- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A recent breakthrough at the Pentagon’s research arm might soon give U.S. troops the ability to crawl up walls like Spider-Man. The unsung hero, however, will be the gecko.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects (DARPA) recently announced that a 218-pound man with 50 pounds on his back climbed up and down a 25-foot wall of glass using new technology inspired by the animal. The test was the culmination of research done for the “The Z-Man Project.”

“The gecko is one of the champion climbers in the animal kingdom, so it was natural for DARPA to look to it for inspiration in overcoming some of the maneuver challenges that U.S. forces face in urban environments,” Matt Goodman, program manager for DARPA’S “Z-Man” project, said in a June 5 statement, the military blog Defense Tech reported Monday.

Test subjects currently use paddles outfitted with a synthetic material dubbed “Geckskin,” which successfully can hold 660 pounds when applied to 16-square-inch surface, Defense Tech reported.

“Geckskin is an integrated adhesive of synthetic soft skin and firm tendons that ‘drape’ over a surface to maximize contact, the same way that a geckos feet drapes over surfaces,” Defense Tech reported. “But just as easily as a gecko can step away from whatever surface it is climbing, the Geckskin separates from the surface with a simple tug.”

American service members in the future will use the Geckskin in urban environments to quickly scale walls. The new technology will make it unnecessary to carry cumbersome equipment like ladders.

The new technology will likely be used with another Pentagon project: the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit. Unofficially, it’s called the “Iron Man” suit.

Adm. William McRaven, the man in charge of U.S. Special Operations Command, expects America’s special operators to be outfitted with the advanced gear by 2018.

The “Iron Man” suit is being developed with the help of 56 corporations, 16 government agencies, 13 universities and 10 national laboratories.

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