China reveals powered exoskeleton suit for carrying ammunition
Published: Jan 13, 2021 02:22 AM

Chinese People's Liberation Army border defense troops wear exoskeleton suits in a supply delivery mission in Ngari, Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region in 2020. Photo: Screenshot from China Central Television

China recently revealed another type of military-use exoskeleton suit that is powered and that can be used for carrying ammunition, after a previous type of non-powered exoskeleton suit entered service with the People's Liberation Army (PLA) border defense troops in late 2020 for missions including supply delivery, patrol and sentry duty.

More types of exoskeleton suits for different purposes are expected to emerge, analysts said on Tuesday.

The new type of exoskeleton suit is known as the portable ammunition support assist system for individual soldiers, which can provide 20 kilograms of assisted strength to its user, relieve more than 50 percent of the burden and greatly reduce risks of waist injury, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Monday.

The exoskeleton suit weighs only several kilograms, feels light and will not affect normal body movement, the CCTV report said, with a reporter who tried out the gear.

It is powered by a motor, which will give a reacting force to its user every time the user gets up after bending over, so the user can get up faster with less effort, the report said.

Optional hooks can be used when carrying ammunition boxes, and they can not only help the user with a better grasp, but also give assisted strength, CCTV said, noting that with the help of the exoskeleton suit, one person can carry ammunition boxes weighing 50 kilograms without much effort, and two people can carry more than 75 kilograms with ease.

It takes less than 40 seconds to put on and take off the suit.

Data on usage of the suit, including how much assisted strength the suit has provided, can be recorded to a tablet. The usage data can then be used to improve the suit, CCTV said.

In December 2020, CCTV reported that PLA border defense troops in Ngari, Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region received a type of exoskeleton suit that enables them to conduct tasks in harsh, high altitude environments more efficiently.

This type of suit is non-powered and is particularly effective in missions such as supply delivery, patrol and sentry duty, analysts said at that time.

Chinese developers have now grasped many core exoskeleton technologies, and many different types of exoskeleton suits for different purposes have been made and are being developed by several institutes, a military expert who asked to remain anonymous told the Global Times.

People could see exoskeleton suits with bullet-proof armor plates, armed with weapons or even with jetpacks for flying, the expert predicted, noting that different types of suits could be used in combat missions, logistics support missions and also civilian purposes like freight loading and courier services.

The PLA has been testing exoskeleton suits and it held a competition called "Super Warriors" in 2019, in which more than 50 types of exoskeleton prototypes made by 25 developers from all over the country competed in seven areas including lightweight mobilization, heavy-load marching, supply transport and munitions loading, the PLA Daily reported in November 2019.