US successfully tests bullets that can change course midair

WASHINGTON: Now you don’t have to be a good shooter to hit the mark. The US military has successfully tested self-steering “smart” bullets that have a real-time guidance system to track targets and can change their course if needed.

In February, the “smart bullets” — .50-caliber projectiles equipped with optical sensors — passed their most successful round of live-fire tests to date, according to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

In the tests, an experienced marksman “repeatedly hit moving and evading targets,” a DARPA statement said.

“Additionally, a novice shooter using the system for the first time hit a moving target. In other words, now you do not even have to be a good shot to hit the mark,” the statement said. The system has been developed by DARPA’s Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance programme, known as EXACTO. “True to DARPA’s mission, EXACTO has demonstrated what was once thought impossible: the continuous guidance of a small-caliber bullet to target,” Jerome Dunn, DARPA programme manager said in a statement. “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,” Dunn said.

Videos supplied by DARPA showed the bullets making sharp turns in midair as they pursue their targets. DARPA says the smart bullets will also help shooters who are trying, for example, to hit targets in high winds. The goals of the EXACTO program are giving shooters accuracy at greater distances, engaging targets sooner and enhancing the safety of American troops, DARPA said.

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The EXACTO program has developed new approaches and advanced capabilities to improve the range and accuracy of sniper systems beyond the current state of the art. The programme sought to improve sniper effectiveness and enhance troop safety by allowing greater shooter standoff range and reduction in target engagement timelines.

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