FIRST EVER Guided .50 Cal Bullet

50 cal guided

DARPA’s Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) have done their first live-fire test of a optically guided .50 caliber bullet. Watch it hit a target in the below thermal video …

From Darpa.mil …

DARPA’s Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) program recently conducted the first successful live-fire tests demonstrating in-flight guidance of .50-caliber bullets. This video shows EXACTO rounds maneuvering in flight to hit targets that are offset from where the sniper rifle is aimed. EXACTO’s specially designed ammunition and real-time optical guidance system help track and direct projectiles to their targets by compensating for weather, wind, target movement and other factors that could impede successful hits.

The EXACTO program is developing new approaches and advanced capabilities to improve the range and accuracy of sniper systems beyond the current state of the art. For more information, please visit the program page.


Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • Black_Viper

    Can I get a EXACTO TrackingPoint? Kthnx

    • Menger40

      Cheater cheater! :P

    • Delivery Boy

      & Connected via Google Glass?!

  • GUNxSPECTRE

    Now apply this on a Ma Deuce

    • Nicks87

      On a M2 with TrackingPoint FTW!

    • Secundius

      @ GUNxSPECTRE.

      Not likely, considering the round is 6.6-inches long, without power-charge cartridge.

  • Nicks87

    So much for snipers needing to learn marksmanship skills. Just point and shoot and your spotter can guide the round to it’s target.

    • valorius

      Sounds like a win…snipers are extremely expensive to train, with rare talent.

    • hkryan

      A spotter with a steady hand.

    • Patrick Mingle

      Now you can have more snipers and focus all training on concealment and trade craft. Until invisibility cloaks are available

  • valorius

    Amazing.

    Im surprised they dont have guided 40mm grenades yet.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

      Wait:-)

      • Rusty Shackleford

        Just imagine a guided SuperSix MGL firing the MEI Mercury Grenade.

        • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

          Ouch!

        • Patrick Mingle

          thats a whole lot of hurt

      • valorius

        It would have been much easier to accomplish than a 50 Cal around. The area for electronics is much larger, and the g force involved in launching are much, much lower.

        • RawDawg

          If you need to have a guidance system to hit something with a grenade out of a grenade launcher, you suck, really really suck. Bad. A: It’s a grenade. B: It doesn’t go very far.

          • DrewN

            800 metres isn’t very far?

        • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

          We’re getting there. I’d say less than 5 years.

          • valorius

            Im just surprised they elected to do it to a .50 round first. It is a much more demanding technical challenge to make a .50 work than a 40 mike mike.

            Im imagining the day when my .380 ruger lcp’s bullets are tied into my crimson trace laserguard sight/designator. Wherever the dot is aiming,the bullets will automatically home in, out to a range of several hundred yards.

            The potential for this technology is tremendous.

          • nova3930

            More challenging is probably why they chose to do it. DARPA specializes in things that are “out there” from a technical perspective. Plus, if you make it work with a .50, it should be easy to adapt to anything bigger. Shoot for the stars and you might just hit the moon if you will…

    • http://www.thegunzone.com/556dw.html Daniel E. Watters

      DARPA’s guided 40mm grenade program is named SCORPION (Self CORrecting Projectile for Infantry OperatioN).

      • bbmg

        presentation here: http://www.dtic.mil/ndia/2010armament/WednesdayCumberlandAndreLovas.pdf

        Very interesting guidance system, I wonder if it would be easier to just shape the round like a small mortar shell and use fins.

        • jcitizen

          All you have to do is watch a good fireworks designer to know fins are not only unnecessary, but just a drag on performance!

    • bbmg

      This would be so much better in my view. Grenades don’t go very far, but that is because they are dumpy shapes with poor density. An M381 HE grenade leaves the muzzle at 250 fps and weighs 230 grams, and the maximum range is quoted as 1,312 feet.

      Let’s consider a different projectile for the same cartridge, a streamlined fin stabilized 20mm dart fired in a sabot, slightly lighter at 200 grams and slightly faster at 300 fps. This could reach more than double the range with ease at a high angle trajectory. The larger size and lower acceleration means that less expensive components can be used, and if you can guarantee accuracy to say within one meter of the target, you could get away with much less explosive filling. Indeed the lower velocity means that the system has more time to correct its trajectory and should be much more accurate.

      Playing with some numbers, a 150 gram 20mm dart fired at 500 fps (still manageable recoil for an M79 type weapon) could reach out over a mile – and think of the stealth aspect, no sonic crack from the projectile, or massive firing signature from the weapon, which can be fired from a concealed position with no line of sight to the enemy.

      Come on DARPA, pull your socks up :)

      • jcitizen

        Rocket thrust ports will do a lot for a “dumpy” projo! Just look at what is going on with iron dome and the old “star wars” the democraps said wouldn’t work! HA!

    • To Tin Fung

      grenades are more comparable to firing a tennis ball out of a tube, they can’t travel very far due to low velocities (from what I know). If you wanted it to be guided it’d probably look more like a shell than a rifle grenade.

      • valorius

        A grenade faces a lot less g forces so should be much easier to guide on an arcing ballistic trajectory.

        • To Tin Fung

          but dont they get more air resistance as well?

    • Secundius

      @ valorius

      They do, its a 40mm Infrared Laser Target Pointer/Illuminator/Aiming Grenade. Usually deployed by Mk. 19 Grenade Launcher.

  • LCON

    The Skill of the Sniper will still be needed particularly field craft, Even more then ever as IR, Thermal and advanced electro optics mean good enough Camouflage is going to have issues. Sure Hyper stealth and others will offer “Smart Camouflage” options But in the field even if you have the Mythical Cloak of invisibility the Stalk will still apply. Contaminants like dust and Sand Improper placement moving to fast can give away the shooter. Tracking Point Tech and EXACTO will allow making that mile + shot a One shot deal. But there will still be the needed skills. A smart bullet will only curve so much it’s not going to stop in midair and pull a 90 Degree turn. add to this that they have to use Exacto from a 12.7x99mm. Maybe they will be able to miniaturize to say .416 Barrett or .408 Cheytech but I am betting that below that at the .338 Norma and Lupua, the .300 Win Mag the 7.62x51mm and below the Smart Bullet will be to big and Economy of Scale will be Smart rifles like Tracking point.

    • Jack

      My phone is far more capable than my first, second and maybe even third PC. If they develop this who’s to say they couldn’t squeeze this stuff into a 22LR? That’s something I wouldn’t mind paying 10 cents a round for.

      • LCON

        Its going to cost you alot more then a dime my friend.
        to pull this off the bullet has more in common with a cruise missile then any conventional round.
        they have to squeeze into the tip of that bullet a full guidance system multiple aerodynamic control surfaces and still be able to pack a punch. Now they may be able to keep shrinking the guidance system but the flight controls there actuators, they are the critical for flight control. Well your phone has as becomes brilliant and packs a trillion times more power then the Apollo moon landings the technology of aerodynamics that took Buzz and Neal to that small step for man, has only been refined not surpassed. In other words i don’t expect a 5.56×45 caliber Exacto round in any of our lifetimes. Its not about the computer its about the mechanism. To take the “Magic Bullet” from conspiracy theory to physical reality demands that the bullet be large enough to have the space for the mechanism, retains enough ballistic velocity to still make the kill even after making course adjustments. And have the range where in such course adjustments have enough time and need.

        A.22LR has such a small envelope of speed that the drag induced by a shift of course would make it fall out of the air. The range is so small that a adjustment would not have a chance before impact and the price would be so great it just wouldn’t be worth it.
        a fifty cal can push out past a mile, that’s plenty of time to change course. It remains Super sonic a fairly long time so even with a change in direction it will have the speed and power to take most targets.

        • bbmg

          You’re thinking of fairly flat trajectories, but if this thing can be shot at an angle then you can get away with a much less powerful firearm. A dense streamlined projectile does not need to leave the muzzle at three times the speed of sound to go far if shot at 45 degrees. If something like the AN/PED-1 laser designator can range to say 5km, and you have a grenade launcher type weapon that can reach out to that range, fieldcraft is less important.

          • LCON

            A guided 40mm grenade round has its uses but is not always the best option for the job. Especially when considering the kind of battlefield the US has been operating on in the last two conflicts. Where insurgent forces have the ability to take cover and use Hospitals and religious buildings as cover for sniper nests.
            this is a very specialized tool were talking about. DARPA is cooking these up as they believe they have the need due to the number of Mile+ shots made in the last few years. A grenade round like your describing is more a general infantry need.
            time and time again the Sniper has proven itself a real mission need for any number of purposes EXACTO is just intended to make there jobs easier, Same for tracking point systems. As I see it this is not a either or.

          • bbmg

            If you’re shooting say a 150 gram solid dart, even at a low subsonic velocity of say 300 fps at the target it still has the same energy of a 45 ACP round, more than enough to be lethal. Don’t forget that the slower the round is going, the more time it has to make corrections and therefore the more likely it is to be accurate – added to the fact that the guidance components can be rated to lower levels of acceleration.

            In fact, why use a gun at all? The APKWS ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPXh0SpQU6w ) is already viable today, there is every reason to believe that in the near future the guidance system will be small enough to fit on a much smaller round that could target individual personnel by kinetic energy alone.

          • LCON

            First just How many miniaturized APKWS can a Human Carry I mean Even if you get powered Exoskeletons maybe five six shots loaded. The Launcher is going be firing form a shoulder fired launcher. This system because it’s a bullet is lighter smaller package. then there is reloading and Training it’s a lot faster to reload a magazine then it is to load a rocket launcher. and since were talking .50 Cal you can get 10 rounds per Magazine. and load multiple magazines. Which is more Cost Efficient? Weight Efficient? I mean you do have a point for some cases I mean I can see your Logic but A rocket or a bomb is not always the best option for all seasons. I mean your APKWS will probably happen. But Why Waste a platform on that against a single guy. I mean the weapon is meant to kill vehicles. I would rather save that for a Technical vs a Human target at extended range. I mean For the same weight of one APKWS I can carry a number of Loaded magazines. And with this system engage a number of long range targets. Take your earlier Argument”Why a Barrett when you have gravity on your side?A M82A1 weights 30lb. For the same weight, you could carry 30 x 1 lb steel rods. Dropped from 25,000 feet, one of those would have more energy on target than the Barrett has at the muzzle. All that with no noise, flash, and no need to make the aircraft strong enough to resist he recoil.”Okay So you have a point for a guaranteed elimination of Target A Rod form… Well not quite God but form Drone but take a moment. your drone can carry how many rods? 1 in this case right? Well My barrett has a 10 round magazine. If I have the right Fire control system I can take 5-10 targets.Case of pointRamaddi, Iraq 2005 A Squad of American troops was doing Cordon and Search, their soldiers were on a Roof top and giving away their location. A Iraqi Sniper engaged one of the from a Hospital. ROE and Geneva convention say You can attack Hospitals or Religious centers. If you so much as Scratch that Hospital it’s instant propaganda victory. Performing Overwatch was a sniper Team they lock in and take the target. Now in that case the target was taken one shot one kill mostly by shear skill. but lets use this case model for a realistic basis. A friendly unit is engaged by a enemy from a Hospital. The Enemy unit is using a PKM MG that has over reach of the current standard issue infantry small arms. IE They cant get a shot back. Even the DMR the Friendlies are Suppressed and possibly taking wounded. ( this is also a Case study of a known Enemy tactic in Afghanistan. Using the heavier 7.62x54mm Rounds range to attack Coalition forces form beyond there effective range.) first the 40mm grenade ruled out high explosive against a hospital. This would also rule out use of the APKWS it’s shell would damage the building. Kinetic rod. The building again. now say there was a sniper on over watch with Exacto over a mile away. His spotter sights him in on the Machine gunner. They range and correct as best they can and fire. the Round is painted for the Round by the Spotter. as the round closes in it adjusts to hit pinpoint center of mass. that’s what DARPA wants. Hospital is not touched. Enemy is suppressed Friendly unit is now open to operate or evac.

  • hydepark

    Hopefully when I’m ready to retire (40+ years from now) stuff like this and tracking point will be cheap add-ons or stock options on many platforms. It will either be that or highly banned and/or regulated.

    Is there any info on how far off the EXACTO can be fired and still achieve a hit?

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

      I wouldn’t be surprised if they will be cheap add -ons. Of course who knows what the government will be like then!

      • hydepark

        I would even be ok with stuff like Matt Damon had in Elysium with air burst rounds and guided optics. I want that AK BAD. I will only use it responsibly. Promise.

        • Patrick Mingle

          Yea I think its safe to say air burst isn’t going civilian

          • hydepark

            I wouldn’t mind doing a little civil disobedience if it got me sweet ordnance. Depends on where technology goes, too. 3D printing is still young.

          • jcitizen

            Just pay the tax stamp! HA!

  • BattleshipGrey

    I’m guessing that the Tracking Point system cost far less to research and produce than EXACTO. Which begs the questions of how much money DID darpa sink into EXACTO and how long have they been working on it?

    • LCON

      Tracking point is maybe two years old now?The first mention of Exacto is 2009.

      Firearms Blog first cover is

      http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2012/01/31/the-first-self-guided-bullet/

    • vb

      Except, that the Tracking Point doesn’t solve the problem of needing to learn to how to call wind This does.

      • LCON

        well not yet

        • Rusty Shackleford

          Tracking Point could/should add something like a Horus with an input for a kestrel. Then they could sell the entire unit as a stand alone add-on for any rifle much like a standard day scope is.

          • LCON

            Well not exactly, the weather station may be a option for there future expansion. But a plug and play Trackingpoint system is more complicated. The closest is the Remington 2020 but its missing a few parts from the full system as as such will only do some of the adjustments. The 2020 is really just the ballistics computer the range finder and the optics. Control is the key of the full functions of the TP system. TrackingPoint does not just make there rifles for fun they do it for uniformity. Its a standard gage which they have precisely calculated all the variables of then at its heart of that is the ballistics data regarding bullet and rifle performance and the electronic Trigger modification. Using the calculations the TP gages the rise and placement for the target. Using the trigger and its modified sear the system times the shot. Hence why in all the videos the shooter pulls the trigger and then waits. The sear is being held back until the computer says the point of impact is within a set margin of error.
            what is needed for wind is a second system. A wind sensor that gages not only the wind at the muzzle break but at regular intervals along the projected bullet flight path to point of impact.

      • J.T.

        I am pretty sure Tracking Point just has you input the wind speed and direction and it does the calculations for you. All you need is a kestrel.

    • Zachary marrs

      Id ratger see how much funding darpa gets overall, it almost seems like they do this stuff for shits and giggles

  • John Dalton

    Interesting…design a bullet that allows a complete novice to be deadly accurate at a great distance….hmmm….no potential downside here….

    • Zachary marrs

      The various military programs to make rifles LESS accurate (project salvo, oicw, etc) ensures that this will be used very little. Im curious about the cost per round, and how the target is selected. I wonder if it can currently work with tracking point, between these two systems, thats 2/3rds of the setup, put some sort of drone in place of the human sniper, and boom, prototype terminator. Now to make some thermite….

  • clinton notestine

    slap a couple Barretts on a UAV

    • Patrick Mingle

      Dear lord. Sky assassin robots. Someone call Michael Bay!

    • Zachary marrs

      I dont know if you care or not, but I once made a drone out of a cannibalized rc airplane, a lego mindstorms nxt, and a nerf gun hooked up to a co2 canister, so all youd need to do is find a large rc airplane, and the nearest lego store, and you’re set. You also might want to get a lawyer, just in case

    • bbmg

      Why a Barrett when you have gravity on your side?

      A M82A1 weights 30lb. For the same weight, you could carry 30 x 1 lb steel rods. Dropped from 25,000 feet, one of those would have more energy on target than the Barrett has at the muzzle. All that with no noise, flash, and no need to make the aircraft strong enough to resist he recoil.

  • Zachary marrs

    They made this movie retroactively plausible, and I dont like it

    • bbmg

      If they could make it looks like this it would be fantastic:

    • NotHCE

      Google “Runaway 1984″

  • kev

    I once read that firearms innovation was dead, but there has been some serious advancement’s in recent years mostly ammo and sighting systems. Will this be using Sandia labs own bullet or will the be in competition?

    • Patrick Mingle

      I think a lot of it has to do with major advances in technology trickling down to the firearms industry. Advancements in firearms tech is a lot slower moving than others because it is not as easy to create a firearms start-up and a lot of the people who have a great idea might have no way of creating a prototype due to regulations

  • An Interested Person

    Um… am I the only one who finds this level of technology in a fired bullet to be terrifying?

    • gunsandrockets

      If it’s any consolation, a Javelin ATGM might be cheaper. Dead is dead.

      • gunslinger

        why not just drop a nuke? :-) dead is really dead :-)

        • Zachary marrs

          Or wait a while, ded is ded

    • me ohmy

      nope.. I love a guaranteed hit

  • Secundius

    Yeah, I read a Developmental Study Report, ah couple years ago about it. Technology has sure come a long way, from the Smooth-Bore, Muzzle-Loading Match-Lock hasn’t it.

  • Patrick Mingle

    My question is whether they come up with names like EXACTO and then figure out what the acronym will stand for or did they really want to call it Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordinance

  • sam

    well dang , sorta there but not quite https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRQqieimwLQ

    • gunslinger

      man, beat me! incendiary, meaning heat seeking! with the shoulder thing that goes up?

  • gunsandrockets

    Holy crap! No one seems to have mentioned the most important tactical advantage in long range sniping this ‘golden BB’ enables, the ability to hit a target that moves AFTER the trigger is pulled.

  • 101nomad

    This could be better than fragging. Less collateral damage.

  • Chikochi

    Now all it needs to do is be able to track a moving target and warfare is changed forever.

  • Ken

    Diane Feinstein just got a leg tingle.

  • Jamie Clemons

    Just point in the general direction close your eyes and jerk the trigger. But how much per round?

    • Secundius

      This bullet is NEVER going to be available to the general public. Because, before politicians have the Secret Service or Private Bodyguards. This bullet makes the protective and protection services, IRRELEVANT and OBSOLETE!

      This bullet is going to be protect and maintain, as if it were a Nuclear Weapon. The potential wrongful use as an assignation “One Round Only Kill”, bullet is just too great.

      • Jamie Clemons

        Never?

  • gfr

    This is a really stupid idea.
    .
    The whole point of using a .50 caliber round in a sniper rifle is because the 700 grain bullet maintains a high speed out to long ranges – something that the 180 grain bullets of earlier sniper rifles didn’t do.
    .
    That is important because it means that the target will have less time to move away from the point of impact before the bullet gets there.
    .
    But if the bullet has terminal guidance what difference does it make if the target has moved six inches or six feet by the time the bullet gets there?
    .
    A better idea would be to put a terminal guidance package into a 40mm grenade. A dedicated grenade launcher like the M79 weighs only 6 pounds compared to 30 pounds for the M82 sniper rifle. A 40mm grenade would have a lot more space to put the guidance package into compared to a .50 caliber bullet, and the G-force experienced by the grenade is a lot less than the G-force experienced by the bullet on firing, so the guidance package wouldn’t have to be hardened as much to withstand G. These two things would mean that the individual rounds could be made more cheaply. Finally the explosive nature of the grenade would result in a larger kill radius when the round reached the target, and sniper training would be considerably simplified.
    .
    In the future we might see snipers carrying 40-50 40mm guided grenades, (at 0.5 lbs per round that would be 20-25 lbs, the .50 caliber cartridge weighs a third of a pound), an improved version of the M-79, a night vision system based on Google glass that could provide real time imagery from drones and satellites, and an MP7 for house clearing and personal defense.

  • Secundius

    Yeah, now that’s what I would call a Surgical Hit.

  • 1911a145acp

    Seems like a lot of R&D and $ to get a non explosive 12.7mm bullet to hit a target slightly more accurately. It could make significant improvements on movers. Perhaps they are thinking the sniper will be completely in defilade and firing “over the hill”? A Tracking point/BORS type system made smaller would accomplish 90 % same first round hits for MUCH less $. Still, the Tech has other applications- A single operator, man portable, repeater rifle, firing laser guided explosive explosive ROFOUS rounds or a 14.5mm or 20mm APIT rounds would be a game changing force multiplier.