Four years ago, NEWSREP reported that United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) developed the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS)—a hardened exo-skeleton suit for special operators—and it was really a sham, but promising technologies emerged in the process. From 2015’s “TALOS: Special Operations Powered Armor or Just Another Boondoggle?”

Initiated under Admiral William H. McRaven when he commanded SOCOM, TALOS is seen by many insiders largely as a distraction. While the suit itself is important, there are many other programs associated with TALOS which are expected to provide immense benefits to SOF down the line. These fringe benefits would include the armor and weapons developed for the suit. One expert whom SOFREP spoke to with regard to the TALOS program brought up the notion that TALOS is really just a stepping stone any way.”

Today, this misstep is finally publicly acknowledged. SOCOM’s commander recently remarked that “It was a moonshot, but a moonshot that was worthy of taking.” Breaking Defense added that SOCOM recently shut down this $80M program, but intends to spend another $16M fielding associated technologies to combat units. In the same report, Breaking Defense noted the component technologies are now being rolled into what SOCOM calls the “Hyper-Enabled Operator” or HEO:

Under the HEO umbrella, SOCOM leaders envision pushing cloud-based computing down to individual operators using secure communication links, using augmented reality projected on a heads-up display in the helmet, and small ankle and knee exoskeletons that can be quickly removed to lessen the load.”

This sounds suspiciously like one of the many SOCOM concepts of having two Green Berets with M4 rifles and laptops working clandestine operations, information operations, and unconventional warfare from a hotel room. On paper, it seems plausible, but when I mentioned the clandestine missions of past Special Forces units such as Detachment A to a current ODA team sergeant, he expressed the impossibility of such an endeavor when he has a team filled with 22-year-olds.

On some level, it’s understandable that SOCOM has to launch futuristic science fiction concepts to capture the public’s imagination and secure funding for its projects. On the other hand, the advertising may create unrealistic perceptions about SOF capabilities to both the public as well as legislators in Congress.