The Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) has a defensive-oriented military, and regularly deploys troops for disaster relief missions. Japan sent soldiers to help rescue its citizens after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and volcanic eruption in Nagano. In addition to helping out during large-scale disasters, local governments often request military assistance to help rescue people buried by heavy snow and landslides. These first responders have to lift heavy debris in terrain often left inaccessible to rescue vehicles.
But fatigue is the main problem for the troops, who must rush out to find missing and injured people. Time is absolutely crucial in rescue operations, and machine-assisted endurance could make the difference between whether someone lives or dies.
If Japan were to go to war, the exoskeletons would be a “force multiplier,” in military terms. An enemy’s superior numbers might not matter much if Tokyo’s troops wear power armor.
Japan’s Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA), part of the ministry of defense—has worked on the technology since 2010 as part of its “Zero Casualty Battle System” concept. The idea is to avoid human casualties by replacing soldiers with tech whenever possible. A powered suit could carry stronger bulletproof protection against enemy fire without sacrificing speed and mobility — a problem associated with ceramic plate and Kevlar. Japanese military researchers have already constructed a pair of robotic exoskeletons for the lower body that might one day allow a user to dash and leap around with greater power and speed.