Damien Gayle – Daily Mail January 12, 2012
According to the U.S. Army’s plans for the future, their soldiers will be able to carry huge weights, live off their fat stores for extended periods and even regrow limbs blown apart by bombs.
The plans were revealed by novelist Simon Conway, who was granted behind-the-scenes access to the Pentagon’s high-tech Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency.
With a budget of almost $2billion a year DARPA, established in 1958 after the USSR’s first successful space mission shocked America, has a goal of maintaining U.S. technological dominance on the battlefield.
Among it’s many ambitious projects, the agency is working on an exoskeleton that will allow soldiers to run faster and lift prodigious weights. But its most controversial work involves genetic modification.
DARPA is working on triggering genes that will make soldiers’ bodies able to convert fat into energy more efficiently so they are able to go days without eating while in the warzone.
With plump soldiers able to go on deployment for days living just off their own body fat, that would free up space in their kit bags hitherto used for ration packs.
Mr Conway’s new thriller, Rockcreek Park, is based on the premise that a body with extraordinary qualities is discovered in Washington DC.
After his visit to DARPA, the former infantry officer told the Sunday Express: ‘It’s all about improving the efficiency of energy creation in the body.
‘Soldiers would be able to run at Olympic speeds, carry large weights and go without sleep and without food.’
Washington’s military scientists are also hoping to work out how to trigger cells to regrow limbs for soldiers maimed by enemy bombs and landmines.
With well-documented cases already of young children regrowing fingers severed in accidents, DARPA is throwing significant sums at research to identify the physiological trigger and activate it in adults.
One area of success has been in shutting off the trigger of sleep. A drug was tested on U.S. Army helicopter pilots that enabled them to stay up longer than 40 hours, with their levels of concentration actually improving after nearly two days without rest.
It is hoped to replace the amphetamine-based drugs that have previously been used to keep servicemen alert during operations.
They had been found to affect decision making and had been blamed for errors in judgement that had led to many so-called incidents of friendly fire.
Professor Joel Garreau of Arizona University confirmed that DARPA was experimenting with turning fat into energy. ‘Finding that metabolic switch would wipe out the £40billion diet industry in a heartbeat,’ he added.
The plans are just the latest seemingly madcap schemes dreamed up by DARPA – which is known as the U.S. military’s ‘mad scientist’ wing.
Earlier this year it emerged that the agency was funding research into contact lens-mounted displays that could focus information from drones and satellites directly into soldiers’ eyeballs, and helmets that could enable troops to communicate telepathically.
DARPA projects are often oddball technology, but it also has a history of far-sighted technological leaps. It invented the first virtual reality devices, and one of the precursors of the modern internet.