The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China is using two all-terrain excavators – known as "spider excavators", for the way they can walk – to speed up the construction of roads in the difficult, remote terrain of the Himalayas near the disputed border with India.
Tensions are elevated between the two countries as each accelerates road-building on their respective sides of the 3,500km-long Line of Actual Control (LAC), over which they fought a war in 1962.
Made by Chinese equipment maker XCMG, the machines can step over obstacles and ditches, and work on near-vertical slopes thanks to their four hydraulic legs.
Their use was reported by The South China Morning Post, which spotted them in the background of a PLA video showing soldiers on the Tibetan plateau, or Brahmaputra as it is known in India.
According to the Post, the PLA uses one model that weighs 11 tonnes and can walk at 10km/h, and another that can be operated remotely.
The excavators are normally used for emergency rescue operations by China’s paramilitary police.
In recent months, tensions have risen between the two rival neighbours over their construction activity near the LAC.
Agreements between the two countries prohibit the use of firearms in border standoffs, but 20 Indian soldiers were confirmed to have died in a mass brawl fought with clubs and other implements on 15 June in the Galwan Valley, part of the disputed Ladakh region in Kashmir.
It was the first fatal clash along the LAC since 1975.
The two governments agreed to disengage and de-escalate tensions after the incident, but they each continue to send reinforcements and to build infrastructure in the hard-to-reach areas.
Image: One model of spider excavators manufactured by Chinese equipment-maker, XCMG (XCMG)