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Steerable bullet aims for mass army deployment ? The Register


Steerable bullet aims for mass army deployment Sniping’s not just for Special Forces anymore
By Iain Thomson in San Francisco
Posted in Science, 31st January 2012 01:16 GMT


Researchers at Sandia National Laboratory are developing a steerable bullet designed for general military use, giving the standard squaddie the capabilities of an advanced sniper.
Bullets that can adjust their flight have been under research for some time, and DARPA [1] is three years into research [2] into a steerable .50-caliber round for use by snipers dubbed EXACTO (EXtreme ACcuracy Tasked Ordnance). But the Sandia system is unusual in that it relies on a smooth bore barrel to fire the projectile, rather than the rifled guns used for the last few hundred years, and is intended for the average soldier to use in conjunction with existing kit.
“This is intended for Private Snuffy, not for a highly trained Special Forces guy,” Red Jones, Distinguished Member of Sandia's technical staff told The Register. “We’re making it simple for everyone to use.”
The bullet is a smooth 4-inch design, with plastic sabot coverings providing a gas seal, which slough off as it leaves the barrel to reveal the control fins that control pitch and yaw. A relatively simple eight-cell optical sensor is built into the tip of the round, and this guides the ordinance onto a target that has been lit up by a laser designator.

50calLaserGuided.jpg

Four inches of directed death (click to enlarge) [3]




The design calls for an eight-bit computer to guide the trajectory and control the fins, which is capable of making up to 30 adjustments a second to maintain course to the target. If the model goes to final production, Jones anticipates it would have a dedicated application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) controller for efficiency.
Jones said the round could be fired from a smooth-bore barrel that could be attached to the standard M2 heavy machine gun used by armed forces around the world. A swift barrel change would let army squads use the round to take out distant static or slow-moving targets, by lofting the shot high and then guiding it in by laser.

50calLaserFlight.jpg
A laser designator guides the round to its target (click to enlarge) [4]



The smooth-bore design has a number of technical advantages, Jones explained. Rifling spins standard bullets for accuracy, but this high rotation speed makes controlling the flight path very difficult. Eliminating rifling, paradoxically, helps with accuracy.
Bullets are usually at their most unstable shortly after leaving the barrel of a gun, since they are emerging from a tightly constrained environment at their maximum velocity. In shooting parlance a round is described as “
[5]” as it settles down on its trajectory, and the team showed this on video. But the steerable round handles the settling down process much more quickly and maintains better accuracy over longer distances.
Sandia is now looking for private companies to develop the patent-protected system to full production. While the technology is proven, more work is needed on the right propellant to get beyond the current 2,000 meter range. ®
Links
  1. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
  2. Yes! It's the Reg Top 5 FUTURISTIC GUNS Thanksgiving Roundup! ? The Register
  3. http://regmedia.co.uk/2012/01/31/sandia_bullet_large.jpg
  4. http://regmedia.co.uk/2012/01/31/sandia_bullet_flight_large.jpg
 

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That was an absolutely fascinating read.

Thanks for sharing it with us!
 

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What do you reckon that costs per round? Good antelope round but I reckon we will not be seeing that in the surplus stores anytime soon anyway.:D

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I just don't see it as being practical, even if it is possible. Sure Sandia has come up with some amazing things (I used to have friends that worked there on awesome projects), but this one just doesn't pass the sniff test. If they said an inch and a half, I'd believe it, but 1/2 inch. Nope. Not in the real world.
 

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The mass produced steerable bullet could be a cover story for some other improved sniping technology
that is about to start dropping bad guys like bug spray.
 

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So its basically a laser guided round fired from a magazine fed musket?

If it works it's very cool, and way unorthodox!
 

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Just read about this yesterday in my local newspaper. I suppose it is a good idea, but from an infantry perspective, it makes an old 11B like me obsolete!
 

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from an infantry perspective, it makes an old 11B like me obsolete!
I've got a bit of a problem with the whole idea behind this. Even *IF* it works in a lab, that kind of means nothing after that ammo has been slogged through a wet, dirty, dry, dusty, crappy environment and fired in a smoky, foggy, nasty, messy situation. (like as in a real world situation) And who in their right mind is going to fund technology like that, if adequate training costs... say $250 or $2500 or whatever per round?

I think the 11B's (and Marine Corps 03's) are going to have trigger time with current technology for a LONG time to come. Tracers don't fly cool paths like that, but yet that 20th century technology is REALLY efficient and effective. Heck, with training and experience, and a bit of work on the action, a Mosin is pretty darn efficient and effective, and I think that's 19th century technology.
 

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Who's going to be the lucky SOB that gets to hold the laser on target while this flies to it during a fire fight? JAT
 
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