Iron Man suits? Call it what it is!

by wfgodbold

Powered armor! Starship Troopers, Armor, Halo, Alien, here we come!

As cool as mecha are, I can see past my irrational love of all things super robot to know that they’re incredibly infeasible (if you’re going to build a giant mechanized one-person fighting machine, best make it a Bolo); one hit to the legs and you’ll knock the damn things right over. A giant tank would be far more effective.

And as far as infantry goes, powered armor is the holy grail!

Glenn Reynolds tends to reserve this phrase for medical and life extension technology, but I think I speak for all SF fans when I say, “Faster, please!”

4 Comments to “Iron Man suits? Call it what it is!”

  1. Check out this one!

    Personally, I think that’s the general form-factor true military powered armour is going to end up taking, rather than the Iron Man style. It’s big enough to mount some pretty significant weapons, armour, and sensors, and to carry a significant internal power supply. I’m thinking one or two miniguns or something. With enough design effort, you could reduce the weight and volume enough to make it more practical for urban battlefields (i.e., capable of getting into and operating inside most buildings). A good example would be the “battle armour” in David Weber’s Honor Harrington series.

    I still think the exoskeletons like Raytheon is working on may play a part for light or vehicle mounted infantry, but you’ll never be able to mount much more than token armour, and maybe squad-sized weapons (a SAW, or maybe an M2) without killing the limited range they have now. Mostly, they’ll just be for reducing the weight borne by soldier’s muscles (not an insignificant task by itself), rather than acting as a weapon and protection for the wearer.

    Either way, I want my battle armour to have jump-jets!

    • The problem with tacking on too much weapons and armor is that you can easily end up with something that’s going to be too heavy for most uses; in urban battlefields, you might be able to go in on the ground floor, but if you’ve got a squad of armored-up soldiers, they’d probably fall through the floor if they tried to go any higher.

      Jump jets are cool, too, but they’d better have attitude control or thrusters or something else, because otherwise they’d only be used in emergencies; there’s no point in jumping and then being unable to do anything else but hang there until you land.

  2. True, but with the proper materials and judicious planning, you could get something very useful. More weight = more power consumption, too, so that would be a concern from the start. I think carbotanium would be a good material to start with, maybe for the frame (though regular titanium might be better for that), and definitely for the lower armour-value parts of the shell. Areas that don’t need armour at all would be perfect for simple carbon fiber and nomex coverings, and then vary the armour coverage for the operator areas as needed. You could still get something that gives better protection than even the smaller exoskeleton-type systems could give, while still providing heavier firepower and equal or longer operating times/ranges.

    Still, given structural considerations and how cramped some homes or offices can get, the exoskeleton-style might be better for the infantry role and clearing buildings, with the battle armour as heavy support. It could still get into narrow alleyways and other areas that vehicles with similar weapons would never reach, and carry sensors and weapons the infantry could never manage.

    Also, a lot of what’s being done in Afghanistan and Iraq is patrolling outside the cities – and that’s where a lot of attacks seem to be taking place. Imagine a squad of battle armour equipped with a mix of miniguns and other heavy weaponry. They would have a maneuverability far beyond the vehicles and more speed than the infantry, to go with that heavy firepower.

    The big thing is that if that guy can build that suit himself, with conventional materials, for only $25,000, then a commercial manufacturer could easily build a much more combat suitable version.

    And yeah, jump jets would need maneuvering systems of some sort, but if you can do jump jets in the first place, the control thrusters shouldn’t be too difficult. I just want ’em cause they’re awesome, that’s all. 🙂

    • Yeah, $25k for that suit is just amazing. Too bad he wasn’t a government contractor; he could have built it for $25k, and then sold the prototype to the feds at a 10,000% markup (at least).

      Nothing wrong with wanting jump jets cause they’re awesome; after all, wasn’t that the rationale for most of NASA’s spending?


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