DARPA guided bullet program and the commercial Trackpoint precision firearms

In 2015, DARPA’s Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) program developed a self-steering bullet to increase hit rates for difficult, long-distance shots, completed its most successful round of live-fire tests to date. An experienced shooter using the technology demonstration system repeatedly hit moving and evading targets. Additionally, a novice shooter using the system for the first time hit a moving target. The system should have begun field deployment this year.

A video shows EXACTO rounds maneuvering in flight to hit targets that are moving and accelerating. EXACTO’s specially designed ammunition and real-time optical guidance system help track and direct projectiles to their targets by compensating for weather, wind, target movement and other factors that can impede successful hits.

“True to DARPA’s mission, EXACTO has demonstrated what was once thought impossible: the continuous guidance of a small-caliber bullet to target,” said Jerome Dunn, DARPA program manager. “This live-fire demonstration from a standard rifle showed that EXACTO is able to hit moving and evading targets with extreme accuracy at sniper ranges unachievable with traditional rounds. Fitting EXACTO’s guidance capabilities into a small .50-caliber size is a major breakthrough and opens the door to what could be possible in future guided projectiles across all calibers.”

The new .50 BMG gun and improved scope could employ “fire-and-forget” technologies including “fin-stabilized projectiles, spin-stabilized 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.”

The DARPA EXACTO program may face competition from Sandia National Laboratories for creating a guided sniper round. The DARPA EXACTO program uses different methods than Sandia’s guided round. It relies on remote-guidance tied to the optics, which may be more reliable than Sandia’s guidance method of needing to paint the target with a laser for their projectile to follow, which can be detected, diffused, or blocked. EXACTO models on existing .50 BMG ammunition and rifles instead of needing new hardware, which the Sandia guided dart would need. Although EXACTO is specifically focused on military applications, Sandia is seeking to make commercial sales of their guided sniper projectile

Commercial Trackpoint guns

The most powerful and precise Precision-Guided Firearm in the Trackpoint arsenal is M1400 ($16,995). The M1400 338LM bolt-action engages and eliminates targets out to 1400 yards moving at speeds up to 20MPH. The M1400 is a breakthrough in performance, cost, and weight in comparison to TrackingPoint’s prior extreme distance precision-guided firearms. TrackingPoint uses the same lock-and-launch technology found in military fighter jets in its Precision-Guided Firearms.

As a soldier pulls the trigger the enemy is automatically acquired and tracked. When trigger pull completes, the target is instantly eliminated. Total Time-To-Kill (TTK) is approximately 2.5 seconds. RapidLok™ Fire Control is image stabilized enabling fighters to lock targets with relative ease. RapidLok™ has an auto-snap feature that automatically adjusts point-of-impact to target center of mass. Also, target velocity is instantly measured and contemplated in the launch solution. RapidLok™ incorporates a laser-based Barrel Reference System that ensures shot-to-shot perfect zero eliminating error from shock, vibration, or environmental changes such as temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure.

SOURCES – DARPA, Trackpoint