A DARPA-funded project has successfully demonstrated a .50-caliber sniper round capable of maneuvering during flight in order to maintain a fix on its target. Called EXACTO, the bullet is optically guided to the target by a laser, allowing for accuracy up to 1.2 miles away. Headshots will never be the same.
EXACTO stands for Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance, and it's designed for military snipers who often contend with a number of changing conditions as they fire on a target, including wind, light, and ambient heat.
"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," notes DARPA.
The technology is being developed by Teledyne Scientific and Imaging with funding from DARPA. Neither organization has disclosed just how the bullet manoeuvres mid-trajectory.
From the program page:
The Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) system seeks to improve sniper effectiveness and enhance troop safety by allowing greater shooter standoff range and reduction in target engagement timelines. The objective of the EXACTO program is to revolutionize rifle accuracy and range by developing the first ever guided small-caliber bullet. The EXACTO 50- caliber round and optical sighting technology expects to greatly extend the day and nighttime range over current state-of-the-art sniper systems. The system combines a maneuverable bullet and a real-time guidance system to track and deliver the projectile to the target, allowing the bullet to change path during flight to compensate for any unexpected factors that may drive it off course.
DARPA claims that EXACTO is the first self-guided bullet, but back in 2012 Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) announced that it had successfully fired a prototype self-guided bullet.
Images and video: DARPA/Teledyne Scientific and Imaging.