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DARPA made a .50-caliber bullet that can change direction mid-shot

The future is terrifying.


Patrick Howell O'Neill


Posted on Jul 14, 2014   Updated on May 30, 2021, 11:22 pm CDT

The future of war is a laser-guided bullet that can change direction and hit targets at a distance of over one mile away.

DARPA, the research arm of the Pentagon, has developed the EXACTO system to put a four-inch-long bullet with an optical laser sensor and an eight-bit central processing unit that can compute an algorithm to command electromagnetic steering to give the bullet its deadly precision.

Unlike most rifle bullets, EXACTO has no spin. Instead, it travels like an electronic dart with fins that can guide it in mid-air.

A sniper team can control the bullet after firing to ensure accuracy while compensating for weather, wind, target movement, and a range of other factors.

The EXACTO system isn’t the only ‘smart’ bullet out there. Sandia National Laboratory, which is operated by a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, in 2012 created a self-guided bullet. Computer aerodynamic modeling shows the Sandia design would result in dramatic improvements in accuracy, Sandia National Laboratory researcher Red Jones said in a statement

“Computer simulations showed an unguided bullet under real-world conditions could miss a target more than a half mile away (1,000 meters away) by 9.8 yards (9 meters), but a guided bullet would get within 8 inches (0.2 meters), according to the patent.”

The Sandia bullet, which is mostly focused on nighttime sniping at the moment, could be sold to military, law enforcement, and civilians, according to the researchers at Sandia.

Correction: DARPA and Sandia have created two different smart bullets. Sandia National Laboratory was not involved in the creation of EXACTO.

Photo by Sandia Labs/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0; used with permission)

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*First Published: Jul 14, 2014, 12:25 pm CDT