For rifle shooters of every stripe, the above video is simply amazing. A bullet is fired at an initial aim point then – mid-flight – changes course to hit the desired target.

No, it’s not an illusion. Instead, it’s a successful test of a project by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, according to an article in the Daily Mail.

The maneuverable projectiles, known as Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO for short) are the first of their kind, according to DARPA. But, the U.S. Department of Defense agency has offered scant details about how .50 caliber EXACTO rounds execute their mid-air adjustments. The Daily Mail, however, offers up one possibly:

DARPA has not released precise details of how its bullet moves in mid-air, but this is one way in which the technology could work.

Each self-guided bullet is four inches (10 cm) long.

A sniper working at extreme range shines a laser onto the target.

An optical sensor on the bullet detects the light from the laser to identify where the target is.

Once fired, actuators inside the bullet receive data from the optical sensor to guide it to the correct location.

Small fins are used to change the bullet’s trajectory, and the bullet can correct its movements 30 times a second.

These changes are in response to movements of the laser, which the sniper uses to continually track and light up the target.

DERPA graphic of the EXACTO round.
DERPA graphic of the EXACTO round.

While it might be a first for small arms, the EXACTO round is not the first maneuverable projectile cooked up. Presently, the U.S., Swedish and Canadian militaries all use M982 Excalibur, a navigable artillery shell.

The application of the new EXACTO round, if it ever finds its way to the battlefield, is fairly obvious:

According to Darpa: ‘For military snipers, acquiring moving targets in unfavourable [sic] conditions, such as high winds and dusty terrain commonly found in Afghanistan, is extremely challenging with current technology.

‘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.’

Given the long shots made by U.S., Canadian and British snipers in the recent conflict in Afghanistan using conventional gear, the EXACTO could potentially be a potent leg up.


Mastering the Art of Long-Range Shooting

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