Russian military testing ‘super-soldier’ exoskeleton

Motorised body armour ‘lets soldier fire a machine gun one-handed’

robot exoskeleton body armour
A group of men look at a exoskeleton robot at the 2018 World Robot Conference in Beijing in August 2018
(Image credit: WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images)

The Russian military has unveiled a prototype for a carbon fibre exoskeleton which could transform its troops into super-soldiers.

The lightweight but ultra-strong body armour would give soldiers enough extra power to fire a machine gun one-handed, according to Russian news agency Tass.

TsNiiTochMash, the leading manufacturer of equipment for the Russian military, offered early details of the exosuit at the Russian Army’s annual expo, which describes itself as “the world's leading exhibition of arms and military equipment”.

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A “passive” version of the armour has already been used by the Russian military in Syria, says The Daily Telegraph, “primarily to allow soldiers to carry heavier loads, of up to 50kg, by spreading the weight over the various elements of the suit”.

However, the “active” version - which developers say will be ready for issue in 2025 - would directly enhance a soldier’s fighting capabilities.

Equipped with electric motors, the exosuit “will enable soldiers to carry more combat gear and armaments, move quicker and accomplish combat objectives more effectively”, says Tass.

The chief designer of the armour, Oleg Faustov, said that trials were already underway, and the initial results were promising.

“The tester was able to shoot from a machine-gun only with one hand and accurately hit targets,” he said.

The suit - which has already drawn comparisons to the 1987 sci-fi blockbuster Robocop - also comes with a helmet “equipped with an aiming system that calculates the distance to the target while displaying wind speed and air temperature”, says the Telegraph.

The Russian military has become increasingly focussed on the potential of AI and robotics in recent years.

In 2016, Lieutenant General Andrey Grigoriev, head of the Russian military’s Advanced Research Foundation suggested that “future wars will be determined by unmanned combat systems”, Russia Today reports.

“The days of conventional soldiers on the battlefield may soon be numbered,” he said.

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