Updated 6:02 PM EDT, Wed, Apr 01, 2020

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DARPA’s EXACTO Guided .50-caliber Bullet Just Got a Lot Smarter


(Photo : DARPA) EXACTO .50 caliber smart round.

A laser-riding and maneuvering .50-caliber round named EXACTO revealed two years ago by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) now has the capability to change direction in mid-flight to match a change in direction by its target.

EXACTO is the world's first guided small caliber bullet, claims DARPA. EXACTO stands for Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance.

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When revealed in 2014, EXACTO was billed as a small arms munition that followed a laser beam onto a static target. This special round was developed to increase the lethality of U.S. snipers on the battlefield.

In 2016, however, DARPA and the U.S. Army successfully tested a .50-caliber sniper round that changed direction in mid-flight in response to a target's movements.

DARPA noted that for U.S. military snipers, acquiring moving targets in unfavorable conditions such as high winds and dusty terrain commonly found in Afghanistan is extremely challenging with current technology.

It said it's critical "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."

DARPA said EXACTO is a "laser riding round" that zeroes in on energy of a targeting laser. It noted that 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."

DARPA said the objective of the EXACTO program is to "revolutionize rifle accuracy and range by developing the first ever guided small-caliber bullet.

EXACTO's .50-caliber round and optical sighting technology should greatly extend the day and night time range over current state-of-the-art sniper systems, according to DARPA.

"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."

Phase II of the EXACTO program includes the design, integration and demonstration of aero-actuation controls, power sources, optical guidance systems and sensors.

DARPA said the program's next phase includes a system-level live-fire test and technology refinement to enhance and improve performance.

California's Teledyne Scientific & Imaging LLC runs the program at the behest of DARPA. How exactly the bullets manages to change direction is a closely guarded secret, however.

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