'Iron Man' suit shown at Tampa military conference

The newest trend in suits for soldiers comes with more -- and lighter -- body armor, plus boosters for the knees and ankles. If it sounds like something out of a Marvel Comics movie, you're not far off.

"[The suit] can make you run faster and for longer distances," explained Col. Alex MacCalman of U.S. Special Operations Command.

The newest generation combat suit is being shown at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference and Exhibition (SOFIC) at the Tampa Convention Center this week. The annual event is held in Tampa because U.S. Special Operations Command is based at MacDill Air Force Base.

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More than 400 companies are represented at the conference, most of which produce products for special operations forces. New technology for the battlefield is a focus.

"The faster you can get it in the hands of the user, the special operator, the faster you can know if it's a good idea, or whether to pivot or kill it," continued MacCalman.

Threats from terrorism and rogue states, along with growing fears of cyber attacks, makes defense technology a priority, with SOCOM at the forefront. Decisions for millions or even billions of dollars in spending might begin at this conference in Tampa.

"They have all the authorities they need here. They have the money they need here, and all we do is bring the technology so that they can look at it," explained retired Major General Jim Boozer, now with the National Defense Industrial Association.

Amid the large companies, smaller, specialized organizations fill niche requirements. MacCalman says collaboration with small civilian companies is key to keeping up with developing technology.

For instance, the pneumatic boosters being used to strengthen knees and ankles in the newest combat suit were first developed for ski boots.