China is deploying machinegun-carrying robots to its western desert regions amid a standoff with India because troops are struggling with the high-altitude conditions, it has been claimed.
Dozens of unmanned vehicles capable of carrying both weapons and supplies are being sent to Tibet, Indian media reports, with the majority deployed in border regions where Chinese troops are locked into a standoff with Indian soldiers.
Vehicles include the Sharp Claw, which is mounted with a light machinegun and can be operated wirelessly, and the Mule-200, which is designed as an unmanned supply vehicle but can also be fitted with weapons.
Beijing has sent 88 Sharp Claws to Tibet, which borders India high in the Himalayas, of which 38 are deployed to the border region, Times News Now has claimed.
Some 120 Mule-200s have also been sent to Tibet, News Now reports, with a majority of them deployed to the border area.
In addition to the unmanned vehicles, China has also bolstered its forces with 70 VP-22 armoured troop transports, 47 of which are in border zones.
Another 150 Lynx all-terrain vehicles have also been sent to the border.
The Lynx is hugely versatile, and can be used to transport small numbers of troops or mounted with various weapon systems including howitzers, heavy machine guns, mortars or missile launchers.
Beijing deployed the vehicles after state media previously reported that soldiers had been fitted with exoskeleton suits to help them cope with carrying supplies at punishing altitudes.
Soldiers were given carbon-fibre exoskeletons to relieve the pressure on their legs and ankles while carrying heavy equipment and supplies 16,000ft above sea level.
Troops had been struggling because a lack of oxygen at that altitude makes loads feel heavier while soldiers also tire more easily.
'This kind of suit is particularly helpful at high altitudes,' a military expert told the Global Times in December last year.
China and India have fought an on-off conflict in their border region for decades along what is known as the 'line of control'.