A NEW frontier of warfare is coming – with bio-engineered “super soldiers” and man-made viruses that could wipe out entire countries.
Experts told The Sun Online how gene-editing and biotechnology could spark a new arms race to both enhance humans and create novel new ways to kill them.
The existence of “super-soldiers” was once only possible in the realm of science fiction – but with advances in technology, it could now be possible to alter soldiers’ DNA to give them terrifying godlike powers.
Global superpowers are already creating the the next generation of soldiers that could be “bred like cattle” to kill.
France was one of the first to reveal it was developing “augmented soldiers” and it’s been claimed China has also conducted tests on soldiers to create biologically enhanced troops.
From Herculean strength to lizard-like limb regeneration, human genome editing could make combatants stronger, faster and even smarter than their battlefield opponents.
US officials have already predicted the will have gene-edited soldiers and cyborg troops by 2050.
And at the same time, an unknown world of cutting-edge bioweapons has been opened up by rapid biotechnology advances – such as 3D printing of potentially deadly viruses.
And it’s feared the seismic leaps in technology could be weaponised by rogue states and terrorists to “take warfare into another realm”.
In one scenario, hostile states could build an elite army of Terminator-style killers to launch an attack – while also making its target weaker by deliberately releasing a manmade deadly viruses.
Biosecurity expert Raina MacIntyre told The Sun Online: “It is possible, which takes warfare into another realm altogether.
“In terms of weaponization, you might have one population that is strong, fit and able. And then another population that has been targeted for immunosuppression and weakness.
“It really is another dimension. On the one hand, you’ve got rapid advances in pathogen research, and on the other hand, you’ve got human genome editing.
“The technology that’s available is mind-blowing and it’s absolutely an existential threat to humanity.”
MacIntyre previously warned terrorists are gaining “extraordinary means” to launch apocalyptic biowars with virus-laden “insect drones”.
But she said there is “no awareness of the threat” of how tech could be exploited by rogue actors to wage future wars.
“We’re about 10 years behind in biosecurity than we are in cybersecurity – we’re still thinking it’s the Cold War,” she said.
Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, former UK and NATO Commander of Chemical Biological and Nuclear Defence Forces, also warned biosecurity “could be tomorrow’s nuclear weapon”.
He said the huge advances in synthetic biology could be exploited in terrifying ways.
“It is deeply worrying if these extraordinary leaps in technology are used for nefarious means,” he told The Sun Online.
“The creation of super humans as athletes or soldiers seems rather fanciful and very James Bond, but technically is becoming more feasible.
“Biosecurity, virtually unmentioned in the UK’s latest Integrated Review, could be tomorrow’s nuclear weapon.
“The ability to genetically engineer a very contagious virus with a very virulent virus is not only worrying, but possible.
“The UK and other democratic governments must improve policing and regulation of labs around the globe and the scientists working in them to ensure the very good aspects of bio engineering are encouraged and the very bad aspects prevented.”
It is deeply worrying if these extraordinary leaps in technology are used for nefarious means
Hamish de Bretton Gordon
Militaries have a long history of using powerful drugs to temporarily turn their troops into elite killing machines.
Nazis took methamphetamine or “crystal meth” during the Second World War to stay alert and awake for superhuman stretches of time.
And even the British military bought thousands of Modafinil pills — which boost brain-power — ahead of the Iraq War.
Experts previously told The Sun Online how DNA manipulation, bionic augmentation, and advanced robotics could all soon become commonplace on the battlefield.
Scientists could build humans who are faster, stronger, fitter, have quicker reflexes, don’t feel pain, and recover from injuries more rapidly.
Michael Clarke, visiting professor in war studies at King’s College London, warned how countries could be using DNA as a farmer would in a herd of cattle.
“We’ve reached the point now where we could potentially manipulate people’s DNA to breed into them extra strength, endurance and other things just as we do with animals,” he said.
“Just as we’ve done with standard cattle to give them more back, we can do that now very precisely with humans.”
And Prof Clarke said this is fuelling the biological race, with countries fearing what China may be able to produce in the near future.
He said: “What they’re all thinking about is what might come up in 30 years’ time, given another 10 years development and experimentation.
“The Chinese in 30 years’ time might have a cohort of people who are 20 years-old who’ve got particular characteristics they might have tried to breed into them by manipulating DNA.”
Other advances have seen soldiers fitted with exoskeletons to improve strength and speed, and microchips injected into their skin to monitor their heart rate and battlefield performance.
‘WORSE THAN A NUCLEAR BOMB’
And in 2019, the Pentagon released previously classified documents that revealed cyborg soldiers could be a reality by 2050.
According to the report, efforts would “offer the potential to incrementally enhance performance beyond the normal human baseline.”
Troopers’ brains could be hooked up to computers to improve their thinking power and allow them to control unmanned vehicles with their thoughts.
Vladimir Putin has also spoken openly about the destructive possible consequences of gene-editing – describing it as potentially “worse than a nuclear bomb”.
“A man has the opportunity to get into the genetic code created by either nature, or as religious people would say, by the God,” he reportedly said.
“He can be a genius mathematician, a brilliant musician or a soldier, a man who can fight without fear, compassion, regret or pain.
“As you understand, humanity can enter, and most likely it will in the near future, a very difficult and very responsible period of its existence.
“What I have just described might be worse than a nuclear bomb.”
Under France’s plans, researchers aim to improve “physical, cognitive, perceptive and psychological capacities” of soldiers and could allow for location tracking or connectivity with weapons systems.
Among the ministry’s research were drugs to keep troops awake for long periods of time and combat stress, and even surgery to improve hearing.
Any move towards creating the “bionic” soldiers would be made while respecting humanitarian law, a report said.
Modifications that would affect a soldier’s ability to manage the use of force, affect their sense of humanity or stop them going back to civilian life are banned.
GettyAn image of what futuristic ‘super-soldiers’ could look like[/caption]