By David Crane
david (at) defensereview (dot) com
September 21, 2016
Last updated on 9/22/16.
DefenseReview (DR) first reported on the TALOS (Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit) Exo-Armor Combat Suit program in October, 2013, and while we were healthily skeptical about it, we were also cautiously optimistic, as is our way. Cut to the present, and the TALOS program is still going, which is an achievement in itself, especially considering normal new-military-program attrition AND sequestration. So, DR shall continue with our cautious optimism, at least for now.
The most realistic mock-up renditions/demonstrators of TALOS that DR’s come across have been exhibited by Revision Military at SOFIC (Special Operations Forces Industry Conference) over the last few years, and they’ve looked pretty good. The TALOS-type mock-ups/demonstrators Revision’s shown have incorporated functional hardware like the Revision Batlskin Modular Head Protection System (MHPS) and B-TEMIA/Revision Military Prowler Human Augmentation System (HAS) combat exoskeleton. And, recently, the company introduced the Revision Multi-Use Bump Shell/Modular Ballistic Combat Helmet with Skeletonized Accessory Rail Mount System, which is an interesting lightweight, modular ballistic head protection solution, and a possible modular helmet-armor tech option for TALOS, TALOS follow-on future-soldier/warrior amor protection platforms, as well as current SOF operators.
But running through a litany of Revision’s TALOS-applicable combat technologies isn’t our primary purpose here. The reason for this article is to discuss an incredibly interesting and visually-exciting individual aircraft/air-transport technology called the FlyBoard Air, which is potentially a real game changer for military Special Operations Forces (SOF) missions/operations, and possibly even general infantry warfare, eventually, depending on whether or not it’s affordable and flight time can be significantly increased. The Flyboard Air Test 1 prototype, brought to you by Zapata Racing (ZR), the same (French) folks who brought you the Jetpack by ZR and Flyboard Legend, is essentially a small, relatively lightweight ducted-fan-type hoverboard platform (connected to a bacpack power supply and wireless hand controller/throttle device) with a current (claimed) maximum speed of 93.2 mph, a (claimed) maximum altitude/flight ceiling of 10,000 ft, and a (claimed) maxium flight time of approximately 10 minutes (we assume for an adult male human being of average weight), all enough to make it really revolutionary and even practical for specific military SOF missions.
For example, let’s say you’ve got to get a bunch of military SOF assaulters/operators up a mountain somewhere within a few minutes, and you can’t use a helicopter or Osprey for some reason, at least not to take them the whole distance. Or, let’s say you want to assault either an elevated or ground target, and then immediately exfil said target location, and you don’t want to risk losing helicopters or Ospreys. Or, let’s say you just want to intimidate the hell out of the enemy before you kill them. Never underestimate the potentially very real impact of intimidation and psychological warfare. Psychological advantage can be a major component of a positive outcome, all by itself. Anyway, being able to fly in military SOF assaulters individually, and then fly them right back out of there just as fast is a pretty big deal.
Remember the movie The Rocketeer? Well, the Zapata Racing ZR Flyboard Air isn’t quite that–not even close, really–but it’s a really nice, and seemingly very real, technological advancement in individual flight/transport capability, and it may just be the future of warfare, again provided the hardware cost isn’t too hight, and the flight time can be enhanced a bit. Hell, even if the flight time can’t be enhanced, it’s still a great first step–or dare we say–technological leap.
Defense Review is interested to find out if the FlyBoard Air’s ducted fan can be quieted at all for stealthier operation, and if the flight time can be enhanced with graphene supercapacitor battery tech and/or fossil fuel tech advancements, at least until micro, man-packable cold fusion reactors become viable individual-soldier power systems.
Hopefully, TALOS will turn out to be viable, especially since we’re probably going to need all the help we can get when we have to battle our own Robo-soldiers (Terminator-type combat robots/robot soldier), once they become sentient.
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