WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
Bullets haven’t evolved in many years, but now DARPA’s smart bullets could turn everyone into a professional sniper.
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DARPA’s self-steering bullet, which first appeared in 2015 as you can see in the video below, is, if acronyms are enough to go by, supposed to have “razor-fine precision.” Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance, or EXACTO, is a bullet that chases its target, adjusting course mid-flight to make sure it hits exactly what or who it is supposed to hit. And recently DARPA tested their latest version of their new bullet against moving targets, and pounded them all.
The video of DARPA’s early tests look like an obscure video game from the 1980s where players trace out a path to a robot which then runs away. Tracked on screen are the projected path of the bullet, and then the actual flight path EXACTO takes, and you can see it bending and turning its trajectory to follow a sideways-sprinting target, which is no mean feat.
Over several shots, EXACTO improves the accuracy of both expert and novice snipers sending .50 caliber doom to its mark each and every time.
For now EXACTO is specifically designed for combat in places like rural patrols in Afghanistan, where fighting is at long range and the weather can interfere with snipers’ accuracy. It is, as the name hints, a weapon specifically for edge cases which is what most snipers do, and this won’t change, but in the instances where having a self-correcting bullet could matter DARPA wants to make sure that the US military has a weapon that can do what its opponents can’t.
Little information about EXACTO is publicly available, but despite fears to the contrary by military experts it’s unlikely we’ll see the technology escape into the wild and appear on American streets any time soon, if only because of its cost.