As part of the country’s massive re-arming and military modernization efforts, Russia's defense apparatus has been quietly developing a next-generation suit that will give its wearers enhanced strength, awareness and combat effectiveness, and has reportedly already tested it in battle.
Created as part of the Ratnik (Russian for "warrior) system program, the suit isn’t designed for special operations forces, but rather, general infantry use. That’s right — the average Russian infantryman will step outside the wire wearing game changing battle rattle, likely by 2025.
While similar to the American Land Warrior and Future Combat Systems projects, Ratnik has actually succeeded where the other multi-billion dollar programs have stalled. Up-armoring soldiers and increasing the ergonomic qualities of their gear is only a part of what Ratnik aims to do, however.
At the core of the system is creating a highly integrated network that boosts the infantryman's situational awareness, and allows vital information and intelligence to be fed between soldiers in a unit, and other external assets supporting that unit. To accomplish this, Ratnik includes the "Musketeer" communications system that allows for voice and video transmissions, as well as GLONASS (the Russian alternative to GPS) receivers for navigation.
According to TsNIITochMash, the Russian state-sponsored design bureau responsible for the Ratnik program, the suit itself, known as Ratnik-2, can protect up to 90% of a soldier's body, using armor that weighs between 16 to 35 lbs. The main vest, worn around the soldier's torso and back, is resistant to 7.62x39 mm and 7.62x54 mmR rounds, and can supposedly maintain its resistance at closer range, even when hit multiple times with larger calibers.
Additionally, the system comes with a heater, a water filter, a gas mask, medical kit, and other necessary "life support elements." The entire Ratnik-2 suit is covered with infrared-defeating materials, allowing soldiers to operate nearly undetected by infrared scanners.
Though the overall weight of the Ratnik suit comes up to around 45-50 lbs, the weight is offset and dealt with using a passive exoskeleton, designed to alleviate the heavy physical burden while protecting the wearer's spine and joints from wear and tear. Because it does not require power or electricity to function, the carbon-fiber exoskeleton is durable and easy to field.
The upcoming Ratnik-3 suit will have an active exoskeleton, however, meaning that it will be built with servos, sensors and other electrical devices supporting its operation. This will give Russian infantrymen the ability to move faster on foot, generate more data from the environment that surrounds them, and carry heavier combat loads.