Russia tests an active-powered exoskeleton that enables soldiers to fire machine guns with one hand

Killer robots that can lift and fire machine guns with one mechanical hand might be coming soon. In fact, Russian soldiers will soon be able to pull off the same action hero gesture thanks to the new exoskeleton they are testing out, an article in TASS reported.

Developed by the TsNiiTochMash industrial design bureau, the Soldier Combat Outfit (SCO) is an “active powered” exoskeleton. Its limbs incorporate electric motors that are in turn hooked up to a rechargeable energy storage system.

When activated, the SCO will provide a massive boost to the strength of its user. An ordinary Russian serviceman equipped with it can hold up an 18-pound Pecheneg medium machine gun with just one hand.

“We have already held trials for the prototype of the active exoskeleton. It really enhances a serviceman’s physical abilities,” said Oleg Faustov, the chief designer of the SCO project’s Life Support System, during an official announcement. “For example, the tester was able to shoot from a machine-gun only with one hand and accurately hit targets.” (Related: The army is looking to develop a superhuman suit that will prevent brain injuries.)

Active exosuit will grant robotic strength to Russian soldiers

The primary purpose of the SCO is to help Russian soldiers bear the ever-increasing weight of the typical combat load-out. Faustov claimed that the active exosuit will allow its wearer to move faster and complete their mission objectives with greater efficiency.

Although the SCO is fitted with a battery, the current energy storage system is reportedly insufficient for the energy-guzzling electric motors. While Faustov acknowledged this drawback, he also assured his audience that TsNiiTochMash was working on improving the performance of the battery and the motors.

The SCO itself did not appear at TsNiiTochMash’s booth during the recent Army-2018 international arms expo. While its actual appearance remains a mystery, it was mentioned by Alexander Romanyuta, the chairman of the Military and Scientific Committee of the Russian Ground Forces.

During a speech, Romanyuta said that the next generation of Russia’s “Soldier of the Future” combat outfit will receive an unnamed active powered exoskeleton, assumed to be the SCO. This exoskeleton will be worn as a hardsuit over the Ratnik-3.

The SCO exoskeleton is expected to be ready for service by 2025. Based on previous reports about its prototype, the finished product might be made from titanium.

Russia already has “Ratnik” military exosuits in service

While waiting for TsNiiTochMash to finish improving the battery, the Russian soldier already has access to the Ratnik system. Meaning “warrior” in the Russian language, Ratnik is now in its second generation.

Whereas SCO is an active powered exoskeleton that requires a power source, Ratnik is a passive mechanical exosuit. Its backpack is fitted out with shoulder hangers and a waist fixture, allowing it to support 100 pounds of weight. It also has components that support the legs, including support pads in the feet. The entire system weighs twelve pounds.

It does not have the SCO’s electric motors, so it will not increase the physical abilities of its wearer. Instead, Ratnik is able to reduce the locomotive load for users who are hauling bulky cargo. It does so by spreading the weight of the object across the structural elements of the exoskeleton. By supporting the stance of the user, it increases the maximum carrying capacity of a soldier by 110 pounds.

Ratnik-2 is currently in service with the Russian army. It saw action in Syria, where Russian minesweepers used it to carry their bulky sensors and equipment.

If you are worried about exoskeleton-equipped Russian soldiers showing up “on vacation,” you can keep track of efforts to counter them at

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