Below is a excerpt of a set of notes that I have compiled that is the basis for a science fiction story that I am writing. I have spent a fair amount of time trying to come up with a close/hard/sci-fi super soldier that would make reasonable sense, that is also scientifically grounded. Does it seem dumb? Are there any holes in the science, or other issues?

  • Genetic samples were taken, observations were made, and through the trials of cloning and experimentation in gene-editing, with a focus on the LRP5, ACTN3, and MSTN genes, enhanced humans were born with bones nearly three times more dense, with muscle mass doubled and rates of growth at similar levels, and with the flexibility, speed, and endurance significantly greater than the performance levels of the athletes previously tested.

  • Stem cell therapy is undergone early into the child's development with focuses on reinforcing the natural growth of the myelin sheaths surroundings and throughout the nervous system to decrease signal loss between transmissions the brain to muscle response, increasing overall response time with varying levels of success, with a low end of 150 percent and a high end of 250 percent that of normal subjects.

  • Multifunctional bioreactor systems are implanted to increase the growth and development of existing muscle structures while further improving bone density and connective tissue strength.

  • Injected pellets to slowly release human growth hormone throughout the adolescent development period into puberty are inserted to encourage increased growth of the individual, leading to variations in adolescents size with an average of two and two and a half meters in height and 100 to 175 kilograms in weight by the age of 16.

  • While the size of the subject after augmentation varies dramatically, the average for male has a height of 2.25 meters and weighs in at 125 kilograms while the average female stands 2 meters tall at 100 kilograms by the age of 18.

  • The subjects have an observed average running speed of 60 km/h in men and 50 km/h in women, a staggering improvement over the average professional athlete specimen.

  • The added muscle mass and faster metabolism of the children have also resulted in the average body mass index rating of 16 in men and 22 in women but has not in any way impeded their enhanced strength.

  • The subjects observed feats of strength include a combination of bench press, deadlift, and squat, being an average of 360kg, 460kg, and 500kg for men and 150kg, 260kg, and 240kg for women, respectively.

  • Boron carbide plating and strips are implanted onto key bone structures including the phalanges, ulna, radius, humorous, ribs, skull, vertebrae, pelvis, femur, tibia, fibula, and tarsal structures to further reinforce the bones rigidity and resilience to prevent fracturing and improve both compressive and tensile strength throughout the body.

  • BNNT fiber mesh scaffolding is nested over tendons and ligaments throughout the body to prevent dislocation and subluxation.

  • As an additional safety measure, ancillary organs such as the appendix and tonsils are removed to prevent future medical complications and subdermal implants are laid beneath the tissue of the hands, chest, and back for the purposes of identity authentication and to monitor biometrics.

  • Nanomachines cover the exterior of the circulatory system, being able to respond quickly to injury, releasing coagulating bio-gel to stop bleeding and rapidly increase rate of healing.

  • Nanomachines coat the respiratory system internally, increasing surface area, assisting in and expanding the rate of CO2/O2 exchange and functioning as scrubbers.

  • Nanite-Infused Hemoglobin-Based Oxygen Carriers carry additional oxygen throughout the body and assist in respiratory processes while maintaining health of the subject by eliminating foreign threats and increasing the rate of the delivery of medication.

    • Cancer immunity
    • Allergic response immunity
    • Virtually immune to foreign toxins and pathogens
  • Bionic lenses are also implanted to increase the vision of the user far above that of standard and embedded native functionality with smart connected devices.

    • HUD
    • Tetrachromatic vision
    • Near-ultraviolet vision
    • Infrared vision
    • Low-light vision
    • 20/10 vision, 20/5 and 20/2 magnification
  • Occipital neural interface implant for network connectivity and mapping of brain activity Utilizing bone conduction audio interface to the implant for radio communications and with the AI system and networked personnel.
    This interface is capable of augmented spatial auditory interpretation, allowing for the perception of sound waves outside of normal human hearing, while providing a filter function, which can allow the user to focus their hearing onto a specific frequency, regardless of the present ambient noise.

  • The implant is also used as a cybernetic interface that will operate the Titan armor

  • With the advancements in neural scanning and tracing of synaptic behaviors, the implant is capable of uniquely identifying various responses to external stimuli, marking patterns to interpret the input and the response within the subject.

  • Real time, AI encrypted techno-telepathy and techno-empathy

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    $\begingroup$ Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Worldbuilding Meta, or in Worldbuilding Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Commented Apr 10 at 17:59
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    $\begingroup$ Does your story require that the things you mentioned be discussed in detail? If not, don't mention any of it. Trying to justify Science fiction is counter productive. They're genetically bio-engineered to be better. You don't have to explain the details of how or why. $\endgroup$
    – Tony Ennis
    Commented Apr 10 at 18:36

10 Answers 10


Usually hard sci-fi and "nanomachines anything" don't work together, but your super-soldier has more serious issues that have to be addressed first.

Don't bring a fist to a bomb fight.

Even without considering how realistic the feats of your soldiers are, I can already tell you that this is a bad investment for your military. A super soldier like this is too expensive to produce, too hard to maintain, and doesn't provide any significant advantage over regular humans when it comes to what modern warfare ends up being.

It doesn't matter how powerful your super soldier is if there are cheaper, more easily available solutions for the problems they can tackle. A well placed $1000 bomb-drone strike can remove your billion-dollar soldier in a blink, and drones can be mass-produced, piloted from afar by technicians that are deep into safe zones, and deployed by the thousands for each super soldier you can put out in the battlefield in less time by a fraction of the cost.

Super Soldiers solve no new problem for a civilization able to create them. At most, they're a propaganda tool, and very little else. Wars aren't fought with muscles anymore - nowadays (and for the foreseeable future) the one with the better boom-delivery system wins, and Super Soldiers are a terrible boom-delivery system.

Other issues include:

  • Hindered Healing: Your soldiers might be better at stopping blood leaks, but they are terrible in repairing bones or muscles without external medical help. Worse yet - because of the nature of the reinforcements, when they get a wound they are incredibly more serious, as now you have not only the wound itself but shrapnel from their reinforcements to deal with.
  • Vulnerable to one-way blindness: Their visual spectrum is so wide and they are so sensitive to light that they end up being blinded by bright lights outside the visible spectrum - a failure you really don't want to have, as your enemy can force you blind while they themselves can see normally.
  • Slower than average movements: Your running speed of 60km/h isn't happening at all. With muscular and skeletal reinforcements like those, you're making the muscles more difficult to move and more prone to wounding. They wouldn't have enough flexibility to move that fast, or even fast at all - they would be lumbering giants, stronger but slower than your average human.
  • Bigger is Bad: Being big is a bad thing. Your super soldiers have less cover, are easier targets, and can be more easily spotted than the average soldier. They are also harder to carry around, as they need more space and specially fitted vehicles. (Thanks, @Gault!)
  • Easily detectable: It doesn't matter if your communication is encrypted - all that matters is that there is something that isn't my ally hiding on the bushes over there. Worse, even if you cut your communications, your soldiers will stand out as a sore thumb to most detection devices because of the gigantic amount of signals they produce and the metals they have with them. Worse yet, they produce a gigantic amount of heat, which makes them easily visible to infrared goggles. Speaking of heat...
  • Overheating: Your soldiers can't work without complex cooling systems for any extended amount of time. Being big usually means having a slower metabolism, not a faster one. Fast metabolism means more waste heat, which means increased dissipation needs. Put them on any sort of armor, and combat and exercise would slowly cook them to death from inside out.
  • They are still humans at heart: There is a gigantic amount of time and money sank into each of those soldiers. Each one of them is a massive hole in your budget. And they're just humans still - prone to the same mistakes, bad decisions, and changes of heart. Worse yet - if they ditch your army and flee, they take all of your investment with them. You really don't want that.

Use remote-controlled robots instead.

If you have tech this advanced, just use remote-controlled robot soldiers while your humans are kept in a safe zone. Robots are far more expendable, can be customized to a greater degree, and don't incur into anything near the ethical issues that Super Soldiers would create. They also have the added bonus of being unable to be used as prisioners of war or being tortured to extract information from. No need to put fleshy soldiers where metal already does a far better job.

None of that matters, however.

If you want to make 40k-like Super Soldiers, by all means - go ahead. Your work doesn't need to be compatible with hard science to be an amazing work of fiction. As long as you don't sell your work as scientifically accurate, you can pretty much do whatever you want without a blip of a worry.

Just take care to not try to explain things too much, as bad explanations are ten-times worse than no explanation. If the story is about the soldiers, then it is about the soldiers. Leaving the process of how they are made with a bit of mystery and not going into full details may make your work more interesting and thrilling than it would be if you tried to explain a bunch of things that take the reader out of your book because you missed a detail or two about how something works and ended up creating a gaping plot hole on your story.

Warhammer 40k was mentioned by @TheDemonLord, and it is a great example of this. The idea, the concept, the macro-level lore is very interesting and fun - but the deeper you go into details, the worse it gets. GW felt into the mistake of explaining too much, which ended pushing quite a bunch of fans - me included - away from their world, as it became just... too silly, too unbelievable, to the point there wasn't any amount of goodwill great enough to keep the suspension of disbelief up.

World of Warcraft suffered a bit of the same problem, too - Shadowlands offered such a poor characterization of death that made a bunch of players quit or give up the lore. Even folks that love to RP in the game just straight up ignore that expansion, because it was so badly written that not having the explanation was better than having it.

Sometimes less is more.

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    $\begingroup$ Bigger is bad: Could add the bit about needing bigger vehicles to transport and or operate. ie they couldn't fit into current tanks, fighter jets, or many helicopters $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 9 at 20:52
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    $\begingroup$ remote-controlled robots are nice, but always come with the risk that an enemy will figure out how to compromise your method of communication. In a setting where signal jamming is ubiquitous, physical pilots (or at least autonomous drones) may actually become more important than they are now. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Apr 10 at 3:08
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    $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki It's far more reasonable to imagine a software program to correctly confirm that communications haven't been compromised than it is for a human to be able to determine that. Similarly in a setting where communication is impossible it seems far more realistic to have well coordinated fighting with software programs running the same instructions than humans running the same instructions. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 10 at 6:43
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidMulder I'm not saying that autonomous weapons are bad, I'm saying remote control weapons are bad. As jamming and spoofing becomes a bigger area of research, "soldiers" be they organic or AI will need to be able to function without remote control. AI, at least in its current state, tends to be far worse than humans at figuring out what to do when faced with unforeseen circumstances. There is also the issue that most countries are starting to see autonomous killing machines as a war crime; so, there may be political reasons to develop super piolets as opposed to super AI. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Apr 10 at 14:37
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    $\begingroup$ The techniques involved don’t need to be that expensive. Also assuming the “WWII in space” that 99% of the sci-fi goes for most of your problems aren’t really problems. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Commented Apr 10 at 16:38

Most of your Augmentations are Counter Productive

The implant is also used as a cybernetic interface that will operate the Titan armor

This one little detail derails your whole idea of what a super soldier should look like. Once you can create a cyber-neurological connection between a human and power armor, you no longer need most of the other features that a super soldier has:

  • Increased Size and Weight: The larger your pilot, the more compartment space and strength your armor needs just to carry the pilot. A true super soldier would be as small as possible so that the armor does not need to carry a lot of weight. Think in terms of a horse jockey.
  • Increased Toughness: Weighing your physical body down with things like increased bone density and reinforced tissues becomes wasted mass when the armor itself becomes your "skin "and "skeleton". Going back to smaller is better, it's easier to armor a small compartment than a big one. A large barrel chested super soldier will only have at most a few cm of protection between him and his similarly sized armor, but a little guy sitting inside an equally large armor torso could have lots of room for thick, complex, multi-layer armor and shock absorbers negating the need for a particularly tough body. If you keep his body small and light, then he has less inertia making kinetic trauma less of an issue.
  • Heightened Response Time: This is one of your more useful augmentation ideas. That said, AI assistance still perform certain kinds of thinking WAY faster than any biochemical based though process. Onboard computers in your armor can automate a lot of things that a pilot can't think fast or precisely enough to do alone; so, maximizing response time will likely be a hybrid of neurological and computer enhancements.
  • Increased Strength and Speed: Machines can move much faster and be much stronger than a human; so, it's better to keep your super soldier physically diminutive to make more space for your mechanical strength and speed.
  • Increased Respiration and Metabolism: An army marches on its stomach making heightened metabolisms a huge liability. It's really hard to get enough food to the front line to feed soldiers; so, if your super soldier needs as much food as several other soldiers, it means you can't field nearly as many of them. Better to make your super soldiers more efficient, not less so.
  • Appendix and Tonsil Removal: THESE ARE NOT USELESS ORGANS! Tonsils are an important part of your immune system. Removing them increases your vulnerability to allergens and respiratory infections. Your appendix helps in processing fiber rich foods like beans, carrots, and cereals. Without it, your soldiers will suffer from added gastrointestinal issues unless you keep them on a diet of highly processed foods. If they ever have to fall back on their wilderness survival training, a missing appendix is a significant handicap.
  • Improved Wound Sealing: This one could be helpful, but not as important as it sounds. Think of power armor like a tank. Most weapons that can defeat next gen power armor will turn any organic stuff on the inside into ground meat anyway.
  • Improved Immune System: This one is very helpful. Many wars throughout history have seen armies more devastated by sickness than by actual combat. Modern armies use vaccination to achieve this same effect, and nanotechnology and gene therapy could further improve these efforts. However, you should also consider what the armor can do here. If your soldier has a reduced metabolism, and all of his physical exertion is done by the suit, not his body, then he will be less inhibited by things like having to breath through a biohazard quality respirator and overheating, such that you can put him in a hermetically sealed cockpit protecting him from biohazards even better than an improved immune response without all the drawbacks that normal infantry face trying to fight in MOPP gear.
  • Sensory Augmentation: All this can be handled with the armor's neural interface by using various cameras, microphones, etc. to extend your natural senses, but most importantly, these can be autotuned to prevent the soldier being blinded or deafened by attacks in ranges that only the super soldier can perceive. That said, if you wanted to improve the soldiers' capacity for processing information, I would suggest increasing the size of the occipital and temporal lobes in the brain to improve your visual and audio processing allowing the mind to interface with extra or more detailed sensors. Larger, better eyes and ears may be a secondary characteristic of this augmentation, but in the power armor, it's really the brain enhancements you need more than the actual eyes and ears.
  • Techno-Telepathy: The armor could just contain a radio that you access with your interface implant.

Some Additional Augments to consider:

  • Enhanced Executive Thinking: The one thing human brains really do better than AI is making plans around unfamiliar circumstances, but we struggle to think as far ahead in certain circumstances as they do. If you enhance the prefrontal cortex in the brain, your superhumans should be able to make deeper, more complex plans while considering more contingencies allowing them to strategize better. AI can of course strategize very well when there are limited possible outcomes and everything is familiar, but they don't do so once things go beyond thier training set.
  • Enhanced empathy and social intelligence: Being able to understand the what your enemy wants, fears, needs, etc. is important for predicting and manipulating what they will do. If you know what exactly what it will take to make an enemy surrender, then you can win conflicts with less shots fired, fewer people killed, and more of the enemy's infrastructure in tact to exploit when the fighting is done.
  • Reduced Pain Response: It will happen from time to time that your soldiers are wounded or captured. When wounded, a reduced pain response makes them more likely to push through thier injuries to complete thier objectives... even if it kills them. It also makes them harder to manipulate through torture if captured.
  • Hibernation Mechanism: Soldiers must often survive in harsh climates or cut off from thier supply lines. If your soldiers can hibernate to reduce calorie use, then they increase thier odds of surviving a prolonged siege or while awaiting rescue.

What a Super Soldier Should Actually Look Like

In addition to all of the advantages of offloading the maximum amount of functionality into the armor, power armor has several innate advantages. For starters, power armor can be mass produced without having to train up a whole medical battalion to conduct the many complex surgeries required. It can also be taken from an unreliable soldier and given to someone else, and if it gets badly damaged, it can be refurbished or salvaged for spare parts way more easily than an organic body.

If you want a believable super soldier for piloting any sort of war machines, you don't want giant Space Marines, what you really want is little guys with big brains.

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Why Use Pilots at All?

The role of human pilots in future warfare at all is questionable. They represent a squishy point of failure. They have limited reaction times. Etc. That said, there are a few good reasons why you may still happen to see a fair number of humans on the front-line of future battlefields.

  • Legal Reasons: At this moment in time, the UN is in the process of debating whether or not autonomous killing machines are a war crime. The current consensus is that most countries agree that deploying a machine that can kill without specific human approval is a War Crime. If these measures go through, which they probably will, it means that the only options for designing weapon systems is to use either a human pilot or remote command and control.
  • Liability Reasons: When things go wrong, someone or something has to be to take the blame. If you manufacture 10,000 autonomous battle droids and one messes up and starts killing civilians or friendlies, then the only thing to blame is the AI which is installed on all 10,000 droids; so, all 10,000 have to be mothballed until the problem is corrected. If you make 10,000 suits of power armor, and the pilot starts killing civilians or friendlies, then you court-martial the one pilot, and keep the other 9,999 in active service.
  • Political Reasons: Even if AI are not a war crime per say, and even if they are safer and more reliable than human soldiers, the public fear of killer AIs could cause a country too lose the propaganda part of the war way faster than they can win the battlefield part of the war.
  • Limitations of Remote Control: Even if you go the remote method, the risk of disrupted communications in a warzone is always high, and will get much higher in the future as more countries develop advanced ECM and anti-satellite systems. To overcome this, it means that your remote drones need human command units in the field with them because short range communication are much harder to disrupt. This is why every country's 6th generation fighter jet programs are still including manned fighter jets to act as command and control platforms for "Loyal Wingman" drones.
  • Limitations of AI: AI is way faster than human thinking and it gets really really good at things you train it on, but as a general rule, AI preforms way worse than humans at dealing with the unexpected. A battle droid designed to shoot until a kill is confirmed could be tricked into wasting all its ammo firing at decoys. A whole squad of droids designed to never shoot at field reporters could be wiped out by a guy who puts an anti-material weapon into a news camera. A droid designed to respond to hostile body language might allow a smiling, waving insurgent to walk up and place a bomb on its back. A human can recognize a strange threat and know when to go against standard protocols to respond to it in ways that AI may never be able to match.

So, even if most of your infantry become autonomous droids, and those droids outperform human soldiers in several key areas, there will still be reasons to maintain human field commanders... or in your case, genetically augmented human field commanders.

  • $\begingroup$ I really like your answer! $\endgroup$
    – Mermaker
    Commented Apr 11 at 0:30
  • $\begingroup$ Note that the AI limitations affect humans just like they affect AI. E.g. a smiling, waving insurgent is a pretty effective tactics, but human troops quickly learn to be more careful (a single sentence is enough), while current-day AIs have trouble adapting to new information as the training process takes too long. $\endgroup$
    – toolforger
    Commented Apr 11 at 7:54
  • $\begingroup$ @toolforger they are for sure faster than the 20-something years it takes for a human to develop the basics of common sense! $\endgroup$
    – Mermaker
    Commented Apr 11 at 11:06
  • $\begingroup$ I was re-reading Ghost in the Shell this morning and it dawned on me that those cyborg bodies they use on the manga are possibly better "super soldier procedures" than anything that fiddles directly with biological bodies. A "ghost in the shell" (or brain in a jar) ends up being a quite interesting way to put a pilot inside power armor. $\endgroup$
    – Mermaker
    Commented Apr 11 at 13:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Mermaker I was talking about oral communication, not about training. $\endgroup$
    – toolforger
    Commented Apr 11 at 17:05

These aren't good soldiers. A few bullets will still punch through these guys, especially from larger caliber firearms. Explosives would also work just about the same. Any marignal increase to endurance will be offset by drastically increased weight which makes stealth harder, and any increase in durability is offset by being a significantly larger target.

That's ignoring the various physical and economic issues, too, but I think Mermaker's answer covers those well. Needless to say, there's no sense wasting all of this powerful technology by trapping it inside a fleshy, warm, expensive human.

But what if we run with it? Would these superhumans be good for anything?

If we tone down the impossible nanotechnology and dial back the physicals a bit, what you're looking at here is much better suited for a civilian environment. Whether as a bouncer, bodyguard, or riot control officer, most of your strength here comes from greatly increased hand-to-hand combat and second-to-none intimidation factor. Nobody in their right mind will want to rob a bank when one of these guys is standing out front, and since they don't have to sneak around or contend with IEDs and snipers, their weaknesses don't come into play at all.

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    $\begingroup$ Robocop makes more sense than Captain American, as silly as it sounds. $\endgroup$
    – Mermaker
    Commented Apr 9 at 22:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Mermaker from a tactical point of view, but not from a psychological one. If you are looking for community engagement, they must be able to relate to the law enforcement personnel and see them as "people". So, bodyguard maybe, but not police. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 9 at 23:26
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    $\begingroup$ @KerrAvon2055 I would rather trust a robot that can't do harm to me unless I'm breaking a law and it is forced to work within protocol than someone that can pull a gun on me because they mistook the smell of my garden shrine's incense for weed. (I may be biased - my area has a lot of problems with corruption in the police force.) $\endgroup$
    – Mermaker
    Commented Apr 10 at 4:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Mermaker Wasn't ED-209 supposed to only target lawbreakers? "You have 10 seconds to comply!" While human corruption is a very real thing, I would generally trust a human officer before an automated device that may or may not have bugs in its OS or processing code, or may or may not be vulnerable to hacks. The corruption you fear from human officers is also possible through either programming or controls. You just also have the possibility of bugs or glitches. While the robotic "3 laws" sound nice, pretty much every story Clarke wrote about them was about how they failed. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 10 at 14:42
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelRichardson ED-209's point was to be a foil to Robocop's human heart and brains. Also, the 3 Laws are from Asimov stories, not Clarke's. $\endgroup$
    – Mermaker
    Commented Apr 11 at 0:23

A super-soldier may be the opposite of what you describe.

In every recorded war since the Trojan one, wars are in the end settled by some poor infantryman going up to another one on the other side, and persuading them to give up and stop fighting. You can bomb and shell to soften up the target, but people do not surrender to a an aircraft or a tank, but to a person. Either you kill them all, or you need boots on the ground to negotiate the peace.

So, what would your super-soldier be like? If they have to do heavy lifting, they use a forklift or a mechanical exoskeleton. If this gets damaged, then they can mend it or ditch it and run. If they need to see at night, they put on a night vision helmet. If this gets damaged, then can get another one. Or maybe they send a drone and never stick their head above the parapet at all. Stuff that was exotic twenty years ago can be ordered online. Who knows what another hundred years may bring?

What they will need is the ability to avoid being shot. Being small helps. They also may need the ability to survive being shot, which may involve going into shock or hibernation so they can survive until help comes. They may need to survive on very short rations if supplies are interrupted. Your super-soldier may be a small, runty person with a low metabolism, who sleeps a lot.

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    $\begingroup$ Agree with the initial points, but soldiers, super or otherwise, never get the chance to sleep a lot in a combat zone. While people have different interpretations of Heinlein's Starship Troopers, no one who has served in the military has ever disputed the sentiment of the line "Happiness consists in getting enough sleep." $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 9 at 23:23
  • $\begingroup$ @KerrAvon2055 I think we agree. A real super-soldier may be able to sleep where others can't, and/or make do with less. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 10 at 6:37

I have a number of thoughts on this - firstly, as an Avid WH40K fan - Nice Adeptus Astartes you got there... Would be a shame if GW sued you for it...

Jokes aside - let's talk through some of the aspects:

Size and Strength: Other Commentors have put this as a Liability. I think the answer here is much more nuanced. Whilst being bigger has some issues in terms of Cover/Concealment - it also has some benefits - being bigger means you can carry more and if you are expected to go where resupply is difficult or not regular, then having bigger guys who can carry more weight is not a bad thing.

In addition, if your weaponary has any form of Recoil - a bigger person has more mass and so can handle more recoil = Bigger person = Bigger Gun.

The old 'Infantry is outdated, we can just Bomb everything' trope:

War is about occupying territory with boots on the ground. You can Bomb a country or area into submission as much as you want cough most modern conflicts cough but without boots on the ground being a controlling force, you are not winning squat.

This is a different issue with your Super Soldier - which is unless they are numerous enough (which they are unlikely to be) to have a ubiquitous presence on the battlefield, they are not really providing much bang-for-buck.

That said... We do spend a lot of money on T1 Special Forces guys (in terms of Gear, training etc.) in the West and things like the SAS raid on the Iranian Embassy show that there is a time and place for such a special soldier.

If your super-soldiers are designed to be shock-troops that are thrust into key locations and take out high-value targets, then what you have designed makes sense. But if you are wanting a believable rank-and-file unit, then less so.

I will leave the most controversial point to last:

Battle of the Sexes

Based on what you have written - why would such an expensive and comprehensive program bother with Female subjects - the answer is - they wouldn't. If the goal is to have a faster, stronger, more resilient soldier - then based on the numbers you've provided - they wouldn't bother applying this process to girls.

The fact that this process begins in childhood (before they can consent to become a soldier) means that the Government doing this is a little grey on the whole individual rights thing - such a Government would realize that the Girls who might benefit from such a process are more 'valuable' in being mothers and birthing an endless supply of Boys with the right Genetic pre-conditions, than they are to go through this process.

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    $\begingroup$ Being bigger means nothing if you're offloading your carrying capacity to exoskeleton/armor anyway. Same goes for recoil - whatever the weight of the exoskeleton, it will be at least an order of magnitude greater than your soldier. Don't get me wrong - 40k can be quite fun, but it is horrible sci-fi. Once you get to Power Armor, you absolutely don't need, nor should you invest in, super-soldiers. $\endgroup$
    – Mermaker
    Commented Apr 10 at 3:29
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    $\begingroup$ "War is about occupying territory with boots on the ground." - I agree. But when I mention you don't bring fists to a bomb fight, I'm talking about mortars exploding your super soldiers just like they do to non-super soldiers. Infantry uses bombs (mortars, grenades, RPGs, and all sorts of explosives) all the time, and the proposed super soldiers are more vulnerable to those weapons than the regular soldier, as they're lumbering hulks instead of nimble folks that can get to cover in time. $\endgroup$
    – Mermaker
    Commented Apr 10 at 3:32
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    $\begingroup$ Again, I'm also a fan of 40K, but as fantasy bound story that happens to take place in space, not as hard sci-fi. It is knights and wizards but with guns and aliens. $\endgroup$
    – Mermaker
    Commented Apr 10 at 3:34
  • $\begingroup$ Also, being bigger means you waste a lot more resources - biological resources, food - than smaller soldiers, forcing you to carry more food than a regular soldier. Add the faster metabolism to that, and you have soldiers that can barely carry anything besides their immense amount of needed rations to work. $\endgroup$
    – Mermaker
    Commented Apr 10 at 3:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Mermaker - I enjoyed your answer - what I was specifically thinking of when I wrote my answer was a study around the comparison (IIRC - couldn't find it) the Gurkhas vs I think the USMC - and it was noted that the Gurkhas (who are hard as nails) couldn't carry as much gear as the USMC which had logistics implications. As for bigger being more vulnerable to explosions - yes and no - if you have any data on that, I'd be interested to see it. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 10 at 4:35

Many have already pointed out the shortcomings of such soldiers and the physical impossibilities with some of the augmentations.

My opinion is that as long as the story and characters are compelling the details of the technology are not as important. And as someone has already pointed out, overexplaining usually leads you into a corner and if it's not something that currently exists you are inadvertently going to have errors somewhere. It's best to leave some details vague or unexplained. It also can invite the reader to input their own explanations and theories and connect with the story more.

I would suggest reading Old Man's War by John Scalzi. A lot of the augmentations your mention are present in the super soldiers in that story. There are also many of the shortcomings or impossibilities. However, I found the characters and story so amusing and interesting that my tolerance for scientific inaccuracy was increased significantly. If I now think about some of the details it's obvious that they don't make sense. But I was not bothered by it as I was reading it.

One last thing I would suggest is to explain specific weaknesses or shortcomings that your super soldiers might have in the context of the story yourself. An obvious shortcoming can be a great source of challenges, discussions, speculation and story. Nothing is really perfect ever, there are always shortcomings or better solutions for a specific circumstance. Understanding that and working it into the story can be really fun and engaging.

For example, your super soldiers have vision over a wide range of frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum, making them more susceptible to jamming and blinding if they don't have the correct adaptive shielding. Turn it into an interesting story point (an ambush gone wrong, a surprise turn of tide in a battle, a lasting consequence of previous errors, etc)

  • $\begingroup$ You are absolutely correct on your answer, and I believe everyone that said the proposed soldiers wouldn't work agree with it, too. With that said, the negativity regarding those super soldiers doesn't come from us not liking them, but them being proposed as hard-science, which asks for an angle based on realism. It was a constraint proposed by the author of the question, thus most of the answers are in the vibes of "this doesn't work [as a hard-science project]". $\endgroup$
    – Mermaker
    Commented Apr 11 at 0:37
  • $\begingroup$ No worries. I didn’t take it as negativity. The other answers are exactly what the author asked for. I just wanted to provide the other perspective and also mention that even in hard sci fi people make mistakes and there are always drawbacks. A perfect super soldier doesn’t exist for every situation. And the shortcoming are great ways of providing depth to the story and can provide good chaplenges for the story and characters. $\endgroup$
    – nixpix
    Commented Apr 12 at 6:44

Everyone else was not that impressed by your soldiers, so this answer tries hard to make them work anyways.

First of all, this kind of soldier can be a great story tool. I fondly remember some all-time SciFi classics (for me personally), for example Peter F. Hamilton's "Reality Dysfunction", which had part-human, part-cyborg and generally much enhanced characters in them and used them to great dramatic effect.

As in that series, one way to get past the "too expensive" problem is to make it so that these characters are more like mercenaries. They could be self-employed and self-motivated. They could be the "bro's" in your gym which love to tinker with their bodies and upgrade themselves in all aspects available while moving from little conflict to little conflict, earning money for more upgrades.

Secondly, one place I could see them work in-universe could be as mostly psychological shock-troops. Sure, you can roll through a city with tanks, but you can also send the super-humans which are recognizable yet so utterly unimaginably more powerful (on an individual level, when opposed to regular civilians), with some mysticism around them.

Thirdly, you can add enhancements which you did not mention so far, specifically, to make them more robust against environmental problems - heat, cold, hard vacuum, radiation, underwater, oxygen-free athmosphere and so on and forth. Maybe you can come up with scenarios where their flexibility makes it easier to deploy them instead of a remote drone. Maybe the operation theatre is blocking radio, so remotes are not applicable, or maybe the target is just too far away and incurs a too-large roundtrip for remote operation.

Fourthly, how about introducing yet another kind of super-super-soldier (e.g., AIs in a human-like chassis) and using the conflict between the two as story fodder.

Fifthly, obviously all the negatives brought up by the other answers still, objectively apply. But humans are not particularly known for always doing intelligent things only. They could be a cohort of supposed super-soldier, where the brass figured out all the problems after the fact. Classically the first time they were sent into actual battle against an overwhelming enemy. This, again, can make for great dramatic effect, as the erstwhile super-soldiers try to get out of the battle at huge costs, and then the drama afterwards as the rest of the population turns against the idea and abhors them, and they need to find their way around (compare real-life veterans in some countries which do not fare all to well after their war ends...). This scenario is often used by Neal Asher in his "polity" universe (i.e., generations of similar enhancements where the older had severe problems but are still around, and so on...).

Good luck with your story!

  • $\begingroup$ The mercenary angle could work wonders. The Military has to make sense, but a squad of mercs can be guided more by their own beliefs instead of what would actually work in large-scale militaries. Bonus points if they're all actually wimps and just scam people! $\endgroup$
    – Mermaker
    Commented Apr 11 at 0:35

It has some problems and some advantages.

For starters the bones. Lets use a car as an analogue. The human in the car is your organs, the body of the car is your bones. Early cars were solid, in an accident the car often only needed some paint and that was it. Also the insides had to be washed out as the human inside was dead from the impact. So we started adding crumple zones, these absorb the blow and slow down the vehicle over time safeguarding the human on board.

Bones break for a reason, like a composite armor or the crumple zone of a car it absorbs the blow and with that protects your more vulnerable organs from damage, unless the blow is too severe at which point stronger bones wouldn’t have made a difference anyway. So by making your soldier’s bones stronger you make them increasingly vulnerable to shocks. A punch that would break a rib on a regular human could kill a supersoldier.

This can perhaps be avoided by composite bone structures: a portion of the bones are designed to break and absorb maximum force, while another portion is as indestructible as all hell to keep your soldier standing despite a partially broken bone.

Another thing: your bones are both hard and flexible. This helps with power generation too, you can store some energy in the bones and tendons and release it afterwards. Look at a professional baseball pitcher and you’ll see how his arm is thrown back and uses it’s flexibility to store energy and then release it in the throw. Your soldiers would be more stiff and ridgid, and lose a lot of throwing power as well as running speed as their muscles might be stronger but they would direct that force in way less efficient directions.

Which brings me to the Supersoldier Heating problem. Supersoldiers tend to have all the strength and speed improvements but none of the heat dissipation improvements. They can run 60km/h (very inefficiently), but they can do so for 10 to 20 seconds and then they don’t just fall down but are dead from the heat. This is compounded by the extra density of the muscles and bones making it harder to move the heat (and nutrients and waste) out of the muscles and into the skin where sweating can take the heat away.

A good supersoldier is balanced. You might even make categories, like one for high intensity but short combat and one with more stamina and one in between. One that is expendable and one that is expensive but way better etc.


Like the others have mentioned, it would be somewhat impractical to invest so much in such super soldier, when they could be eliminated conveniently through a drone strike. Instead of a super soldier who is expected to excel at everything, it would make more sense to create a few people tailored for different tasks through genetic engineering, and make a seperate, larger group of versatile soldiers. For example,

  • Group A - fast reaction times, with high mental endurance - fighter/drone pilots.
  • Group B - small and swift, with superhuman accuracy - snipers.
  • Group C - high dexterity, and superior problem solving skills - engineers/technicians

These groups are super human level in these specific tasks. In missions, they could be deployed in small numbers along with more versatile super soldiers to provide assistance. But as mentioned by the others, advanced tech could, again, render the efforts made in genetic engineering useless.


I think that super soldiers could rather be dwarfs rather than giants. Dwarfs can easier fit into various machines (for combat or for transportation), are more difficult to target and may have more endurance (easier to circulate the blood over smaller body, easier to dissipate the heat, less weight to move while running, jumping or climbing). Physical fitness is still very important in the army.

While some write that various large and powerful weapons are more important in the modern war, small soldiers can disperse leaving for these weapons no obvious spot to strike efficiently, attack from all sides (maybe with drones or Stinger-like handheld launchers) and carefully navigate over minefields and fortifications able to stop the large machines. A tank is considered strong when there is a friendly infantry next to it, and much weaker alone. So depends.


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