Guided Bullets Change Direction In Mid-Flight

By Brent McKnight | Updated

WantedGuided bullets have figured prominently in a great many sci-fi films over the years. There’s all sorts of bullet-bending in movies like Wanted, and KISS bass player, and long-tongue-haver, Gene Simmons even puts them to use when hunting down Tom Selleck in the Michael Crichton-directed Runaway in 1984. They are also one of the latest genre inventions to make the leap from science fiction to science fact, and are another tool to allow people with less than stellar aim to become competent snipers right alongside of their more eagle-eyed comrades.

DARPA—of course it’s DARPA—is working on hard at work on a project called EXACTO, which, though it is a rather adorable acronym, stands for Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordinance. The full name sounds way more scary and sinister, and way less cuddly. These new projectiles will allow shooters to course correct bullets in mid-flight to account for any changes that may occur in the relatively short time span that elapses between muzzle and target.

The aim of EXACTO is give snipers an advantage when faces with tough conditions like strong winds and dusty conditions, which sounds like many regions in places like Afghanistan and the Middle East. It will also provide an additional edge when they have to track a moving target from a great distance. They will, ideally, be able to sight targets with greater speed and accuracy, and since hitting a target the first time will allow them to remain hidden and not give away their position, it should allow for greater soldier safety.

These new .50-caliber EXACTO rounds combine real-time guidance systems with a maneuverable bullet, allowing the projectile to alter its path in mid-air, offsetting any factors that may force it off course. Check out this video of the new technology in action.

EXACTO may still be in the development stages, but it is moving along at a nice clip. Phase II of the continuing process will include “design, integration and demonstration of aero-actuation controls, power sources, optical guidance systems, and sensors. The program’s next phase includes a system-level live-fire test and technology refinement to enhance and improve performance.”

If you haven’t seen Runaway, or it’s been a good long while between viewings, here is a clip of those heat-seeking bullets we were talking about earlier. While EXACTO isn’t quite up to this level yet, it’s a big step in this direction.