Taiwan builds ‘Ironman’ suit to reduce fatigue, increase troops mobility amid rising tensions with China

The suit, presently in its first generation, is part of a four-year $5.74 million (NT$160 million) project, also known as the “Taiwan Ironman programme”, by the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology

The battery-powered exoskeleton, developed by Taiwan’s top weapons maker, will enhance troop mobility and endurance. Photo courtesy: Handout (From South China Morning Post)

Amid increasing tensions with China, Taiwan has unveiled a battery-powered exoskeleton suit that could increase the mobility of soldiers in various military operations and enhance their physical endurance, according to the South China Morning Post.

The suit, presently in its first generation, is part of a four-year $5.74 million (NT$160 million) project, also known as the “Taiwan Ironman programme”, by Taiwan’s top weapon’s maker, the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology. The makers are in line to develop the 2.0 version of the suit by 2023. The programme began the development of the exoskeleton suit in 2020.

The 1.0 version of the suit, with its lithium-powered battery module, can travel at a top speed of six kilometres per hour. The suit can last for more than six hours on a full charge.

Jen Kuo-Kuang, head developer of the project, said that the suits would reduce the fatigue of soldiers while carrying heavy facilities. He added that the suits could be used for “field operations and movement of ammunition and heavy-duty weapons,” as well as post-disaster rescue missions and wartime operations.

The suits will need to be tailored to the body of the wearer, with the programme set to collect data on the average weight and height of Taiwanese soldiers.

The 2.0 version of the suit will be designed to allow soldiers to carry weights of up to 100 kilos, allowing them to transport people and ammunition in wartime.

The development of such exoskeletons for military is presently being done only in a few countries, with China also on the list. A powered suit for soldiers, capable of providing assisted strength of up to 20 kilos had been unveiled by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) earlier this year.

The news about Taiwan’s exoskeleton suit comes on the heels of US President Joe Biden stating that if China attacked Taiwan, the US would defend the self-governed island.

The tensions between China and Taiwan have skyrocketed in recent times, with the Chinese President Xi Jinping making the reunification of the self-governed island with mainland China a key goal ahead of his plans to secure a third presidential term in 2022.

Recently, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said that Taiwan would not bow to pressure from China, after Chinese fighter jets and nuclear-capable bombers entered Taiwan’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ). A record number of about 150 sorties were made into the zone near China’s National Day on 1 October.

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