and testing of TALOS related technologies. The intent is to accelerate the delivery of innovative TALOS capabilities to the SOF operator.

US_Army_powered_armorFor some time now, the concept of advanced powered suits of armor has been a feature of science fiction. Examples abound from literary references, such as E.E. Smith’s Lensman series and Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, to RPGs like BattleTech and Warhammer 40k, and to the gaming world with the HALO and Fallout series’. And much like lightsabers, there has scarcely been a geek alive who didn’t want one!

Now it seems that something very close might be realizable within a year’s time. I don’t know about you, but I feel both inspired and more than a little jealous. Damn SOCOM, always getting the coolest gear first! And of course, there’s a video:


Sources:
wired.com, dailytech.com
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More Futuristic Guns

Please, sir, I want some more… futuristic looking guns!

ARX-160:
arx160-16The Beretta company, the people famous for the world’s most popular pistol, designed this baby as part of Italy’s own Future Soldier program.  Here, we see the souped-up version, with an additional 60mm grenade launcher and a computer-assisted, advanced optics, night-vision scope.

A relatively recent addition to the gun lineup, this weapon has still managed to make its way onto the pop-culture scene, showing up in the series Nikita, the Modern Warfare and Rainbow Six video games, and the movie Forces Speciales starring Djimon Hounsou.

CF-05:
chang_fengThe Chang Feng 05, a submachinegun that was developed by the Chinese arms manufacturer in response to the military and police’s demand for a new breed of handheld automatics.First seeing service in the late 90’s, it has some rather interesting design features. The first is the top mounted cylinder magazine, which feeds bullets in a rotating fashion into the chamber.

Despite it’s cool design, it has yet to really break onto the scene, appearing in only two video games: Mercenaries 2, and Firearms: Source. Give it time…

CR-21:
VektorCR-21-1Another South African creation, this is the bullpup Vektor CR-21. A composite stock assault rifle that is considerably lighter than its competitors, it also has the usual advantages of a modern weapon. These include a mount for a grenade launcher and a computer-assisted scope.

Not surprisingly, it appeared in the sci-fi movies District 9, Doomsday and Slipstream, the anime movie Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex, and a slew of video games.

HK G-36:
G36Now I know people here have seen these one before! Designed by German arms manufacturer Heckler and Koch back in 1996, this gun has made the rounds in the movie and game verse. Due largely to its futuristic look, sci-fi franchises have made sure to keep it stocked.

So far, it’s appeared in such movies as Equilibrium, Children of Men, DOOM, and V for Vendetta, animes such as Full Metal Panic and Cowboy Bebop, and more video games than I can name.

HK MP7:
HK_MP7You got to hand it to the Germans, they make great guns! Another example from HK industries, known as the MP7, this weapon is a sub-machinegun that also has the honor of being labelled a PDW (Personal Defense Weapon). Developed in response to the proliferation of body armor in the field, the MP7 was specifically designed to combine armor-piercing rounds with a high rate of fire.

It’s cinematic appearances include such hits as Stealth, Live Free or Die Hard, Next, Hancock, Wanted, The Interceptor (Zapreshchyonnaya Realnost), G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Zombieland and District B13: Ultimatum. It also has a strong representation on television, including Battlestar Galactica, Stargate: SG1, and such video games as Half Life 2, and the Rainbow Six, SOCOM, Splinter Cell and Modern Warfare 3.

QBZ-95:
qbz-95Here’s another installment from modern China, this bullpup assault rifle was designed for the as a replacement for the aging type 56 and type 81 assault rifles (derivatives of the AK-47). Light, versatile and highly adaptable, this weapon can be modified to act as a machine gun, sniper rifle, light infantry weapon, and an assault rifle with a 35mm grenade launcher.

And because of its look and feel, it has appeared in the movies Inception, the series Stargate: Atlantis and Universe, and the Rainbow 6 series and Modern Warfare 3.

SAR-21
SAR-21_RAILAnd now to Singapore, a city-state famous for technological innovation. One such example is this, the ST Kinetics Singapore Assault Rifle-21, a rifle built for the 21st century and an intended replacement for the countries aging stocks of American made M16A1’s.

Having been unveiled in 1999, it has yet to make a big splash. Still, it has already made appearances in the movies Gamer, as well as the video games Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory and Ghost Recon Online.

TAR-21:
tavor_05Everybody knows that Israel is famous for making some sweet-ass and powerful guns! The Desert Eagle, the Uzi, and now this, the Tavor TR-21. Much like the SAR-21, the name stands for Tavor Assault Rifle – 21st century, and it was built to become the mainstay of the armed forces to replace older weapons. A bullpup design, this weapon is compact, modifiable, and comes in many variants.

And of course, it’s made several appearances. These include the movies of Resident Evil: Apocalypse, and Screamers: The Hunting, and the video games series of Rainbow Six, Batman: Arkham City, and Modern Warfare 2.

TKB-022:
tkb022_1This gun never made it beyond the assembly line, and as such has made no appearances in pop culture. But you know what, who the hell cares?! Just look at the thing and tell me it’s not a futuristic gun! Based on a very unique take on the bullpup design, the Korobov, as its known, was intended as part of a new generation of weapons designed to replace the Kalashnikov.

Unfortunately, this proposed design was overlooked in favor of other, more conventional pieces. Too bad too. Maybe they could churn out a few test models strictly for science fiction directors. I know they’d pay to get their hands on them!

XM8:
XM8_carbineAnd finally, we have the XM8, possibly the most futuristic looking gun available on the market. Designed in the late 90’s and early 21st century in the US, the XM8 represented a collaborative effort between Heckler and Koch (natch!) and the US Army to develop a lightweight assault rifle that could replace the M16 and its variants.

Thought the project was cancelled in 2005 (politics!), the gun made some pretty serious waves on the public mind and inspired its use in numerous franchises as an example of a futuristic weapon. Examples include the movies Children of Men and District B13: Ultimatum, the tv show Mail Call, and the video games series SOCOM, Splinter Cell, Ghost Recon, Raindbow Six, Command and Conquer 3, Metal Gear Solid 4, Crysis 2… the list goes on and on! Just goes to show you, you don’t have to be operational to make an impression!

Final Thoughts:
Looking at this futuristic array of weaponry, I notice a few things that might provide some hints as to the future of firearms. On the one hand, there is the clear indication that new designs which take advantage of bullpup or top loaded magazines are the way of the future. For quite some time now, gun designers have gone with the concept of a front loader and it seems that this is the result of convention. However, a paradigm shift is clearly in effect and I imagine that all future designs may very well phase this out.

Second, there is the Future Soldier program and how modern weapons are being designed to be consistent with its requirements. What this means is that new firearms models must be able to sport computer-assisted aiming (aka. ballistics computer scopes) as well as night vision and even thermal imaging. In addition, it is hopes that these scopes will be able to be connected to the new generation of Head’s-Up Displays (HUDs) which are being specially designed for infantry use.

Oh, and a possible third conclusion is that all future weapons will need to come with their own built-in grenade launchers. That may not be a requirement per se, but I sure hope it is since it’s just so freaking cool. And keep in mind they can be modified to shoot air burst shells so that police and peacekeepers won’t get go all nutjob on mobs of unarmed people. It’s all about proportionality…

Thank you, that’s all for now. As much as I’d like to make this a new series right now, I have too many of those on the go and I already spend too much time on those. Seriously, things are getting way back up with my regular writing and my real job! But if people like this enough, maybe I’ll stay on it and be sure to post new examples as they come along. Oh, and of course suggestions are always welcome. Good day and good hunting 😉

Futuristic Guns

Many of these will look familiar, and for good reason. In addition to being futuristic looking, they also happen to be real! For many years, science fiction movies and series have used weapons of legitimate manufacture in order to inspire a futuristic feel.

Calico M960:
Calico960aHere’s a gun that has been featured in several movies, games and television series, and its obvious why. Just look at the thing. A fully-automatic pistol, this baby provides a lot of firepower in a small and uniquely shaped package. As one of the first personal defense weapons to feature a top-mounted magazine, a revolutionary concept for its time which has since caught on bigtime.

Guns of this class were featured in the sci-fi movies Robocop 2, Robocop 3, Total Recall, Virtuosity, and Star Trek: First Contact.

Daewoo K11:
daewook11This gun not only looks futuristic, it is downright revolutionary in its design. Whereas most assault rifles have grenade launchers slug underneath the front barrel, this version carries an launcher mounted on top and fed by a bullpup magazine.

Designed by the Republic of South Korea in 2006, the weapon also comes with a state of the art scope which features the latest in a ballistics computer technology as well as thermal/night vision. I have yet to find a sci-fi franchise which has used it, but time will tell. These things aint cheap, after all!

FN F2000:
f2000As part of the new generation of bullpup assault rifles, the F2000 is of Belgian manufacture that’s been around for the better part of a decade. It’s futuristic features include the revolutionary new handle and trigger grip, bullpup magazine and updated sights.

Because of its aesthetic appeal, the F2000 has been featured in numerous places, including Terminator: Salvation, the Modern Warfare and Ghost Recon video game series, and the upcoming G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra.

HK XM29:
Xm29Also known as an OICW (Objective Individual Combat Weapon), the XM29 is part of the new generation of hybrid assault rifles that features the a secondary bullpup magazine which houses its compliment of grenades.

Much like the K11, this weapon combines the benefits of a 5.56mm assault rifle, a 20mm grenade launcher and an ultra-modern scope that contains a ballistics computer, laser range finder, advanced optics and night vision. It was featured in the Ghost Recon series, Die Another Day, and Universal Soldier: The Return.

KRISS Vector:
kriss1When I first saw this weapon, all I could say was “Wow, now there’s something that doesn’t qualify for home defense!” A .45 caliber weapon, fully automatic, and very compact, this weapon is futuristic, uniquely designed and deadly. A triple threat, quite literally!

And the list of features and featurettes include the upcoming Total Recall remake, Resident Evil: Retribution, the Nikita television series and the Modern Warfare and Ghost Recon game franchises.

Mossberg 500:
mossberg_500_bullpupHere we have a game changer! And interestingly enough, it’s been around for quite some time. Back in 1985, Mossberg decided to upgrade their long lineup of shotgun stocks by taking advantage of the concept of bullpup firearms. Essentially, this means that it is loaded from the rear and ejects spent cartridges from behind the trigger mechanism.

Given it’s futuristic look, it was featured in several sci-fi movies during the 80’s and 90’s, most notably The Running Man, Predator 2, and the film version of Stargate.

NTW-20:
ntw20_1Go big or go home! That seems to be the reasoning behind this 20mm (.78 cal) assault rifle, which comes direct from South Africa, famous purveyor of grisly firearms! As part of an international series of large-caliber rifles which emerged during the 1990’s, this weapon was meant to give snipers the ability to take down armored troops and vehicles. Well, it certainly does that!

In addition to appearing in the movie District 9, it was also featured in the Halo series as the USNC sniper’s rifle. And anyone’s who played that series knows just how powerful that baby is. Blamoo! They all fall down…

PP-2000:
pp_2000Next up, the Russian sidearm of choice for today’s military, police forces, and apparently even cilivians. At least that’s what the designation PDW (Personal Defense Weapon) means. Can’t imagine most houses have any real cause for stocking a 9mm submachine gun, but that’s a matter for the courts.

Because of it’s appearance and popularity with modern armed forces, it was features in the video game series’ Modern Warfare, Ghost Recon, Bad Company, SOCOM, and the Russian sci-fi thriller The Interceptor (Zapreshchyonnaya Realnost).

P90:
P90Here we have yet another PDW that really doesn’t seem to fit that criteria, not when its a compact submachinegun and packs as many as 50 bullets! And in addition to its ammo count, it also boasts two very high-tech advancements, including a top loading magazine and the same handle/trigger grip as the F2000. Not surprising since they have the same maker – Fabrique Nationale (FN) from Belgium.

For obvious reasons, this gun has a long history of making special appearances. Its credits include Equilibrium, I, Robot, Babylon A.D., District B13 and its sequel, and was specifically chosen to be the sidearm of choice on the shows Stargate and Stargate: Atlantis.

Steyr AUG:
Steyr_augAnother popular item, and one which I’m sure everyone out there is familiar with. Invented back in 1978 by the Austrian-based Steyr company, this weapon was the first assault rifle to introduce the bullpup loading design. On top of that, its appearance is downright futuristic!

It too has a long list of credits, including Robocop 1 and 2, Predator 2, District B13, as well as the television shows Red Dwarf, Space: Above and Beyond, and Firefly.

Okay! There’s more, of course, but ten examples is kind of my limit. And because I think something like this could go longer than I’m willing to type… at least in one sitting. Enjoy the gun show (no bad pun!) and see y’all next time.