The Pentagon is turning to Hollywood developers to come up with body armor prototypes to protect elite U.S. forces, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The U.S. Special Operations Command is bypassing the standard contracting system to accelerate the proposal, testing, and evaluation process.
Proposals are coming from the make-believe world that created special effects for such movies as Captain America and Iron Man, as well as experts on genuine medieval body armor. The goal is to come up — within four years — with suits that would protect special operations forces against bullets, bombs and bayonets.
Troops would need to bear up under 400 pound exoskeleton suits and carry hundreds more pounds of equipment. Mike Fieldson, Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit project manager for the military said, "We are trying to be revolutionary."
The most immediate challenge is to design such an external skeleton that not only doesn't weigh down its wearer but also allows them to be agile. That would require a yet-to-be-invented power source.
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Russ Angold of Ekso Bionics, whose company mostly designs exoskeletons for medical use, said that "Hollywood has definitely made the Iron Man suit impossibly thin, impossibly light, impossibly agile and impossibly energy efficient." He added, "So we're really trying to solve the problem and ask the question: What would Iron Man look like if it was real?"
In May, some of those involved in the effort came together in Vermont for a day to test a prototype they've come up with so far. The partial exoskeleton proved to be far too heavy and unwieldy.
Designers say that the ultimate product is probably not going to look much like the Hollywood versions. Brian Dowling, a former special forces soldier, who is managing the effort for Revision Military in Vermont said: "Will you ever have an Iron Man? I don't know. But you'll have some greatly improved technology along the way."
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