The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the research arm of the United States Department of Defense, has developed and successfully tested a prototype for self-guiding bullets.
The bullets have the ability to redirect themselves while in motion to maintain a high accuracy on the target, even when thrown off course due to weather conditions or human error.
The self-guiding bullets are part of DARPA's Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) program. The agency recently carried out the first live-fire tests for the special bullets, successfully demonstrating that the bullets can be guided while in flight.
The EXACTO system is made up of the self-guiding bullet and an optical guidance component that is able to track the bullet and provide it with instructions to the direction of the target. A real-time guidance system makes the bullets act more like guided missiles than bullets, providing shooters with unprecedented accuracy.
The tests had a sniper fire rounds of .50-caliber bullets from an EXACTO-equipped rifle. Even with shots being fired off target, the system was able to correct the bullets so that they hit their target every single time. The system also promises the same accurate performance up to distances of 2,000 meters.
The EXACTO system was created for optimal performance in the dusty environment and strong winds of Afghanistan. Snipers in these environments require rifles that would provide them with the best accuracy possible with their shots, as misfired bullets may reveal the sniper's location to enemies.
Aside from the system allowing the fired bullets to correct their course while in mid-flight, snipers will also find it easier to hit moving targets.
DARPA says that the testing session used only the second phase prototype, which means that the technology will still improve in next iterations of the project. Further improvements to the project include upgrades to the power sources, guiding systems and sensors.
The project is being developed by Teledyne Scientific & Imaging in partnership with a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, a private defense company based in Maryland.
In 2012, Sandia National Labs, another research company working for the U.S. government, carried out testing for its own guided bullet. It featured the same accuracy over the same distance as that of the EXACTO system. However, because it uses laser beams for its targeting system, the guided bullet suffers in performance when in foggy or smoky weather conditions, as well as being visible to the enemy. Despite the limitations, Sandia is looking to make the system commercially available soon.