China army's BIG problem
CHINESE soldiers have become so much taller and fatter in recent years that they often find themselves cramped in tanks designed three decades ago, the state media reported.
A survey found that People's Liberation Army troopers are, on average, 2cm taller and 5cm fatter around the waist than 20 years ago, the military's official newspaper, PLA Daily, reported on Tuesday.
As a result, it is harder for them to squeeze into a tank designed for smaller soldiers 30 years ago, it said.
Rifle stocks are also too short for some, limiting their accuracy, it added.
The findings of the survey - which began in 2009 and included more than 20,000 soldiers - suggested an upgrade to the military's equipment was necessary, the newspaper said, citing Mr Ding Songtao, head of the poll project.
"The equipment must be in the right size for the battlefield, just as clothes have to be in everyday life," Mr Ding was quoted as saying.
The research measured 28 features of the human body, and a new database of ergonomic parameters was compiled on such factors as hand strength, which would help determine the optimum sensitivity of triggers.
Mr Ding said the survey findings have been used in designing weapons and equipment for artillery and armoured forces, engineers and the chemical-defence corps.
The changes in physique have other consequences, said Mr Wang Ya'nan, a military expert in Beijing.
"The improvement of the Chinese people's physical condition makes it easier to recruit soldiers," Mr Wang said.
"Although soldiers do not have to do much manual labour 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 one 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," Mr Wang said.
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 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."
AFP, CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK