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Military tests 'smart bullet'

Sniper in Afghanistan
Sniper in Afghanistan
Photo by John Cantlie/Getty Images

First the art of war was changed with the introduction of smart bombs which hit their targets with astonishing accuracy. Now, according to a Friday story in the Washington Times, DARPA has perfected a sniper rifle that shoots what is in effect a smart bullet. The new bullet is a 50 caliber round called the Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordinance (EXACTO). It performed a successful test last April.

The way EXACTO works is that it uses an laser optical targeting system to guide it to its intended destination, generally the head or body of an enemy. The bullet can literally change its trajectory in flight to compensate for unexpected factors such as wind. They are about four inches long with sensors on the tips to detect the lasers directed at the target. The system will keep the bullet on course to its target by adjusting tiny fins.

Once the system becomes operational, it will have a number of effects on how snipers engage the enemy on the battlefield. A sniper will now be able to fire at target from greater distances than has previously been possible. He will also be able to take a shot in less time than it has previously taken as well. The smart bullet makes the elimination of a target with one shot far more likely, increasing the effectiveness of a sniper.

While snipers have been around practically since the dawn of rifled fire arms, they have come into their own in modern warfare. The development of modern targeting technology coupled by the desire for more precision warfare have combined to make the modern sniper a crucial part of waging and prevailing in a modern conflict. Some snipers, such as the late Chris Kyle, have become celebrities thanks to their exploits in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The idea of using a sniper is to take out an enemy, such as a battlefield leader or someone up to mischief like setting an IED, from such a great distance that the source of the fire is undetectable. The killing of one enemy has the salutary effect of terrorizing those around him and causing them to take cover. The EXACTO smart bullet promises to increase the ability of a sniper to wreck death and havoc on an enemy thus.