Intelligent bullets that can adjust their course mid-flight in order to hit moving and distant targets with greater accuracy have been tested by DARPA.
Part of the Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordonance (EXACTO) programme, the self-steering bullets allow not only trained snipers but also inexperienced shooters to hit difficult targets with ease.
The bullet, shot from an ordinary sniper gun, uses optical guidance to track targets and make up for disturbances caused by wind or even the target's attempts to escape.
“For military snipers, acquiring moving targets in unfavourable conditions, such as high winds and dusty terrain commonly found in Afghanistan, is extremely challenging with current technology,” DARPA explained on its website. “It is critical that snipers be able to engage targets faster, and with better accuracy, since any shot that doesn’t hit a target also risks the safety of troops by indicating their presence and potentially exposing their location.”
During the tests, experienced and inexperienced shooters alike were able to hit accelerating and evading targets repeatedly.
The bullets were tested previously but the latest round, DARPA said, was the most successful to date.
“True to DARPA’s mission, EXACTO has demonstrated what was once thought impossible: the continuous guidance of a small-calibre bullet to target,” said Jerome Dunn, DARPA program manager. “This live-fire demonstration from a standard rifle showed that EXACTO is able to hit moving and evading targets with extreme accuracy at sniper ranges unachievable with traditional rounds.”
The agency said the project achieved a major breakthrough by developing guidance capabilities for small .50-calibre projectiles. Eventually, DARPA aims to integrate the capability across the range of calibres.
With the self-steering bullets, future military snipers operating in the most difficult conditions will never miss. They will also be able to hit their targets with less effort, spending less time on every shot, hence hitting more frequently.
Watch how DARPA's self-steering bullets change their trajectory mid-flight:
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