DARPA’s New Smart Sniper Bullet


The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency recently conducted the first successful live-fire tests demonstrating in-flight guidance of .50-caliber bullets, program officials maintain.

The Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance program, known as EXACTO, is being developed to “revolutionize rifle accuracy and range by developing the first ever guided small-caliber bullet,” DARPA officials maintain. “The EXACTO 50-caliber round and optical sighting technology expects to greatly extend the day and nighttime range over current state-of-the-art sniper systems.”

The system combines a maneuverable bullet and a real-time guidance system to track and deliver the projectile to the target, allowing the bullet to change path during flight to compensate for any unexpected factors that may drive it off course, officials say.

This video shows EXACTO rounds maneuvering in flight to hit targets that are offset from where the sniper rifle is aimed.

About the Author

Matthew Cox
Matthew Cox is a reporter at Military.com. He can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.
  • JCitizen

    Holy moly bat man!

    • 3rd Ranger Battalion

      95% of being a sniper is getting to your advantage point while being invisible,and staying invisible. the other 5 % is taking the shot and getting to extraction.. this just helps the 5% go a little quicker/easier

  • Adam

    Now that guy with the ammo truck at his position trying to qualify could be a sniper and zero in three rounds.

    • ONTIME

      That’s not a bad thing when you can use a rifle bullet to take out a armored vehicle……and know it’s going to make the mark.

  • SansVarnic

    Now that can be a valuable asset in windy conditions. No need to wait for the perfect conditions to take the shot. I can see a new record distance shot being taken with this round.

  • Rock77

    Truly fulfilling a long hoped for advance. Turning to access targets behind substantial cover ? wow.

  • regan

    this is video games now

  • Larry

    OK, based on what we see here and what is on the internet it looks like the system uses an optical tracking device/sight at the shooters position that send guidance signals to the bullet that directs it to where the sight is “looking”. Sort of like the TOW missile but without the wire. Sounds like a good idea if the communications are not affected by dust, fog, or moisture in the air between the shooter and the target. A .50 round should cover 2000 meters in between 3-5 seconds, which doesn’t look like too long of a time for the shooter to stay in position.

    • Brian B. Mulholland

      I believe current TOW missiles dispensed with the wires, some time ago.

      • Larry

        My bad, I guess they should just call it the TO missile now a days. :)

  • Barney Rubble

    Bullplop. Utter bullplop. What happened to marksman ship training and math skills needed to train snipers for battle? Do any of you want to be around when that round guidance fails or the target in question moves from the position selected and the round is fooled by advanced camouflage ? What about EMP or spectrum interference? Even the most advanced testing does not account for any variations from the basic design due to the items I mention nor does it take the place of proper training at the unit and squad level. Well all I got to say is man, I am glad that I am no longer serving….the military today relies too much on technology to compensate for pee poor leadership, training and other short coming created by pee poor leadership and “yes” men dedicated to shortening the life span of the American soldier.

    • Michael

      You could make this argument against any new technology that diminishes the need for human calculation – and fortunately this argument usually doesn’t win out when the benefit far outweighs the costs (not saying that this is the case here with this specific technology). There are many examples where the basics are still taught for the purpose of having redundancy but not with the intent that the basics will be the primary method. Think of FA – we have computers to calculate charge, elevation, etc. We still teach manual calculation as a backup and to ensure people understand what the machine is supposed to spit out in a calc, but we don’t throw the computer out because of the possibility (albeit real) that the computer won’t work.

      • Barney Rubble

        Basics aside, if the bullet misses its target even by an inch, the missed round could alert the target you are shooting at that a sniper is around, but that is another whole discussion. What bothers me about the reliance on this emerging battle field technology is that it is highly suspect to counter measures from the enemy (no matter what ATK or Lock-Mart will tell you) and technology breaks down. And if you are on a mission, and your gear is broke, it makes you mission ineffective also. And, on a side note….today’s warfare is being made all too easy with smart weapons. During the cold war, lack of all that technology you soldiers have today made politicians think about the cost of war…..just food for thought

    • AMEN!

    • Ryan

      That is a very negative point of view. This round isn’t about making every Soldier a sniper, it’s about delivering something that will give our highly trained and skilled snipers another weapon in their arsenal which will provide an overmatch capability that no one else in the world has. I also have to take exception to your assertion that military leaders are actively seeking to shorten the life spans of Soldiers. That is a patently false and unwarranted statement.

    • Mark

      Damn the technology, he says from his computer 1000 miles away!

    • rancid pitts

      Fantastic Tech, when it works.
      BUT, what happens when?
      Yes, what happens when something not thought about occurs? Training and practice of the basic skills of long range Marksmanship are not to be ignored because “Murphy Rules” the battle field and always will.

    • pensivemale

      ok it’s bullplop but one upside is that most any shooter in the ranks now
      has a chance of making the best in class hits.
      that’s a win to me.

  • fred

    I can see where this type of techno advanced ammo could be beneficial but I feel like advanced training is always more important than technology , a well trained sniper don’t usually miss their target

    • seans

      Well trained snipers miss all the time. Depending on the caliber snipers can only guarantee shots out to 600-800 yards. Look up how many times it takes to make those record making shots past 1200 yards. It’s not one or two .

  • The Grunt

    wow just like in the old school cartoons!!! I wonder if the bullet will be able to talk also?. I am sure that’s next , I think its great and can’t wait until they get it into smaller rounds for the regular troops. Embrace technology that’s what Grant said and I think he was 100% correct.

  • MiniBus

    Even If this system can be made to perform reliably, which I doubt, I do not think it will ever be made cost efficient enough to get past the ruthless bean counters who care little for the needs of the infantryman. A better, and easier to fund, approach would be to use a ‘ruggedized’ version of the new Tracking Point technology and a match grade. but nonetheless ‘dumb’ bullet. That has a much better chance of getting funded. Eventually simplified Tracking Point red dots could even be mounted on infantry M4’s, leading to a major advance in capability. Now if we could only get a piston system into that carbine . . .

    • seans

      Tracking point is a gimmick pure and simple for military use. For close I’m engagements it’s not even close to practical. As for long range shooting, it doesn’t solve the biggest problem a shooter faces, wind calls. Watch any tech demo they have, they have well trained spotters telling people the wind call. And it makes it even harder to make a quick correction after a missed shot. Darpa is already developing a scope that can read wind, which could solve the problem for some time.

  • Otamatsu

    I was told in 1971 that 7.62mm M188 Lake City Ammo cost Uncle Sam 27 cents each, I didn’t waste a one…how about making rifle marksmanship the priority task again in the military? The Marines do it everyone else wise up. Co C 75th Inf 173 Abn Bde (Sep)/ 1st FF RVN 70-71.

    • Otamatsu

      M118^ above there sorry

      • 173rd Shooter

        Mad respect for your service. From a 173rd ABN BDE Sniper that jumped into Iraq during the invasion. Its hard to beat M118LR. It always worked for me.

  • Dan Thaler

    I;m note quite sure how the round maintains it’s muzzle velocity In the second graphic the round was fired at something beyond the desired target. When it actually got on top of the desired target, it just seemed to basically drop down on top of it, almost 90%. I’m probably missing something, like 8 years of physics and engineering, but I don’t know how it maintains it’s speed. It’s like a little guided missle it seems.

  • Golani51

    It is about aiding the sniper to perform better and will not replace talent. Nothing nasty about it.

  • edward girouard

    you don’t get to say “ouch” with a 50

  • CaptainDoc

    This like any weapon needs to be practiced with, and a lot of practice not just a few days at the range. There also needs to be training with standard .50 while doing the practice as it will be the principle round sent downrange in a combat area due availability in the field for the sophisticated round and possible mal function due to rough handling and conditions. It has been quoted that fog, rain , dust and other conditions are not really counted on with this type of munition accuracy.

  • Speed

    Just something else to be used against it’s citizens. More tax payers money spent on the science to kill.
    Another high tech arsenal against civilians.

  • Stefan S.

    Bet DHS buys this ammo by the truck load.


    Next for covert work this new generation ammo will have a DNA sample and will seek out it’s target in a crowd fired from a pistol….it’s really getting kind of scary when a bullet literally has your name on it…..