What is scarier than a U.S. Army Sniper? How about a sniper armed with a rifle that will shoot a laser-guided ‘smart’ bullet over a mile. The .50 caliber bullet has an optical sensor on the nose and can make mid-flight corrections to account for poor weather conditions and still strike within an 8 inch radius of its target point.
In development by Lockheed Martin since 2008, the prototype began testing in 2012 and the first successful live-fire test was announced in early July. The prototype was able to hit targets at ranges over a mile. DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is conducting the tests. The video above is from their successful test.
The thought of being a target for a sniper, whether armed with smart munitions or not, should be enough to give a terrorist or enemy of the U.S. pause. Being able to field more snipers, with less training, but a comparable kill tally should make any of our potential foes take notice. This technology could revolutionize the way the U.S. Army fights a war. Even though the prototype is being developed for snipers, there is no reason it could not be refined for riflemen to be equipped with similar weapons or, at least, with a weapon with similar characteristics.
The new munition will “provide a dramatic new capability to the U.S. military,” DARPA states. “The use of an actively controlled bullet will make it possible to counter environmental effects such as crosswinds and air density, and prosecute both stationary and moving targets while enhancing shooter covertness. This capability would have the further benefit of providing increased accuracy and range while reducing training requirements.”
Combined with other programs currently being studied or pursued by DARPA, the Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) system seeks to make soldiers more effective from a greater range, leading to a safer battlefield environment and limiting target engagement times for our soldiers.
EXACTO is a follow on program to ‘One Shot’ which was developed 5 years ago. Originally conceived to be able to fire and hit targets from over two miles away, it appears the ‘One Shot” program which led to the current testing has been scaled back and downgraded as far as range is concerned. The ‘One Shot’ program worked to develop laser gun sights that would compensate for environmental factors, including winds of up to 40 miles per hour.
In addition to the EXACTO program, DARPA is currently working on many projects to increase both lethality and survivability of our soldiers on the battlefield. Everything from cruise missiles to the next generation of close-support aircraft are being studied.
DARPA was established in 1958 to maintain and develop a technological superiority for our national security interests. For the last 55 years, DARPA has been driving the technical progress in our armed forces.
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