Attempts are regularly made creating high-precision weapons systems based on controlled bullets, but so far none of these developments could not go outside the polygon. A few years ago its own version of such system was developed by the American Agency DARPA. The works was guided bullet, EXACTO, partially confirming its ability on the shooting range.
Years of development
The DARPA program called EXACTO (Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance: “a Munition for extremely accurate tasks”; the abbreviation is also consistent with the brand name “precision” knives) started in 2008 as contractors were selected Lockheed Martin and Teledyne Scientific & Imaging.
As reported, the purpose of EXACTO was searching for a solution to create a high-precision bullet with homing or external control. You need to find the best option guidance, to find ways to stabilize and control the bullet in mid-flight, as well as to solve all the layout issues. Promising a bullet should perform in the dimensions of the existing articles for cartridge M33 .50 BMG (12,7х99 mm) for compatibility with a wide range of small arms.
To develop EXACTO was given a lot of time: the finished bullet is expected to be available by 2015 overall work missed in these terms, but it was soon stopped. The official resource of the DARPA EXACTO project is now listed as archived.
At the time, DARPA has published computer-generated image of a prospective controlled bullets and some information about its design. The remaining data, including interest, was not disclosed. Further published videos of test firings, allowing to draw some conclusions.
Small EXACTO complex included several key components: the managed bullet in the cartridge .50 BMG sniper rifle in this cartridge, and fire control required for precise aiming and control over the flight of a bullet. Unlike some other projects of this kind, EXACTO involved the use of mass-produced rifles, which was supposed to simplify further the deployment and use.
Accurate data on the type of guidance and management techniques are still a secret. In this maintain two main versions. The first involves the use of a full optical seeker, receiving the reflected signal of the laser light. The second offers a more easy solution in the form of “smart” opto-electronic sight and bullets with radio command guidance. Published materials and videos allow us to consider the second option more likely.
In this case, it should be considered that DARPA has refused a full homing in favor of remote control, and it is much easier and cheaper bullet. With this solution in a limited amount of bullets EXACTO are only a power source, a signal receiver, drives with rudders to control the trajectory and tracer.
The complex also includes an optical-electronic sight of the new type. It has day and night channels, laser rangefinder and is also equipped with electronics for processing data and a transmitter to control the bullet. While shooting this scope tracks the bullet’s tracer, calculates its trajectory and generates a command to maneuver to hit the target.
In 2014 in the footsteps of one of the test events, DARPA reported that the shooting complex is a new type of combat position has the lowest possible size and weight. Thus, the weight of the entire system does not exceed 46 lb (almost 21 kg). Given the weight of current large-caliber rifles, we can assume that “smart” sight for EXACTO weighs no more than 5-6 kg. batteries Available at that time provided work for 14 hours without recharging.
In the process of testing
By the beginning of 2014 the new shooting complex was ready for testing. In the winter of 2014, the prototype was delivered to the landfill and tested on the targets. Information about conducting such tests and a video of the flying bullets has published only a few months.
Posted video showed how a guided bullet flies in the direction of the target and on the final trajectory performs sharp maneuvers and hits the target. Testing demonstrated that the system is able to compensate for the deviation of the bullet due to incorrect initial pickup or the impact of external factors on the trajectory. Unfortunately, the video did not include specific data on range and accuracy.
It was reported that in 2014 the DARPA and Teledyne continued the refinement of the set and preparing for a new phase of testing. Another shooting took place in February of 2015, the material on them is published in April. This time the shooting was carried out at a moving target. The shooting drew both experienced snipers and shooters with insufficient training. In all cases, provided reliable defeat the purpose.
As it looked like the fire was not specified. Apparently, the shooter had to keep the aiming mark on the target, and the automation provided guidance bullets. Thus, the main and most difficult work performed electronics, unloading the person.
The project in archive
After April 2015, a new message about the EXACTO was not published. Notable achievements of the program, offensive to the agreed terms and the lack of news led to the emergence of the most interesting versions. In particular, foreign media appeared (and still appear) bold assumption that the property is brought to production and operation in the military – but in secrecy.
However, soon the official resource near DARPA EXACTO program appeared marked as “Archived”. For whatever reasons, a promising project was shelved. Work on it has still not resumed, although we can not exclude the use of experience in new development.
The pros and cons
Main technical details of EXACTO are still unknown. However, the available data allow us to evaluate the project and determine its strengths and weaknesses and to find possible reasons for the cessation of work.
The obvious advantage of EXACTO, repeatedly confirmed at the shooting range, is the possibility of aiming the bullet at the target across the range of the working range large-caliber rifles. Combined with the ability to calculate trajectories based on a number of different data it is in theory provides the highest accuracy.
Complex version with radio command guidance beneficial to look at the background of other similar developments. The bullet only with the Executive mechanisms easier and cheaper to create and manufacture than the product with a full GOS, but due to the “smart” scope shows at least not the worst characteristics.
The main drawback of EXACTO and other systems in this class is excessive cost. Bullet with special equipment in the tens or even hundreds of times more expensive than high-precision sniper ammunition with a “simple” bullet. High cost severely limits the use of guided bullets and makes them a Supplement to conventional ammunition for certain situations. The same generally applies to “smart” scope.
Product EXACTO was made in the form factor of the cartridge 12,7х99 mm, but snipers can be a necessary ammunition other calibers and dimensions. The ability to scale the managed bullets chambered in a smaller caliber and capacity raises legitimate doubts.
Thus, the result of the EXACTO program has become a very interesting and promising high-precision missile complex. However, its special features and high performance was obtained by not the most simple of devices and products that have a negative impact on the total cost. It is highly likely that it is because of unacceptable prices, the project did not develop and bring to adopting. However, this is not surprising. All previous projects of “smart” bullets stayed or due to excessive complexity, or because of too high prices. In the end, no army in the world has not yet received such munitions. And the project of the DARPA / Teledyne EXACTO has not changed this situation.
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