DARPA under its Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) program has developed a self-steering bullet that can hit moving targets at long ranges with great accuracy. During successful live fire tests in Feb 2015, an experienced shooter using the technology demonstration system repeatedly hit moving and evading targets. Additionally, even a novice shooter using the system for the first time was able to hit a moving target. DARPA claims that it is the first 0.50 small caliber smart bullet technology, the size of bullet used in an M2 Browning machine gun, long rifles, and other heavy machine guns. The system expected to be deployed soon.
“True to DARPA’s mission, EXACTO has demonstrated what was once thought impossible: the continuous guidance of a small-caliber 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. Fitting EXACTO’s guidance capabilities into a small .50-caliber size is a major breakthrough and opens the door to what could be possible in future guided projectiles across all calibers.”
The aim is to improve sniper effectiveness in acquiring moving targets in unfavorable conditions and enhance troop safety by allowing greater shooter standoff range and reduction in target engagement timelines. “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 said. “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.”
The EXACTO system is a combination of a maneuverable bullet and a real-time guidance mechanism that can monitor and guide the bullet to the target. The bullet is equipped with aero-actuation controls, a power source, optical guidance system, and sensors.
Real-time optical guidance system allows the bullet to change path during flight to compensate for weather, wind, target movement and other factors that could impede successful hits. At the nose of the bullet is a sensor that tracks a laser projected onto its target, the internal actuators can correct the bullet’s trajectory 30 times a second, allowing it to adjust the projectile’s flight path mid-air.
The innovation involved some major changes to typical bullet design, which involves grooves to make the bullet spin and therefore fly in a straight line. Researchers had to eliminate that spinning to allow the bullets to twist and turn towards their target. Instead, they used those tiny fins — similar to those on a dart — to keep the bullet aloft while allowing it a full range of motion to navigate through the air.
The 2008 BAA identified potential “technologies of interest,” including “fin stabilized projectiles, spin-stabilized projectiles, internal and /or external aero-actuation control methods, projectile guidance technologies, tamper proofing, small stable power supplies, and advanced sighting and optical resolution technologies.”
Lockheed Martin under “One Shot program” reportedly had developed sighting modules that can “measure everything that influences a bullet in flight, and rapidly calculate and display the aim point offset and expected crosswind variability in the shooters rifle scope.”
This technology increases the range of snipers to 2,000 meters – 2,500 meters; revolutionize rifle accuracy and reduction in target engagement timelines and enhance troop safety by allowing greater shooter standoff range and reduced exposure. The Pentagon wants the new gun to be no heavier than the combined 46-lb. weight of the current M107 sniper rifle and all its associated gear (including ammo, tripod, scope and slide rules for target calculations). DARPA hopes to expand the technology if and once it gets proven to other types of projectiles. They see EXACTO working with aircraft and vehicle-mounted guns, even naval guns.
Sandia National Laboratories’ smart bullet
In 2012 Sandia National Laboratories, a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, announced that it had developed a prototype self-guided bullet. Sandia’s four-inch-long round contains a guidance and control system coupled with an eight-bit CPU that controls tiny fins connected to electromagnetic actuators.
In a press statement, Red Jones, a researcher at Sandia, said that in order to make the bullet steerable, it had to be able to travel straight and not spin like a typical bullet when fired. He likens the guided bullet more to a dart — where the fins and the forward-sitting center of gravity keep it from spinning. “Most bullets shot from rifles, which have grooves, or rifling, that cause them to spin so they fly straight, like a long football pass. To enable a bullet to turn in flight toward a target and to simplify the design, the spin had to go,” Jones said.
The bullet has a sensor on its tip that can detect and follow a laser, guiding the bullet to its target. The company estimates its bullet could hit a laser-designated target 2,000 meters (about 1.24 miles) away. According to Sandia’s patent, computer simulations have shown an unguided bullet under real-world conditions could miss a target more than a half mile (1,000 meters) away by 9.8 yards (9 meters), but a guided bullet would get within 8 inches (0.2 meters).
Since the bullet is small-caliber it doesn’t require a costly inertial measuring unit used in guided missiles. “As the bullet flies through the air, it pitches and yaws at a set rate based on its mass and size,” In a press statement, Red Jones, a researcher at Sandia Jones said.
“In larger guided missiles, the rate of flight-path corrections is relatively slow, so each correction needs to be very precise because fewer corrections are possible during flight. But the natural body frequency of this bullet is about 30 hertz, so we can make corrections 30 times per second. That means we can overcorrect, so we don’t have to be as precise each time.”
Sandia’s tests have show its bullet can travel up to 2,400 feet per second (Mach 2.1) and could possibly reach standard military speeds using customized gunpowder. By comparison a .50 caliber round travels anywhere from 2,800-3,000 feet per second on average.
TrackingPoint Announces Squad-Level M1400 Extreme Distance Precision-Guided Firearm
TrackingPoint’s latest Precision-Guided Firearm is the squad-level M1400 338LM bolt-action rifle that engages stationary and moving (up to 20 mph) targets out to 1400 yards. The squad-level M1400 is designed to provide unprecedented battle standoff capabilities at the squad level. The M1400 gives every squad a precision shooting expertise at ranges beyond the capabilities of skilled snipers
“The M1400 provides a clear advantage against any adversary in our current and future conflicts, including our current war on radical Islamic terrorism. Coupled with the M600 and M800, our Army and Marine Corps squads now can bring withering dominance to the field of battle,” said John McHale, TrackingPoint CEO. “Extreme distance lethality is no longer the exclusive domain of trained snipers. With minimal training, any soldier can reliably deliver lethality well beyond what is possible for today’s expert marksmen,” said McHale.
RapidLok™ Target Elimination Fire Control System
As a Soldier or Marine pulls the trigger, the target is automatically acquired and tracked. When trigger pull completes, the target is instantly eliminated. Total Time-To-Kill (TTK) is approximately 2.5 seconds. RapidLok™ Fire Control is image stabilized enabling fighters to lock targets with relative ease. RapidLok™ has an auto-snap feature that automatically adjusts point-of-impact to target center of mass. Also, target velocity is instantly measured and calculated in the launch solution. RapidLok™ incorporates a laser-based Barrel Reference System that ensures shot-to-shot perfect zero eliminating error from shock, vibration, or environmental changes such as temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure.
The M1400 streams video to TrackingPoint’s ShotGlass™ wearable glasses. The Soldier or Marine can see the battlefield without putting his head behind the gun. He or she is completely unexposed and can see and eliminate targets exactly as if looking through the scope. Soldiers and Marines can shoot over berms and around corners with an extremely high hit rate on moving targets at extreme distances.
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