Despite the United States Military’s ability to engage and destroy targets from hundreds of miles away, there is still a need to put boots on the ground in hostile areas. In 2011, the United States General Accounting Office (GAO) reported that American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan fired around 250,000 bullets for every enemy combatant killed (1). So much ammunition is being used that manufacturers can barely keep up with the demand. This number is astoundingly high considering that frequent skirmishes happen in areas densely populated by civilians.
Researchers at DARPA are hoping to increase the efficiency of the average soldier, as well as to reduce collateral damage, with the new EXACTO laser guided bullet. EXACTO, standing for Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordinance, is a bullet containing a guidance system that allows for in-flight changes to be made to the bullet’s trajectory. Although the details of the technology are currently classified, it is known that the guidance system accounts for weather and wind, even after the bullet has left the barrel. Even more impressive, the new technology allows for the bullet to track and hit a target that is on the move (2).
The system is described as “fire and forget”, meaning that once the operator has pulled the trigger, the bullet will trace the target on its own. Additionally, the EXACTO boasts a range of 2,000 meters, regardless of environmental conditions. To put this in perspective, with current technology, marksmen are generally limited to a range of well under 1,000 meters in perfect weather conditions.
Another attractive prospect of the EXACTO is that it is not limited strictly to large caliber “sniper” rifles. Although current tests have only been performed with .50 caliber rifles, the system can be easily modified to fit the carbines and smaller caliber rifles of the average foot soldier (2). This means that at some point in the near future the entirety of the United States military could possess self-guided small arms.
A recent video shows a live fire demonstration of the EXACTO; in the video, the bullet completely changes its trajectory mid-flight to hit a moving target. The showing is certainly impressive and has generated extreme interest from the United States military. The interest stems from the fact that snipers and designated marksmen have become a vital part of the war in the Middle East over the past few years. The military is hoping that the EXACTO can help immediately expand and improve the role snipers currently play on the battlefield.
Although no date is set, the EXACTO will likely make its way onto the battlefield within the next few years. It is exciting to say technology like this, once thought to be limited to science fiction, is now a reality.
Watch the demonstration video here: https://youtu.be/TwinHU4iDmo
(1) Turley, Jonathan. "GAO: U.S. Has Fired 250,000 Rounds For Every Insurgent Killed." Jonathanturley.org. N.p., 10 Jan. 2011. Web. 23 June 2016.
(2) "ADVANCED LASER GUIDED BULLET Technology for US Military - MilitaryHit.com - Military News." Militaryhit.com. N.p., 12 June 2016. Web. 23 June 2016.
Image: © Darko Draskovic | Dreamstime.com - <a href="https://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-bullet-image8766456#res14972580">Bullet</a>