China looking to build 'iron man' suits that let soldiers fly: experts

By Liu Xuanzun Source:Global Times Published: 2019/11/6 17:11:01

An individual jetpack system is on display at Super Warrior 2019 Military Individual Exoskeleton System Challenge in Beijing. Photo: Renminlujun

Soldiers of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) could one day get their own "iron man" suits that feature heavy firepower, special armor and flying capability, military experts said on Wednesday as the PLA is reportedly evaluating advanced exoskeleton systems.

Headed by the Equipment Department of the PLA Army, the Super Warrior 2019 Military Individual Exoskeleton System Challenge took place recently in Beijing, with other challenges held in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province and Xi'an, Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, according to a statement the PLA Army's WeChat account Renminlujun released on Tuesday.

Nearly 100 teams from research institutes, universities and companies participated in the competition, as their exoskeleton products were tested and compared. The suits were tested for ability to carry heavy weight, mobility in rough terrain and artillery ammo loading, the statement said.

Worn as a kind of exoskeleton, the suits are installed with intelligent systems that can read users' intention and synchronize with their movement. The suits are being designed to provide extra kinetic energy to help enhance the strength, speed and stamina of users.

Military experts said the competition will spur advances among product developers, with the PLA Army choosing the best products, getting new ideas and communicating with developers so they can develop new exoskeletons for the army's use in future warfare.

A student from Shenzhen Polytechnic presents hood and an arm of the Iron Man made by himself during the 12th China International Industries Cultural Fair in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province, May 16, 2016. Photo: Xinhua

In the future, exoskeletons could also be connected to a network that allows information sharing and integrate with heavier individual weapons like automatic grenade launchers and light machine guns, giving individual soldiers strong firepower, Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military analyst, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

The competition also featured suits with special armor protections and individual flight systems, including a flying board similar to the one showcased at the French Bastille Day parade in July and a jetpack that seems to be worn on the back and provide thrust from two engines, according to the Army statement.

The current exoskeleton systems are still basic, but in the future the armor, weapons and flight systems will be integrated into a power suit that could turn ordinary soldiers to "iron man" soldiers, Wei said.


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