Continuous Assisted Performance (CAP)
In order to extend the physical capabilities of soldiers and the mental acuity of pilots and other operators of technical equipment, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) sponsors research into continuous assisted performance (CAP) technology and pharmacology.
CAP programs are designed to allow an increase in operation tempo by allowing soldiers to operate without sleep, or limited amounts of sleep, for at least seven days. In most combat operational systems, the fatigue of soldiers is the major limiting factor in operational readiness and ability to continue action. Because of the increasingly technical nature of warfare, the mere ability to go without sleep is not productive unless high levels of both cognitive and physical performance can be maintained.
The effects of sleep deprivation are well known to interrogators, and informal efforts to fight fatigue among troops have ranged from the soldier's historical use of strong coffee or tea to the condoned use of pharmacological fatigue management tools. U.S. Air Force pilots are routinely allowed to take dexamphetamine pills (also known as "go" pills), a prescription drug.
The use of go pills is controversial because the active ingredients can impair judgment. In fact, when used in other formulations, such drugs routinely carry warnings against operating heavy equipment under the influence of the drug. The impairment of judgment associated with dexamphetamine pills, further stimulates CAP research.
During the Flight of Apollo 13, as the crew entered the critical reentry orbit interface, the exhausted crew was reportedly ordered to take Dexedrine tablets to help keep their computer inputs precise and accurate.
Use of dexamphetamine by U.S. pilots, whose judgment might have been impaired by fatigue or the use of "go pills," was also argued to be a contributing factor in a 2002 "friendly fire" bombing accident in Afghanistan.
█ FURTHER READING:
DARPA, Defense Science Office. Continuous Assisted Performance (CAP). < http://www.darpa.mil/dso/thrust/biosci/cap.htm > (April 14, 2003).