Army chiefs are considering plying soldiers with steroids and brain-boosting pills to make them fight harder, run faster and survive without sleep – and counter the new threat of a drug-enhanced enemy, a senior officer has revealed.
Foreign powers such as Russia and China are feared to be in a pharmaceutical arms race to develop chemicals that give soldiers superhuman speed, strength and aggression, according to Lieutenant General Chris Tickell.
Speaking at a think-tank at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, Lt Gen Tickell, the deputy Chief of the General Staff (DCGS), said of supplying troops with performance-enhancing drugs: ‘You cannot rule it out, because it is arguably unethical to send [UK] soldiers into battle against an enemy that is using such substances thereby putting them at a disadvantage.
‘However, at the moment, having reviewed these options it is a no for us on ethical grounds.’
In the Second World War, British and US troops were given amphetamine-based substances to make them more alert, a policy which continued into more recent conflicts.
Such drugs have also been linked to war crimes and incidents of fratricide. US pilots who accidentally dropped bombs on Canadian troops in Afghanistan in 2004 had taken amphetamines.
In the same year it emerged that the Ministry of Defence was stockpiling Provigil, a drug used to keep special forces soldiers awake for days on end.
Now it is understood that Britain’s enemies are going much further, conducting genetic-engineering experiments on troops, including adding DNA to enhance physical and mental performance.
Other sci-fi concepts currently being explored include using brain signals to control drones.
Foreign scientists are even looking at whether DNA from a cat could be added to human eye cells so soldiers can see better in the dark.
Currently British soldiers are banned from taking steroids and between 2012 and 2015, 250 troops were kicked out of the Armed Forces after testing positive for banned muscle-boosting supplements.
Last night one serving soldier said steroid use was already prolific in UK special forces. He said: ‘The SAS and other units are influenced by their US counterparts who think nothing of taking dangerous supplements because they need to be faster and stronger than their enemies.
Last night, defence sources said the debate in which Lt Gen Tickell took part last week had ‘hypothesised many possibilities’.
The MoD said: ‘The general was participating in a discussion on the digital age, potential future ethical considerations and human advancements in warfare. Our drugs policy remains as previously stated.’