Good Luck Hiding From These Bullets: DARPA Unleashes Self-Guiding 50 Caliber Rounds
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, who brought you computer networking some decades back, have unleashed something that potentially takes the human error out of long-range precision shooting. Enter the Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO), a (so far) 50 caliber round which can change course in the middle of its flight in order to get its intended target.
This is not a joke. This is a real thing which may actually exist in the near future. Forget about years of training, weather conditions, or wind. Snipers using this round will not have to worry about any of that. As you can see from the video, once the target is identified, it doesn’t matter even if the shooter has adhered to all of his training and placed the round in the right place; this bullet, through the use of fins which deploy down range as well as sensors, will find its way to the target.
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. 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. –DARPA Website
Presumably this round will work in conjunction with other high-tech aiming systems the defense department has already issued to Snipers across branches, but it is important to note that just because the round has successfully been developed it has not been field-tested extensively (that we know about) or priced for mass manufacturing. The federal government quietly averted another budgetary shutdown just the other week and it is conceivable that equipment like this will only ever find its way into the budgets of elite units like the Special Forces, Army Rangers, and Navy Seals.
The Next War May Just Employ a Few Highly-Trained, Highly Effective Tactical Teams
The EXACTO is not the only major innovation in the space of “accuracy democratization” in the last few years. Texas company Tracking Point has developed an aiming system so easy a caveman could do it, and it’s only a matter of time before the Army finds the money to implement these. Training and ammunition are two very significant expenses for the military, and being able to reduce the cost of either while increasing the ability to eliminate targets seems a favorable proposition for commanders who have to answer to Senate hearings.
A few important things are being left out of this equation. Number one, it would seem that an electronic device of any sort is going to be in some ways less reliable to a soldier than something that requires no batteries. When the battery of a sight goes out presently, a soldier can still rely on his knowledge of the weapon to effectively engage the enemy. Theses new rigs coming into play seem to make themselves indispensable – if they malfunction, so does the rest of the weapon system. This is, of course why so much testing is done before new weapons are implemented, however.
The next war might not employ dozens of thousands of troops. It may just employ a few highly-trained, highly effective tactical teams which will have the capability and skill to engage any size element from a mile off, and tools like EXACTO are paving the way for this to be possible.
Images from DARPA and Shutterstock.