Modafinil used by the Military

Why Modafinil interest the Military

Modafinil has been used by the military for many years already. It’s positive effects on mental alertness and energy is exactly what fighter on the field need to stay alive.

I often get ask what is modafinil legal status in the USA so I wrote a separate blog post about it. Today, let’s have a look at the different research that the military did on Modafinil.

7.8% of all class A accident is link to fatigue.

The NTSB (National transportation safety board) made a research on major accidents in the domestic aviation and find out that cabin crews that was awake for a longer period than the average made more mistakes and significantly more tactical decision errors and mistakes of procedures. They estimated that about 4-7% of all civil aviation errors in the United States could be link to air crew cabin fatigue. The  Air Force Safety Center (AFSC) attribute 7.8% of all class A accidents in part to fatigue.

Night shift decrease pilots ability from 75% to a 100%

The Study found out that night shift was a big problem for alertness in the cabin. The body is more likely to act In a sleepy way at night. Multiple studies revealed that attention lapses and plane control misroute occur more often and are more important during night time. Another study found out that pilots performance in the flight simulator at 4:00am decrease from 75-100% under their normal abilities at 3:00pm. The negative effect of night shift is clearly demonstrated.

The Research

The following are the results of the U.S Air Force studies. There is 1 fighter jet study and 5 different helicopter pilots studies made at the US Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory in Fort Rucker, Alaska, united States. The research were conducted on a total of 34 helicopter pilots. The average age of the pilots was 31 years old. Pilots were not allowed to eat any caffeinated product at any time before or during the study. The research on the helicopter pilots is made using 3 doses of Modafinil 200 mg each doses given at 11:00pm 3:00am and 7:00am. For the fighter study they use a 100mg dose at similar intervals.

The Results

These are the results of 2 test made on fighter pilots (at the top) and helicopter pilots (at the bottom). In each group there is 2 different test, the first test on the left is the flight simulator results. The higher the score the better it is. The second test on the right is the brain waves changes in the pilots due to sleep deprivation. The less changes the better it is. There is no base line results (normal state) on the fighter study due to lack of data.


Conclusion: Modafinil improved alertness and performance

Modafinil improve alertness and it is effective to maintain capacity and performance in situation where sleep is rare or absent. Those studies show that there is a place for Modafinil in certain US Air Force operation because they effectively increase alertness and improve the safety of aircrews when fatigue cannot be avoid.