Powered armour goes by many names in science fiction – including exosuit, assisted armour, jacket and exoskeleton. As readers we might quibble about the terminology, but we can all agree on one thing: it’s damned cool. Armoured suits are an element of SF that frequently catches the public’s imagination. Join me on a tour de force of the ten most iconic suits in SF history…
- Elysium Exoskeleton
The powered exoskeleton shown in 2013’s Elysium is bolted directly to the user, and must be hardwired to the brain. It increases strength and stamina, and of all the suits on this list is perhaps closest to what we can achieve today.
- District 9 Exosuit
Another exosuit from the mind of Neill Blomkamp, this entry has the distinction in that it is of alien manufacture. Also known as “prawn suit” and “mech suit”, this armour incorporates weapons and increases the user’s strength. The downside? You’re going to have to be part-prawn before you can properly use one.
- HALO Mjolnir Armour
Looking skyward to the HALO franchise, we find the Mjolnir armour. The Mjolnir has become synonymous with Xbox’s biggest SF series, and power armour has played an important part in the look and feel of the HALO saga from the beginning. Master Chief wouldn’t be the same without his armoured suit. Available in a variety of classes, Mjolnir powered assault armour can act as a space suit and vastly amplifies the Spartan wearer’s strength.
- Warhammer 40,000 Space Marine Power Armour
Also available in several types (with catchy names like Thunder, Heresy and Primaris pattern) is Warhammer 40,000’s power armour. This suit undeniably defines the Space Marine (more properly the Adeptus Astartes), and has been instrumental in establishing the particular look and feel of the early game. If you’re looking for something a little heavier, why not check out Terminator armour? Whatever the type, Space Marine power armour amplifies the user’s strength, incorporates a life-support package, and provides protection for the Emperor’s holy warriors on the battlefield.
- Aliens Power Loader
But if you really, absolutely need to clear your ship of a bug infestation, then you’ll want to pick up a P-5000 Caterpillar power loader. Just make sure that you have a Class 2 rating… Seen at the end of Aliens, the grubby yellow power loader is put to a use for which it wasn’t intended, but certainly proves that in a pinch even a walking forklift can be turned into a weapon.
- Avatar Amplified Mobility Platform
James Cameron’s Avatar features another hybrid armour-mech suit. A militarised version of the power loader, the “AMP” suit is a walking weapons platform, which also allows the operator to survive in the Pandoran atmosphere. Let’s hope that when Avatar 2 finally reaches cinemas, we’ll get more AMP action…
- Matrix Reloaded Armoured Personnel Unit
With a similar appearance, and similar abilities, the Matrix universe’s “APU” is an essential piece of kit if you’re fighting a war against a machine overmind. The APU is robust and durable, and was produced en masse in the defence of the last human city of Zion. For more powered suits than you’ll probably ever see on film, check out Matrix Revolutions.
- Edge Of Tomorrow combat jacket
Sharing a common appearance with the APU and AMP, are the “jackets” of Edge Of Tomorrow (aka Live Die Repeat). Based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s novella All You Need Is Kill, this armour is developed to counter the Mimic invasion. It’s definitely more combat-oriented than many entries on this list, but it’s still not enough when the aliens attack en masse. With built-in weapons and a drop-capability, the jacket’s main weakness is that it requires the wearer to know how to use it…
- The Forever War fighting suit
The fighting suit of Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War is an advanced combat armour, and undoubtedly the inspiration for many of the suits we’ve already looked at in this list. It’s equipped with a camouflage system, full life-support (the characters are shown living in these suits for protracted periods), and a “laser finger” firearm. However, perhaps most interesting is the suit’s trauma-management facility – capable of dispensing drugs, and cauterising limbs in the event of catastrophic injury. That war against the Taurans certainly was tough!
- Starship Troopers Power Armour
And now we reach the granddaddy of power armour, fittingly from the granddaddy of military SF: the powered armour of Starship Troopers. The primary defensive suit of the Mobility Infantry comes in Marauder, Command and Scout varieties (although subsequent versions of Starship Troopers offer several other variants). Whatever the version, it’s designed to be dropped directly into the heat of combat from high orbit. The power armour of Starship Troopers incorporates thrusters, allowing long-range jumps across battlefield, gives the user increased strength, and is fitted with a full range of weapons.
For more powered-armour-suit action, check out Jamie Sawyer’s THE ETERNITY WAR: PARIAH – book one in his explosive new SF series, available now from Orbit.