The US military has, especially over the last couple of decades, become convinced that high-tech is the solution to all problems. Any battlefield or tactical problem can be solved with the latest piece of kit. The result has been the F-22 (only 195 built at a unit cost of $150 million, and a program cost of $66.7 billion), the Crusader howitzer system (cancelled due to a projected unit cost of $23 million each, minimum), the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (cancelled after over 10 years, at an estimated unit price of $22.3 million, and a total program cost of over $15 billion), to name but a few.
Hand-in-hand with the high-tech boondoggles has been the need to up-armor everything. Research has shown that the optimal max fighting load for an average infantryman is about 48 pounds. In 2005, after just getting the ESAPI and Side SAPI armor plates, one of our guys weighed himself with and without kit (just fighting load–vest, plates, ammo, helmet, M4, MBITR radio, and water; no rucksack) and figured out that he was carrying about 75 pounds, and that was without long-term sustainment or other mission-essential gear. Add in a ruck and it gets even worse.
Watch some of the YouTube videos of Marines in Helmand. Their tactics suck just because they’re too weighed down to do much more than trudge upright over open ground, in broad daylight. When they fight, most of the time they go static and shoot until the bad guys stop shooting back. It’s not just weight, either. The more kit the infantryman wears, the more unwieldy and constricted he becomes. Sure, armor has saved some lives. It’s also reduced our overall combat effectiveness, and done some permanent damage to the bodies of our infantrymen.
So here comes the Pentagon with a new solution, that instead of listening to the troops and lightening the load to allow better freedom of movement, mates high-tech boondoggle with the up-armor obsession. Meet the TALOS program. In short, the military wants an “Iron Man suit,” first for SOCOM, then for the infantry. Climate-controlled, powered armor with a direct video feed to the soldier’s Eyepro.