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The Military

DARPA Successfully Demonstrates Self-Guiding Bullets 188

Posted by Soulskill
from the jerks-with-aim-bots dept.
Lucas123 writes: A DARPA-funded project has successfully developed a .50 caliber sniper round capable of maneuvering during flight in order to remain on target. The self-guiding EXACTO bullet, as it's being called, is optically guided by a laser that must remain on target for the bullet to track. The EXACTO round is capable of accurately tracking a target up to 1.2 miles away, DARPA stated. The technology, which is being developed by Teledyne Scientific and Imaging, is targeted at helping snipers remain at longer distances from targets as well as improving night shots. While DARPA's tracking bullet is the first to use a standard, small-arms caliber round, in 2012 Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) successfully demonstrated a prototype self-guided bullet that was more like like a four-inch dart.

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DARPA Successfully Demonstrates Self-Guiding Bullets

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  • No fair (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11, 2014 @04:44PM (#47434175)

    Cheaters! Who's the admin? We need to ban those losers.

  • A .50cal round shot out of either a M2 machine gun, or M82 or one of it's many variants is scary enough. Now to have a round that can guide itself? Downright creepy.
    • by TeknoHog (164938)
      An automatic grenade launcher (aka grenade machine gun) was one of the most awesome/fun things to use back in the day. Having one with self-guided shells would be joygastic.
      • You shouldn't even need that with grenades, as they don't exactly require a precise hit. Precise airburst (within, say, within a feet along the trajectory) is probably a better and cheaper options for those, the way that XM25 CDTE does it. Among other things, no mechanical parts should be required.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by harrkev (623093)

      Actually, this should not be scary at all! You just need to figure out the frequency and modulation of the laser used. Then, just make sure that you have such a laser pointed at the guy beside you. You are suddenly safe from snipers! Just make sure that you do not like the guy beside you.

      Seriously, the only way this could be spoof-proof is to modulate the laser with some type of crypto.

      • Re:Creepy (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Friday July 11, 2014 @05:25PM (#47434433)

        Seriously, the only way this could be spoof-proof is to modulate the laser with some type of crypto.

        In practice, by the time you realize that a sniper was targeting you, it is too late to start spoofing.

        • Seriously, the only way this could be spoof-proof is to modulate the laser with some type of crypto.

          In practice, by the time you realize that a sniper was targeting you, it is too late to start spoofing.

          Which is why you should do it all the time.

          Hey, maybe this is why everyone in "futuristic" movies walks around in full-body tinfoil...

        • I think the point is that important figures could have several "dummy" lasers present at all times to fool the bullet into going elsewhere. It would act similar to any other frequency jammer.
          • by sumdumass (711423)

            It would probably be easier to have a couple cameras capable of seeing infrared and ultraviolet. You will see the laser on target and can just remove yourself from the area before the trigger is pulled.

            • It would probably be easier to have a couple cameras capable of seeing infrared and ultraviolet. You will see the laser on target and can just remove yourself from the area before the trigger is pulled.

              An obvious countermeasure would be to have the laser turn on only when the trigger is pulled. With a velocity of about a km per sec, the bullet won't give you much time to "remove yourself from the area".

              But all these silly scenarios about "always on" spoofing, and arrays of cameras, are not realistic. Most of America's likely adversaries are not sophisticated. The likely target of this weapon is going to be some impoverished kid wiring up a dud mortar round as an IED by the side of the road.

              • by sumdumass (711423)

                You are probably correct.

                However, you would think that the laser would need to be sighted separate from the gun. In order to compensate for gravity, the barrel of the gun is usually lifted so the trajectory is an arch of sorts rather than a straight line. A laser on the other hand, while also suffering from gravity, will not be near as much or even notifiable. This isn't a problem with handguns because the range they are used in is so close that gravity doesn't take hold. Long shots will require a lot of co

                • by goarilla (908067)
                  C'mon the effect of gravity on photons is negligable even at ranges of 1-2 km. How much is the drop after 7 microseconds of travel time (~250 micrometers if my math is correct, but I doubt it) ?
              • An obvious countermeasure would be to have the laser turn on only when the trigger is pulled. With a velocity of about a km per sec, the bullet won't give you much time to "remove yourself from the area".

                So it'll be easy to recognise the important bad-guy because he'll be the one wearing the MILES gear [wikipedia.org], a second doesn't give you enough time to vacate the area, but you only have to move farther that the bullet has time to correct.

                The likely target of this weapon is going to be some impoverished kid wiring up a dud mortar round as an IED by the side of the road.

                Yeah right, the chain of command is going to authorize shooting a $50K bullet at a kid; also if somebody has to paint the target, then only a few dollars more gets you a live video feed so command can watch and control any engagements. I see this as being a replacement for the AGM-1 [wikipedia.org]

              • by DarkOx (621550)

                I would think it would be a matter of how much contrast this thing needs to "see" the counter obvious counter measure would be to "light up" areas where a someone is likely to be a target with light of the same wavelength but from an omnidirectional source. So the bullet can see the spot the laser is painting against the background.

                Should be fairly easy for situations like the inside of a car an important person travels in, and the outside of residences and office buildings and such. Now if you are the im

          • by harrkev (623093)

            You got it. Lasers are cheap... electronics are cheap... batteries are cheap... spoofing is cheap.

            Really, as an engineer, I can imagine two ways for this thing to work, and it depends on if the projectile spins. Typically, bullets spin so that they act as gyroscopes -- always pointing the same direction (YouTube has videos of guys firing pistols into ice -- ice stops bullet which just sits there and spins like a top).

            If the projectile spins, you can, in theory, guide it with a single fin that can extend o

            • What I've pieced together is it's a 50 cal smooth-bore discarding sabot system, the round is aerodynamically stable with the center of gravity ahead of the aerodynamic center and is fin stabilized. The round has no inertial guidance so I assume that it wouldn't be able to use nutating scanning techniques and any spin would be unnecessary complication.
              Cryptographic modulation, more likely none in the first interation, then a very profitable MWO to add a simple coherency signal adapted by reading a barcode o

          • I think the point is that important figures could have several "dummy" lasers present at all times to fool the bullet into going elsewhere.

            Then target the "dummy" lasers with an area weapon, such as a cluster bomb.

            It would act similar to any other frequency jammer.

            "Always on" jammers tend to have very short lifetimes on the modern battlefield.

        • by Greyfox (87712)
          Apparently you haven't seen Kim Jon Un's laser disco ball.
      • by andydread (758754)
        The problem with this is that a simple laser detection kit will now warn you that a sniper is training a laser on you.
      • Or you have each bullet programmed to track one of thirty different laser frequencies. And then have the gun read the frequency from the bullet and produce the correct frequency laser.

    • by peragrin (659227)
      First this, Ars Linux Powered Scope [arstechnica.com]

      And now a self guiding bullet. Next thing you know they will scale the XM 25 down to fifty caliber rounds that explode at set at the time of fire distances.
  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Friday July 11, 2014 @04:58PM (#47434245) Homepage

    Imagine a round that *avoids* a target. No more friendly fire!

    • by Trepidity (597)

      That would require some target-identification, while this is just target-tracking. You point at a target and shoot, and the system makes sure the target is hit. Now it could avoid any target you try to shoot at, but that would be a bit silly: a good way to make sure all your bullets miss is to just not fire them!

    • by neiras (723124)

      Imagine a round that *avoids* a target. No more friendly fire!

      Neat idea!

      On the other hand, someone will probably develop "dazzlers" that send guided bullets off course.

      Imagine - bank robber keeps lasers pointed at his hostages and dares the cops to take the shot.

      • by r1348 (2567295)

        ...and gets promptly taken down by a dumb old bullet.

        • by neiras (723124)

          ...and gets promptly taken down by a dumb old bullet.

          Assuming dumb bullets haven't been made illegal by that point. The population will demand it! Anything that can be done to reduce deadly error, right? /s

      • by AK Marc (707885)
        You just turn off the tracking and put the .50 through his head.
    • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday July 11, 2014 @05:13PM (#47434331)

      Rest assured that a hack is already in the making.

      I don't get the US. I mean, by now you should have noticed that the bigger and more complicated the technology, the more you play into your opponent's hands. First of all, you're using high tech weapons in a low tech war. You can't really fire any round anymore that doesn't cost you more than what your target cost your enemy. Welcome to asymmetric warfare. I don't know why I have to say it, I thought it's obvious: You're essentially in the unfunny situation the British were in when you had your fight for independence. And on top of it you also have to pose as the good guy, you can't even simply level the land and bury what's living under the rubble.

      In basically all the wars the US had gotten into lately, they had the superior technology and the inferior position. Let's look at the stats. The US is fighting an enemy who not only doesn't give half a shit about collateral damage (the US at least have to pretend they care, so they can't use the aforementioned "scorched earth" tactics), an enemy that does not identify itself as such (so pretty much anyone and everyone could be hostile), while at the same time those that are NOT hostile may not be touched (since the US want to be the "good" guy and the backlash is considerable when something surfaces). And unlike the average US soldier, the enemy doesn't even give a shit whether he survives the war.

      That's not a position from which you can win a war. The US loses unless they win, their enemy wins as long as they don't lose. That cannot be won in a scenario where your enemy is in a position where it does not matter to him how many resources he loses as long as he can inflict damage on you.

      Precision bombing and precision shooting is a fine thing if you have a target. That's the main problem the US is facing today. It's trivial for them to eliminate any target anywhere on the planet. The problem is FINDING it.

      • I don't get the US. I mean, by now you should have noticed that the bigger and more complicated the technology, the more you play into your opponent's hands. First of all, you're using high tech weapons in a low tech war. You can't really fire any round anymore that doesn't cost you more than what your target cost your enemy.

        Off topic, I admit, but this reminds me of the current Isreal/Hamaas conflict. Just launch simple, dumb, and cheap unguided rockets from the Gaza Strip. Isreal has an "Iron Dome" defense system that is supposedly pretty effective at stopping them -- at $1,000,000 per shot. Great way to bankrupt an enemy...

        • That's the key in asymmetric warfare. Basically what you need is:

          - An expendable population that is not only willing to fight but also to die for you, your goal, your god, whatever.
          - Cheap weapons (manpower is no issue, people are cheap)
          - And enemy who doesn't have the two above.

          If you can muster that, you have won. There is no way short of total annihilation that you could possibly lose.

          • It ought to be possible to possible to engage with cheap smart weapons against such enemy. E.g., taking out people with Hellfires from drones seems incredibly costly when a precision barrel weapon could do the same job, especially using a gun computer.
            • It already starts at you having to get that weapon platform to the point where you can fire it. You have to build the weapon platform, you have to build the targeting computer, and then you have to move that all to where you want to employ it. And all that to (hopefully) hit a person who may or may not be still there when you get there and who may or may not be an actual target for you.

              In turn, your enemy just needs to send a suicide jockey to your well known base and blow up the checkpoint at the entrance.

              • Regarding the first, I simply meant that there's no reason to use *mismatched* smart weapons, which are ridiculously expensive. Regarding the second, well, that seems to be a problem with the area security. Can't we use, e.g., milliwave imagers to detect people with suspicious things under their clothes already from a distance?
                • You could simply shoot whoever comes closer than the "stop and don't come closer or be shot" signs.

                  KISS, not everything needs a technical solution.

        • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Friday July 11, 2014 @05:39PM (#47434529)

          Actually, it's something like $50k-$70k per shot, not $1M, and it can automatically scratch out those projectiles heading into uninhabited areas from its target list. And whenever it destroys a projectile heading for a building or some inhabited place, it not only saves lives but it also quite often saves more money than it costs (the building and infrastructure rebuilds can be costlier than the interceptors), so it really can be a cost-effective solution under the circumstances.

          Coming up (if successful): Iron Beam, the fiber-laser-powered interceptor with even better operating costs.

        • I seem to recall reading that the Iron Dome missiles were in the thousands of dollars per shot range, though with several sent after every target rocket. They only try to shoot down incoming rockets that will actually hit an occupied area, though.

        • Great way to bankrupt an enemy...

          Israel's defense budget, and a good chunk of Iron Dome in particular, is funded by the US taxpayer as a kickback scheme to funnel more money to US weaponry manufacturers. Israel only benefits when they have an excuse to fire their guns every once in a while since it keeps Congress from questioning why we give them so many billions in the name of "peace". 1984-style perpetual war is great for business.

      • by F34nor (321515) on Friday July 11, 2014 @05:18PM (#47434379)

        You are obviously not part of the military industrial complex! Fuck effective go expensive every time. For the price of one nuclear carrier we could have 50 diesel carrier groups with planes. I know professor that showed that for the price of 1 F14 you could equip a squadron of DeHavalin mosquitoes with Phoenix missiles. Stealth because they are made out of wood and 50 guided missiles will ace any fighter pilot in the sky.

        • No, I'm not part of the military industrial complex.

          I intend to win my wars. Not just get rich off them.

        • I'm not sure the US military would want to rely on strategic materials being sourced from Ecuador...
        • That pair of 27l V-12 Rolls-Royce Merlin engines may have been difficult to detect on 1940s radar equipment, but I doubt that is the case today.

          The great thing about the DeHaviland Mosquito, was that in the early years of the war, nothing else could keep up with it. It was quick, and could carry a useful bomb load.

        • For the price of one nuclear carrier we could have 50 diesel carrier groups with planes.

          Not a chance in hell. The cruisers, destroyers, and support ships that make up a carrier group along with the carrier cost a fair fraction of the cost of the carrier itself, and the air wing isn't cheap either.

          I know professor that showed that for the price of 1 F14 you could equip a squadron of DeHavalin mosquitoes with Phoenix missiles. Stealth because they are made out of wood and 50 guided missiles will ace

      • by alvinrod (889928)
        It's getting cheaper than ever before, not more expensive and the asymmetry is narrowing. Before we had to fire a cruise missile, now we're using drone strikes. A laser guided bullet that can be fired from almost 2 miles away that does even less collateral damage is even cheaper to use both in terms of material cost and politically when there aren't any innocent civilian casualties.

        Finding the target isn't going to be any more difficult. Imagine when something like Google Glass becomes ubiquitous and the
      • I don't know about US, but some other countries have noticed the pattern and revived some old designs. For example, apparently, turboprop bomber/assault aircraft are nearly perfect for "anti-insurgency" type of combat missions as seen in Iraq and Afghanistan - cheap, rugged, easy to operate, can take off and land from small and poorly maintained airstrips... and still more than capable of delivering death in droves from the sky while remaining effectively untouched.

        US itself has AC-130, which, I suppose, ki

      • by tomhath (637240)

        I don't get the US. I mean, by now you should have noticed that the bigger and more complicated the technology, the more you play into your opponent's hands.

        I don't think your comment applies in this case. Replace the UAV shooting a missile with a guy sitting a mile away and picking off your guys with a rifle. Cost effective and terrifying.

        • Considering the price to develop something (along with the price of training the guy), I prefer a bunch of low cost religious nuts with AKs in their hands.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        And thats why "hearts and minds" is so important, something few of the soldiers will accept despite it being part of their fucking orders. The only way to win is to get the population to turn against the antagonists who are hiding amongst them, rather than sheltering them and providing them with supplies.

    • This was my first thought as well. I feel like UAVs in particular from this technology, they could designate several targets from the sky and fire a few rounds, taking out the targets with no collateral damage. It could help save soldiers' lives as well, imagine them being able to designate targets from behind cover and shoot without revealing more than their hands. The potential really is limitless, hopefully this technology can be applied to less specialized uses than long-range sniping. Imagine computer-
    • by Reziac (43301) *

      Not a bad thought, if you don't mind very expensive ammo...

      Tho my first thought was to wonder how easily this could be misdirected by a competing targeting laser.

  • That's pretty scary to be honest, especially given the range. A sniper squad could very effective with quick extraction available.

    I wonder if the system supports a remote spotter (fire in general direction, bullet waits to find it's tracking laser at the remote point, the bullet would have to be able to handle dramatically different angles, and know where the spotter is I would think), someone closer in could more easily track movement or switch targets on the fly.

    It's cool though, that's for sure. They d

    • >. bullet waits to find it's tracking laser at the remote point, the bullet would have to be able to handle dramatically different angles, and know where the spotter is I would think), someone closer in could more easily track movement or switch targets on the fly.

      That sounds more like a job for a drone loitering overhead. A .50 round will be in the air for less than two seconds.

  • And the real end-goal... armed satellites. Put one up with a couple of thousand rounds and you'd only need drones to take out heavy armor. Basically anyone not in a bunker would become an easy target.

  • So teledyne will be able to use this technology to improve their water pics!

  • We are winning! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Friday July 11, 2014 @05:31PM (#47434485) Journal
    There is no question it is an amazing technology. As an engineer I can only say, wow!.

    But as a taxpayer ...

    And each bullet costs just two times the GDP of the entire village the terrorist is hailing from! And we will make up for it in volume too!

    Some times I wonder if it would be cheaper to feed, cloth, provide healthcare and house all the Afghans than what we spent on military over there. Afghanistan hardly has 30 million people. Per capita income is 500$ a year. Just 15 billion dollars total. We spent 1 trillion dollars in the war over there. Our government is borrowing at historically low rate, 10 year t-bills go at 2.5%, the interest charges on that debt alone is 25 billion dollars a year!

    I don't know if it would have worked. But the idea goes like, take a large well defended perimeter. Free food, clothing, hospitals and homes inside. Let people in after disarming them. Expand the area as more and more people move in. We might be able to take in 90% of the population inside, standing obediently at the breadline and the hospital waiting rooms. I don't know. May be an idiot slashdot keyboard warrior.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Its cheaper, but less effective.

      American "soft power" has been used across the world for decade and the sad truth is, in some places, it just doesn't work (in some places, it works fantastically). Even if you feed them, cloth them, house them and provide free healthcare, its not good enough. Some of them, they want jobs. Some of them, they want power. Some of them, they want to get the fuck out because they can't see themselves making a life for themselves there.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        What a load of condescending shit. If you Americans simply had taken out the bad apples and left, this would have been a minimal affair. Instead the Gleichgeschaltete Propaganda of the American Imperium told people that "now we have to build schools, and hospitals and and and".

        In reality, it was about the business of the war industry. The Afghans know who to police themselves and they simply don't want your hospitals. Because these come nicely packaged with an Edgar J. Hoover Secret Police. People who will

        • Re:We are winning! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by shutdown -p now (807394) on Friday July 11, 2014 @06:51PM (#47435135) Journal

          If you Americans simply had taken out the bad apples and left, this would have been a minimal affair. Instead the Gleichgeschaltete Propaganda of the American Imperium told people that "now we have to build schools, and hospitals and and and".

          If you don't build schools, the "bad apples" will be back in less than a generation. In a society that's so fucked up, people will inevitably turn to radical ideologies that blame all their troubles on external enemies.

          • by DrJimbo (594231)

            In a society that's so fucked up, people will inevitably turn to radical ideologies that blame all their troubles on external enemies.

            So true.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      And each bullet costs just two times the GDP of the entire village the terrorist is hailing from!

      Each bullet creates two more "terrorists", or "freedom fighters" as they were known back in the 80s when they were our friends.

      The best thing to do is provide aid from a distance, but otherwise don't get involved. No troops, no arming one side or the other, just food and medicine. The Islamists were losing until we destabilized those countries to the point where they could start winning.

      • by Nidi62 (1525137)

        Each bullet creates two more "terrorists",

        Not quite. Getting blown in half by a .50 round isn't exactly the best recruiting platform. Especially if they can't even spin it as a brave sacrifice facing the evil infidels/Zionists/whatevers. A bullet hitting from a mile away with no warning whatsoever is a very demoralizing thing. Terrorists actually would hate technology such as this because it is more accurate and reduces the chance of collateral damage. Collateral damage is what they want, because all their potential recruits/supporters see are

    • I am not US taxpayer so I don't give a shit how much such bullet costs. All I know that sometimes the SEALS or other special ops. unit serves to protect civilians. Hard to belive but that is its function. Put aside "the bad terrorists" and just focus on some scenarios in which such weapon would be extremely useful despite its cost... like I don't know... maybe it is some stupid Hollywood style example but - Maersk Alabama incident. AFAIK snipers did excellent job then and if such weapon could help in such s

  • by scarboni888 (1122993) on Friday July 11, 2014 @05:33PM (#47434493)

    Or as Roger Waters put it: The Bravery of Being Out of Range.

    • Funny, the US Army would like nothing more than a straight-up fight in Afghanistan. And yet the enemy hides among civilians and blows up schools and churches. Where's the shaming for the enemy? Oh, that's right, you don't do that. Only Americans can be wrong.
  • Put a bunch of laser light sensors into the armys jackets, helmets and pants that would detect a laser light sweeping the person targetted and then immediately respond by shooting the same color laser down toward the ground from the helmet to make the bullet have to guess what the real target is (a bunch of dots preferably). While doing that the direction and location of the shooter could be determined by the sensors so retaliation could be swift. Or in cartoon style just have the sensors automatically ma
    • by PPH (736903)

      A reflector like one of those disco balls. When illuminated by a laser, it breaks up the beam and illuminates a number of spots on surrounding objects. Passive defense. No sensors/electronics required.

  • Hmmmm, if it has guidance in the bullet, does that mean you need to fire it out of a smoothbore barrel?

    Also, where is the computer assisted laser pointer?

  • This system isn't guided but you can preselect your target and enable the rifle.
    When you aim where the computer predicts impact it will automatically fire.

    http://tracking-point.com/prec... [tracking-point.com]

  • I could get tired of these click-bait sensationalized titles. It's clear even in the summary that the bullet is human-guided. Ok, it can redirect itself in flight, that's cool, but that's not remotely what we were told.
  • I'm sure this technology isn't cheap. They should make it so once it penetrates a target it comes out the other side and flies right back to the sniper so he can reuse it on the next target -- otherwise it's a waste of some pretty expensive technology!

  • I am extremely sorry, but if we "Humans" can't learn to live without this type of nonsense and live peacefully together as one people on one Planet; then maybe it's time to pull the plug on this Civilization. We have brainwashed ourselves in such an extreme fashion that we allow our primitive side to completely engulf our ability to reason.

  • Geeze, how hard is that to get right?!

    That said, a self-guided bullet would be a small, fast, deadly autonomous robot ... which would be cool except that it would only be as useful as its range. You would need a very unique use-case to justify it's use over say, a dumb area weapon.

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