By David Crane
defrev (at) gmail (dot) com
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October 10, 2013
Objective Force Warrior (OFW)/Scorpion, Future Force Warrior (FFW), Future Warrior…these are all projects/programs that once lived and have since died on the road to developing a game-changing, paradigm-shifting, next-step/next generation, revolutionary, quantum-leap infantry warfighting capability for our, well, our infantry warfighters. All showed promise, and all ultimately faded away. So, you'll forgive DefenseReview's (DR) well-earned and, well, necessary skepticism about the embryonic TALOS (Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit) program outlined by the Request For Information (RFI) that USSOCOM put out on May 15, 2013, despite full-court PR press currently underway with the mainstream press.
However, despite DR's natural skepticism and the TALOS RFI seeming like a natural extension/evolution of OFW/FFW and Future Warrior on the surface, we're cautiously optimistic about TALOS, since it's a SOCOM (USSOCOM) project/program, and not a Big Army program. Can SOCOM accomplish what the U.S. Army couldn't, actually bring a future-soldier program from concept to reality (i.e, actually fielded) within a reasonable time frame? Maybe. SOCOM is smaller, lighter, faster and meaner than Big Army, so we should perhaps give them the benefit of the doubt. Then again, look at how problematic (the most diplomatic way we can put it) the multi-year SCAR (Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle) program was, and that was just a couple of guns–but at least SCAR was ultimately successfully fully developed and partially (FN MK 17 SCAR-H 7.62mm NATO battle rifle/carbine/SBR variant) fielded. That’s a lot better than the Army did with the HK XM8 and Individual Carbine (IC) programs to replace the M4/M4A1 Carbine. Of course, TALOS would be a much more complex, difficult and expensive project comprising A LOT of technology development and integration, corporate collaboration, intellectual property sharing, and new product development, the most visible aspect being a complete exo-armor combat suit, including combat helmet system.
If you just watch the TALOS teaser video below, you'd think the result will be a real-world version of the Iron Man suit. But TALOS will likely be much more conservative and more like FFW/Future Warrior, in appearance. Whatever the case, though, if by some miracle of U.S. military procurement and/or a combination of hard work, perseverance and good fortune TALOS is fully developed and fielded, it's only logical and likely that it will incorporate a power-enhancing exoskeleton like the Lockheed Martin HULC (Human Universal Load Carrier), which may ultimately be integrated with a full anti-rifle armor combat suit. Defense Review hopes that TALOS is ultimately successfully (fully) developed fielded, we just aren't holding our breath. The only way we see it happening is if sequestration ends and the U.S. military's money spigot starts flowing again.
The following is a partial copy of the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) RFI:
"Original Synopsis: Special Notice May 15, 2013, 12:05 pm
Changed: May 15, 2013, 12:23 pm
Solicitation Number: USSOCOM_RFI_ST(TALOS)
Notice Type: Special Notice Synopsis: Added: May 15, 2013 12:05 pm
Modified: May 15, 2013 12:21 pmTrack Changes
A. INTRODUCTION: Science and Technology (S&T) Collaboration This Request for Information (RFI) is NOT a Broad Agency Announcement, solicitation for proposals, proposal abstracts, or quotations. The purpose of this RFI is to solicit technology demonstration candidates from Research and Development (R&D) organizations, private industry, and academia for inclusion in future experimentation events coordinated by the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). USSOCOM invites industry, academia, individuals and Government labs to submit technology demonstration nominations addressing innovative technologies leading to possible Government/Industry collaboration for development of USSOCOM technology capabilities supporting a Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS). The intent is to accelerate the delivery of innovative TALOS capabilities to the Special Operations Forces (SOF) warfighter.
After review of the technology demonstration nomination submissions, the Government may invite select candidates to demonstrate their technologies at the USSOCOM sponsored S&T demonstration event. The demonstration venue will provide an opportunity for the submitter to interact with USSOCOM personnel for the purpose of USSOCOM assessing potential impact of emerging technology solutions on USSOCOM missions and capabilities. The intent is to accelerate the delivery of innovative capabilities to the SOF warfighter. Industry participation in demonstration activities does not suggest or imply that USSOCOM will procure or purchase equipment.
B. OBJECTIVE: 1. Background: These collaborative S&T demonstrations are conducted with representatives from Government R&D organizations, Academia, and Industry. S&T demonstration events provide an opportunity for technology developers to interact with operational forces and Government development personnel to determine how their technology development efforts and ideas may support or enhance SOF capability needs. The environment facilitates a collaborative working relationship between interested parties to promote the identification and assessment of emerging and mature technologies for the primary goal of accelerating the delivery of technology discoveries to the SOF warfighter. The event facilitates USSOCOM personnel to identify potential technology solutions, impacts, limitations, and utility to meet SOF technical objectives and thrust areas. Materiel solutions brought to the event should be at a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of 5 or greater. Demonstrations may be between an hour and half a day in duration and may be conducted in unimproved expeditionary-like conditions. At the discretion of USSOCOM, respondents may be asked to complete a vendor loan agreement (see attachment).
2. Demonstration Focus: Demonstrations will be conducted from 8-10 July 2013, at or near MacDill AFB, FL and will explore emerging TALOS technology solutions for the advance enhanced mobility/protection capabilities to augment the direct assaulter. The goal of these demonstrations is to identify technologies which could easily be integrated to form an initial capability within twelve months. A secondary goal is to determine the feasibility of fielding objective capabilities within three years. Any TALOS technology-based demonstration conducted at the event shall be capable of supporting a SOF unit to provide a revolutionary improvement in SOF operations. Any and all TALOS solutions must include all necessary software and hardware to accomplish the mission. Direct Assaulter enhanced mobility/protective technologies may include, but are not limited to:
a. Advanced Armor: Materials to support next generation full-body ballistic protection
b. Mobility/Agility: Enhancement platforms such as powered exoskeletons
c. Situational Awareness (SA)
d. Light/noise discipline
e. Command, Control, Communications & Computers (C4): Such as conformable & wearable antennae and wearable computers
f. Individual soldier combat ready displays: Including non-visual means of information display, and potentially utilization of cognitive thoughts and the surrounding environment to display personalized information
g. Power generation and management
h. Thermal management of suit occupant
i. Medical: Embedded monitoring, oxygen systems, wound stasis, electromechanical compensation
Proposed solutions should take into consideration "lightening the load" of the operator, mentally and/or physically.
Contracting Office Address:
7701 Tampa Point Blvd
MacDill AFB, Florida 33621-5323
SUBMIT WHITE PAPERS AT: http://www.socom.mil/sordac/Pages/BAAHome.aspx
Contracting Office Address:
7701 Tampa Point Blvd.
MacDill AFB, Florida 33621-5323
Primary Point of Contact.:
Peter M. Coffey, Contracting Officer
Secondary Point of Contact:
Geneva Emiliani, Contract Specialist
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