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The Tactical Assault Light Operators Suit (TALOS) looks like it dropped out of a movie screen. It’s sleek, imposing, and futuristic, but most importantly – it’s incredibly useful. And soon, it may be saving the lives of soldiers going into harm’s way.

The TALOS suit “was chartered to explore and catalyze a revolutionary integration of advanced technology to provide comprehensive ballistic protection, peerless tactical capabilities and ultimately to enhance the strategic effectiveness of the SOF [special operations forces] operator of the future,” said commander of US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) General Joseph L Votel.

Future prototypes will have a range of augmenting and amplifying tech, like exoskeletons for strength and endurance increases, heads-up displays built into helmets, cooling and heating systems, as well as medical sensors to monitor the vital signs of users.

Since 2013, SOCOM has gathered leading experts from academia, industry, and government to develop the prototype.

Some serious challenges remain, but the task force in charge of suit design is looking for novel ways of conquering them. One of the big issues faced by the team is finding an untethered power source strong enough to power the suit.

“Identifying an untethered power source for extended duration is one leap of technology,” one official said. “It’s something that doesn’t exist in that man-portable size technology. If someone has an arc reactor in their basement, I know how they can make a lot of money.”

But the task force is looking at all approaches to solving these power issues.

“If you could make armor that was super, super light and is a leap in technology, that buys down some of our other problems,” an official said. “We wouldn’t need as much power, for example.”

Still, work is progressing well, Votel said. “Although many significant challenges remain, our goal for a Mark 5 prototype suit by 2018 is on track right now.”