SAN FERNANDO, Calif. – The Oscar-nominated designers at Legacy Effects have outfitted such memorable movie warriors as The Terminator, RoboCop, Captain America and Iron Man.
The special-effects company is now at work on what seems a mission impossible: Building an Iron Man-style suit to protect and propel elite U.S. troops by encasing them in body armor equipped with an agile exoskeleton to enable troops to carry hundreds of pounds of gear.
The 3-D printers that once churned out parts for actor Robert Downey Jr.'s red and gold movie armor are making pieces for a Pentagon prototype. Military officials recently examined three designs, an early step in a project by the U.S. Special Operations Command to create a new generation of protective armor within the next four years.
"We are trying to be revolutionary," said Mike Fieldson, the military's manager of the project known as TALOS, the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit.
Joining the quest is a far-flung team of bioengineers, combat veterans, tech experts and a Canadian researcher seeking solutions from the secrets of insect armor. The companies include prop makers, small tech firms and such defense titans as Raytheon Co., Lockheed Martin Corp. and General Dynamics.