The US military wants to hunt submarines with genetically modified marine life

  • In an age of great-power competition in which opposing powers close the gap in the underwater battlespace, the U.S. military looks to the abundant ocean organisms for hardened defense.
  • Researchers are investigating the potential military applications of genetically engineered sea creatures.
  • By modifying the genes of common ocean organisms to trigger a reaction when they come into contact with unnatural substances left behind by submarines, the U.S. military may be able to use marine life to detect and track enemy submarines.

The U.S. military supports research focused on genetically modified marine life for the purpose of tracking enemy submarines.

Research supported by the Naval Research Laboratory indicates that the genetic makeup of a relatively common marine organism could be altered to react in detectable ways to certain unnatural substances, such as metal or fuel, left behind by passing submarines. , DefenseOne reports.

If the reaction involves the loss of an electron, “you can create an electrical signal when the bacterium encounters a molecule in its environment,” NRL researcher Sarah Glaven said at a November event hosted by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, noting that the he goal is to use this biotechnology to detect and track submarines.

“The reason we think we can accomplish this is because we have this large database of information that we have collected through the growth of these natural systems,” she added. “So after experiments where we look at gene potential switching, gene expression, regulatory networks, we find these sensors.”

She said hard evidence that this kind of biotech breakthrough is possible and capable of being used to serve the military is about a year away.

Earlier this year, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the research and development arm of the Pentagon, revealed a desire to exploit marine organisms for the monitoring of strategic waterways.

“The US Navy’s current approach to detecting and monitoring underwater vehicles is hardware-centric and resource-intensive. As a result, the capability is primarily used at the tactical level to protect high-value assets such as carriers. -aircraft, and less at the broader strategic level,” Lori Adornato, Persistent Aquatic Living Sensors (PALS) program manager, said in a statement.

“If we can tap into the innate sensing abilities of living organisms that are ubiquitous in the oceans, we can expand our ability to track adversary activity and do so unobtrusively, persistently, and with enough precision to characterize the size and type of enemy vehicles.”

As it stands, there is already a $45 million effort between Army, Navy, and Air Force researchers to use synthetic biology to advance defense capabilities. Americans. “Our team is investigating ways to reprogram cells that already exist in the environment to create environmentally friendly platforms to generate beneficial molecules and materials for defense needs,” said Dr Claretta. Sullivan, a researcher at the Air Force Materials and Manufacturing Research Laboratory. Direction, Explain in a report.

There are apparently similar programs going on across all branches looking at everything from underwater detection to live camouflage.

According to the 2018 National Defense Strategy, the United States is back in the era of great power competition. It faces new threats from opposing powers like China and Russia under the waves. “In the submarine realm, the margins of victory are very slim,” Admiral James G. Foggo III, commander of US Naval Forces Europe-Africa, told Pentagon reporters in October.


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