New DARPA round

SAWMAN

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Pardon me if this has already been posted guys, but I had gotten a call not long ago about this development and I just saw it already posted on Wiki!

DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has developed the EXACTO program, .50 caliber bullets complete with microprocessors and steering vanes that allow the bullet to adjust its trajectory mid-flight to stay on target when the flight path has been altered by uncontrollable variables.
 

TheSiatonist

Designated Hoops Sniper!
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Fire-and-forget... man, that's awesome. :)

Making the Deadly Accurate Deadlier by Improving Sniper Capabilities

American snipers are already among the best-trained, best-equipped and most-feared marksmen on the battlefield. However, their dead-on accuracy, as proven again and again in special ops and open conflicts, is about to get even better. Remember those old cartoons where the villain would shoot at the fleeing Bugs Bunny with bullets that could turn corners? We do not exactly have that kind of technology yet, but the idea of self-guided bullets is no longer a laughing matter and is being taken quite seriously by DARPA and the Pentagon as part of the Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO), next generation Sniper Rifle Program. “The sniper’s role has increased as peace keeping and nation building often put our forces in vulnerable positions.​

The EXACTO program works to ensure their security, reduce the risk level to the shooter to the barest possible via extreme precision, and all the while keeping a minimal force footprint. The basic concept of the EXACTO program is to remove the effect on accuracy of target motion and random variances in the environment through use of a guided bullet,” Lyndall Beamer, DARPA-TTO program manager for EXACTO, said in an exclusive interview with SOTECH. The EXACTO program began a little over a year ago, and remains shrouded in highly classified secrecy since BAA-08-19 was issued by DARPA, which read in part: “The ability to more accurately prosecute targets at significantly longer range would provide a dramatic new capability to the U.S. military.”​
The request for the development of the next generation supergun included the ability to control the bullet after it was fired. The BAA continued, “The use of an actively controlled bullet will make it possible to counter environmental effects such as crosswinds and air density, and prosecute both stationary and moving targets while enhancing shooter covertness.”​

This concept is known as fire-and-forget technology. According to Beamer, fire-and-forget technology is the ability of a missile or other guided round to hit a target without further guidance after launch. For the EXACTO such fire-and-forget methodologies are designed to account for random variances on the battlefield. “Such variances cannot be accounted for in the initial aim-point, and include unknown winds, range to target, altitude differences between shooter and target, and round to round differences among other factors. One benefit of this will be that for long-range shots, or shots in adverse conditions, EXACTO will no longer require snipers to take several calibration shots to ‘walk’ to the target, thus warning the target, and risk revealing their position.”​

According to the BAA, such fire-and-forget technologies on the .50-caliber EXACTO could include “fin-stabilized projectiles, spinstabilized 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.”​

In other words, bullets that once fired at a specific target literally fly themselves into it by changing shape to accommodate shifts in wind or other conditions between it and the target.​

The goal for the EXACTO is to achieve a weapon system that can do this and at the same time be no heavier than the combined 46-pound weight of the current M107 sniper rifle and all its associated gear, nor exceed its $11,000 price tag.​

A tall order, but in November 2008, DARPA announced the award of BAA EXACTO contracts to Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, based in Texas, in the amount of $12.3 million, and Teledyne Scientific & Imaging LLC of California for $9.5 million.​

Although performance objectives for the specific range, accuracy and target speed parameters of the system remain classified, publicly released descriptions outline the usual DARPA BAA three-phased program. According to Beamer, “Results to date have been very promising. Great progress has been made on two key technical challenges: the ability to communicate with the bullet in flight and the ability to then change the bullet’s course. The program is currently mid-way through Phase I. The object of this phase is to experimentally demonstrate all key components, though not yet have them integrated into a functioning system. The end product of Phase I will be a hardware-in-the-loop (HITL) simulation, which ties actual 1x hardware together in a software environment to evaluate system performance. Phase II will then demonstrate a working prototype.”​

The reason for the call for the EXACTO supergun is twofold. One, given the nature of the current theaters of engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan, the use of snipers attached to combat units has increased from 250 on average to over 800. Add to that the “sniper’s conundrum.” Snipers must be as sure as possible of making their shots before firing and exposing themselves to potential return fire. A system like EXACTO that conceivably increases the snipers’ accuracy from a greater, safer range will increase the likelihood of both taking the shot and hitting the target. “EXACTO will change the attack geometry profile dramatically in that it will allow persecution of targets that cannot currently be engaged because of range, terrain, wind, target motion or other factors,” said Beamer. He continued, “This will greatly increase the effectiveness of snipers, as their shot accuracy becomes independent of environmental conditions, while also increasing sniper safety by allowing much greater standoff distances.”​

Lieutenant Colonel Tom Henthorn, chief, Small Arms Branch, Soldier Requirements Division, U.S. Army Infantry Center, is certainly familiar with the challenges facing today’s snipers, and can see the value of a weapon like EXACTO. “You have to understand the physics because physics isn’t just a good idea, it’s the law. So bullet design and understanding what it takes to minimize environmental impacts, especially as you move downrange, is critical. Obviously weapon design and repeatability are important. From the Army Research Labs to the Army Marksmanship Unit to the operational experience our snipers bring to the table, we know a lot about the technical, tactical and practical aspects of delivering precision effects. In the future, you may see terminal guidance flow to smaller calibers, so that could mitigate some of the aim and environmental factors that drive effect.”​

SPECIAL BREED, SPECIAL WEAPONRY

Sniping requires taking basic infantry and riflery skills to their highest degree of perfection. Sniper training is multifaceted, and designed to maximize the sniper as a valuable asset, and to ensure his survival on the battlefield. The sniper is the precision surgeon of the combat zone. He alone must have the ability to methodically and deliberately kill targets that may not pose an immediate threat to him. The sniper must be above the emotions of anxiety or remorse.​

While many of those with such nerves of steel can’t wait to wrap their fingers around the triggers of an EXACTO rifle, snipers already use some incredibly accurate and futuristic precision small arms in theater right now. Snipers regularly take out trucks and other vehicles at distances of 2,000 yards—and bad guys routinely at upwards of 800 yards. For the Army, that is usually accomplished with the M107, made by Barrett Firearms of Tennessee. The M107 started life as the Barrett M82 semi-auto .50-caliber series. The gun became designated the M107 after winning the XM107 contest and has been recently put into service in operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.​

The M107 system is not very different from Barrett’s M82A1 .50-caliber weapon in use by the Marine Corps.​
The M107 is said to have an accurate range of 1,500 meters for personnel, and 2,000 meters to engage vehicles or other material targets. The weapon represents what Henthorn describes as a sniper system rather than merely a sniper rifle.​

“For several years now, we’ve really pushed an effects-based approach to understanding soldier system lethality, where optics can be a huge multiplier, reticule design, ergonomics, etc.,”​

Henthorn said. In the case of the M107, that system includes the rifle of course, a 10-round magazine, a Leupold 4.5x14 Vari-X scope, transport cases, cleaning and maintenance gear, sling, and an adjustable bipod. There are currently plans for the Army to add flash and noise suppressors to the system. Henthorn was quick to point out that no matter how good any sniper system is, “the weapon, optics and ammo can only be as good as the trained operator.”​

Case in point, British sniper Corporal Christopher Reynolds, of 3 Scots, the Black Watch, recently took out a Taliban commander from over 1,800 meters—or more than 1.15 miles! The commander was believed to be responsible for orchestrating many attacks against British and American troops since the outbreak of hostilities in Afghanistan. Reynolds made the shot this past August with a rifle manufactured by U.K.’s Accuracy International: the L96A1.​

 
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