Imagine being a sniper in Iraq, you point your .50-cal (50 caliber round pictured far left standing next to an entire .308 cartridge) rifle using the high power scope at an enemy combatant over 1200 yards away, between you and him are high desert cross winds and heat flows coming off the desert floor which are distorting your view…what hopes do you have of making a shot like this?
Well, if DARPA has it’s way a sniper will just be able to point his rifle, get the enemy anywhere in the scope, fire and then forget, yes, a self guided .50 caliber rifle bullet, sounds like a nearly impossible feat with so many real world variables to contend with, but if DARPA has it’s way it will eventually be realized, although I have to say, I think the financial cost of bringing a project like this to fruition is going to be astronomical and could be the one thing to endanger it’s completion.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is seeking innovative solutions that will expand the knowledge base and design capabilities for the EXtreme ACcuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) program. The use of a BAA solicitation allows a wide range of innovative ideas and concepts. The offeror(s) will have the flexibility to develop a tailored program plan that best advances the EXACTO program goals. The EXACTO Program is an advanced technology development and demonstration program to create a self guided, actively controlled .50 caliber sniper rifle system with significantly improved range and accuracy over the current systems.
Darpa won’t say, publicly, how far, how long and how accurate they want the new bullets to be — all that information is classified. But they will say that Exacto should contain a next-gen scope, a guidance system that provides information to direct the projectile, an “actively controlled .50-caliber projectile that uses this information for real-time directional flight control,” and a rifle. “Technologies of interest may include: fin-stabilized projectiles, spin-stabilized projectiles, internal and/or external aero-actuation control methods, projectile guidance technologies, tamper proofing, small stable power supplies, and advanced sighting, optical resolution and clarity technologies.”
Exacto is one of several projects Darpa is developing to make snipers more accurate and more deadly. The agency has earmarked $7.5 million for a laser-guided bullet program. Darpa gave Lockheed $2 million for advanced sniper scopes that could boost kill rates by tenfold, or more. If the system works out as planned, it would actually allow snipers to remain virtually invisible, lost in the “heat haze” in between them and their targets. Our own David Hambling called the project the “next war’s secret weapon.”
Link to Full DARPA Exacto Project Details in PDF:darpa-exacto-project