The dream of flying around in an Iron Man-like suit The Tactical Light Operator Suit (TALOS) is under development by Special Operations Command (SOCOM), geared at providing Navy SEALS and special forces with increased strength and stronger protection. The suit can be used to kick down a door in a combat situation, for example, and officials are eyeing an initial version sooner rather than later.

“The ultimate purpose of the TALOS project is to produce a prototype in 2018,” Lieutenant Commander Matt Allen, SOCOM spokesperson, said in a report published Sunday. “That prototype will then be evaluated for operational impact.”

The TALOS has been public knowledge for a while, but there were question marks around whether the suit would ever see the light of day. The team has gradually made progress on the project since it was started in 2013, and TALOS research has fed into wider technological research on mobility exoskeletons and armor advancements.

The army’s suit aims to serve several roles at once, with a wealth of sensors providing stats on body temperature, heart rate, position, hydration and more. The body armor can also transform from liquid to solid, allowing the user to wear the suit comfortably outside of combat, while switching back when needed. “The idea is to help maintain the survivability of operators as they enter that first breach through the door,” said Allen.

Exoskeleton suits are an area of growing research interest, as it provides immediate enhancements to wearers without having to disrupt their workflow. Several, like the SuitX Phoenix and Aalborg University’s project, aim to help paralyzed people walk again. Others, like the Kindred A.I. patent, are aimed at commanding larger robot armies. In the case of TALOS, it may never reach the hands of civilians, but there’s a chance that some of the technologies SOCOM is researching make their way into other products.

Photos via U.S. Army