DARPA Developing Self-Guiding Sniper Bullet

Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is developing a self-guiding small-caliber bullet to improve the effectiveness of military snipers and improve the overall safety of troops in combat situations.
According to TechGenMag, the new ammunition is part of DARPA‘s Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) program, and the guided small-caliber bullet has already met accuracy standards from a distance of 1.2 miles.
The bullets successfully passed a series of tests earlier this year, and the Defense Department agency released the first footage of them in action earlier this week. The 50-caliber rounds are capable of changing direction mid-flight, and function like the laser-guided bombs first developed by the US during the Vietnam war.
“For military snipers, acquiring moving targets in unfavorable 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.”
EXACTO “combines a maneuverable bullet and a real-time guidance system to track and deliver the projectile to the target, allowing the bullet to change path during flight to compensate for any unexpected factors that may drive it off course,” the agency added. In addition to improving sniper effectiveness, it hopes that the new bullets will “enhance troop safety by allowing greater shooter standoff range and reduction in target engagement timelines.”
DARPA has reported that the EXACTO bullets and optical sighting technology have already passed Phase II development, which included the design, integration and demonstration of its in-flight controls, as well as power sources, optical guidance systems and sensors. It noted that the next step will be to conduct a system-level live-fire test, and to refine and improve upon its performance.
In actual combat conditions, two-person sniper teams (a shooter and a spotter) have to make adjustments for several factors, including high winds and dusty terrain, explained Stars and Stripes. The EXACTO program will allow them to engage targets more quickly while also keeping their location concealed for longer periods of time.
“Weapons experts applauded the breakthrough, but they wonder if the technology will translate to success in the field,” Burke added. One of those experts, Ted Gatchel, a professor emeritus at the Naval War College, said he was concerned about the extra equipment snipers using the EXACTO technology would have to carry with them.
Furthermore, Gatchel expressed concerns that it might make it harder for snipers to quickly fire a second shot, and whether or not a person’s reflexes in guiding the high-velocity rounds could cause problems. He said that he “couldn’t find out enough about the system” to fully know how it works, and said that the technology could hamper military missions if it were to become damaged and inoperable in rough terrain or rainy conditions.
“I never think it’s a bad idea to try something out,” he told Burke. But, he noted, “you still need to train these snipers in the traditional methods,” adding that it was “a real precise art.”
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