In February of 1890, the Russian inventor Nicholas Yagn submitted a patent for an “Apparatus for Facilitating Walking, Running, and Jumping.” The device used compressed air to aid the wearer in moving. It was only the latest of his designs, but it is considered to be the first exoskeleton-like device. It was also the last thing he patented. Shortly thereafter, the mechanical engineer disappeared into the secret world of military projects. He spent the next 20 years working with some of the Soviet Union’s finest minds to develop technologies no one had dreamed possible. His ideas provided the inspiration that led to the development of the walking tanks which now strike fear into the enemies of the people, but he always remained focused on the development of smaller-scale devices which would improve the lives of the workers.
Yagn’s first efforts made real the device he had imagined. Dubbed the YG1 “Hodunki”, it was a proof of concept but was deemed impractical. Complicated and expensive, its reliance on the user for power limited its usefulness. The leaders of the Union, however, found the possibilities of this gadget compelling and continued to fund his work. His team produced several more prototype walkers before his death in 1911, but none of these were useful. The primary limitation of his designs always proved to be the power source. People were simply incapable of providing enough power to drive anything that truly enhanced their combat effectiveness, and the engines of the time were too bulky and inefficient to be used for anything of this scale. The project was shut down, and the Yagn’s ideas — locked away in a vault — were soon forgotten.
Twenty-six years later, the war continued and many advances had been made. The first prototype Hammer walker had been successfully tested and, while they worked the kinks out, a chance discovery of the archived documents revived this dead project. Work began on a new personal armor suit, using the latest engine technology. The YG11 was flawed, however. It employed a supposedly bulletproof dome to give the user the required visibility, but the confined space and lack of ventilation caused the glass to fog up and effectively blind the wearer. The second iteration incorporated vents on the side of the chassis, but they compromised the armor and proved to be far too easy to target. The third variation replaced the vents with a rudimentary cooling system, but it was deemed too fragile for field use. In the fourth version, they replaced the dome with small windows that contained small vents around the sides and a fan-driven intake vent on the bottom of the compartment. It took some time, and a few minor modifications, but the result passed field trials and was put into production.
The YG11-4 ‘Medved’ completely encases the wearer in steel armor far stronger than anything he could hope to wear unaided. It also mounts two machine guns and a small mortar, making it an exceptionally effective and versatile heavy infantry unit. It is rugged, mobile, and deadly. Yagn’s legacy may very well change the face of combat forever.