Taiwan Unveils Exoskeleton Suit That Makes Soldiers Stronger on Battlefield

Taiwan's military has unveiled a powered exoskeleton suit that soldiers could one day use in wartime or during humanitarian missions.

The term exoskeleton refers to an external skeleton that supports or protects the body from the outside, rather than an internal skeleton like humans have.

Research into powered exoskeletons has been ongoing for decades since they could potentially help people lift heavy objects or move over rough terrain. Their uses have been studied in the context of military, civilian and healthcare applications.

On Tuesday, Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense held a press conference in which an exoskeleton, powered by a lithium battery, was demonstrated by the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCIST), according to Taiwan News.

The suit works by increasing the efficiency of the human body and reducing the loads that are placed upon soldiers' lower limb joints by supporting the knees. It attaches to the legs.

Ministry of National Defense photos show a soldier with the suit attached to them. It appears to wrap around the shins and thighs, while wires also extend up to a belt around the waist.

The soldier is pictured carrying out various tasks such as squatting while holding weights and jogging on the spot.

Currently the powered exoskeleton provides 40 Newton-meters of torque, allows wearers to move at speeds of up to 3.7 miles per hour, and weighs under 10 kilograms (22 pounds), Taiwan News reported. Its battery is said to last for up to six hours, according to the Taipei Times.

However, a future version will increase torque delivery to 50 Newton-meters and reportedly allow wearers to lift objects between 40 and 100 kilograms (88 and 220 pounds) in weight. It would also be heavier, weighing under 53 pounds.

It's thought that the suit could help soldiers to carry ammunition, rescue soldiers or complete other tiring tasks.

The suit was presented by NCIST project manager Jen Kuo-kuang, who is quoted as saying that tests of the exoskeleton were run on 105 soldiers to make sure it generally fits Taiwanese troops. It is unclear when the suit might be put to use in the field.

Taiwan is not the first country to showcase exoskeleton technology. Earlier in 2021, China revealed a powered exoskeleton to help soldiers carry ammunition and could provide 20 kilograms of strength assistance, according to China's Global Times state media outlet which cited China Central Television.

In the U.S., defense firm Lockheed Martin's Onyx lower-body powered exoskeleton was revealed years ago.

Taiwan is currently embroiled in tensions with China driven by Beijing's assertion that Taiwan is actually a breakaway Chinese province. Taiwan, however, is independently governed and resists this assertion.

In recent months the conflict has taken the shape of sharp words and an increase in airspace provocations by China.

Army boots
A stock photo shows a line of soldiers' boots at a parade. Taiwan's recently revealed exoskeleton attaches to the lower body. vasile voicu/Getty