Chinese soldiers get bigger, requiring new gear to match

Updated: 2014-02-19 07:03

By Zhao Lei (China Daily)

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Chinese soldiers get bigger, requiring new gear to match

Soldiers in Lhasa, Tibet autonomous region, participate in a military skills competition. A research institute with the PLA's General Armament Department found that the average Chinese soldier is 2 cm taller and has a waistline 5 cm larger than 20 years ago. Duan Hongwen / for China Daily

Changes in the average physique of Chinese soldiers over the past 20 years have created a need for newer and larger armaments.

The PLA Daily cited research findings on Tuesday by an unidentified institute of the PLA General Armament Department that today's average Chinese soldier is 2 cm taller and has a waistline 5 centimeters larger than the average 20 years ago.

The findings come from a survey began in 2009 of more than 20,000 soldiers in the PLA's ground force. The survey measured and analyzed the body size, strength and other factors. Because the soldiers' average size has grown, larger military equipment is urgently needed, the researchers said.

A soldier of average size could feel cramped in some commonly used tanks, which were designed to accommodate the smaller troops of 30 years ago.

"Armaments and military personnel's physiques should be matched because that is the only way to ensure proper use of the equipment," said Ding Songtao, who led the research.

The research measured 28 features of the human body, compared with seven in previous studies. A new database of ergonomic parameters was compiled on such factors as hand strength, which would help determine the optimum sensitivity of triggers.

Ding said the survey findings have been used in designing weapons and equipment for artillery, armored forces, engineers and the chemical defense corps.

The changes in physique have other consequences, said Wang Ya'nan, a military expert in Beijing. "The improvement of Chinese people's physical condition makes it easier to recruit military personnel," Wang said. "Although soldiers do not have to do much manual labor requiring physical strength, unlike their predecessors, many jobs in the military and especially the army still require strong soldiers."

For instance, he said, though designers have been striving to reduce the weight of foot soldiers' individual equipment, the overall load carried by each soldier is not significantly lighter than before.

"That is because the army wants to add more functions to soldiers' backpacks to diversify their roles in combat," Wang said. "Soldiers must be strong to carry this equipment. So the fact that Chinese people are becoming taller and stronger provides more options to the military."

Meanwhile, advances in technology, engineering and manufacturing have enabled the air force to relax its criteria in choosing pilots, he said.

"In the past, the air force would not select tall pilots because military aircraft cockpits were usually small. But since the advanced aerodynamic design and cutting-edge electronics have been adopted in new-generation planes, there is considerably more space for pilots, allowing tall people to fit in."

Xinhua contributed to this story.