For enemies of the United States, there is no prospect more terrifying than that of bullets that can change direction midflight. Until recently, this was the stuff of science fiction and movies. This technology was prominently featured in the box office hit Wanted, which showed characters shooting bullets that could go through walls and seek out their targets. Though the movie was released over a decade ago, it should not be too surprising that the United States government wanted to get their hands on this technology. Bullets that change direction in midair are the worst nightmare of a possible target. This technology reduces hiding spots and forces enemies to create more elaborate shelters. This technology has taken many years to develop, but it appears that the United States government is on the cusp of using it in battle situations. It will not be long before American snipers are able to have their bullets seek out their targets.
The firm behind this research is known as Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA. This agency was founded in 1958 is primarily tasked with developing new technology for the United States military. Their goal is to create the most advanced technology far ahead of possible enemies. It seems that the agency felt that bullets that change direction would be a game-changer. Though it has taken many years to develop, the hope is that this technology can aid American snipers in harsh weather conditions or rough terrain. The sandy and windy plains of Afghanistan were one of the places for which this technology was targeted. Bullets that can change direction would have the ability to find targets in locations that are hard to detect. It would also take less accuracy on the part of snipers, who might be subject to less than optimal conditions.
The code name for the project was EXACTO, which is short for Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance. The DARPA website addressed the technology directly, "the objective of the EXACTO program is to revolutionize rifle accuracy and range ... 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. There was also a video of the technology in action which was posted to “YouTube”. The video shows a bullet that visibly changes its target midflight. It is an amazing demonstration of the technological advancements of the military.
Where are we with bullets that change direction? The technology has been developed and is simply waiting for the right situation to present itself for combat. Perhaps the most impressive part of the EXACTO project is the technology at work. Many people do not realize the technology that a modern bullet is capable of containing. With reductions in the size of computers and the exponential growth of computing technology, bullets are being made to be progressively “smarter”. The EXACTO project features a bullet that contains optical sensors inside of it. This allows it to locate and attack designated targets more effectively than any other bullet out there. The sensors communicate the relevant information and the bullet then deploys fins to shape the path of the flight. These small fins rapidly change the airflow around the bullet and can change both direction and speed. This is a deadly killer combo. There is no hiding or outrunning these bullets.
These bullets level the playing field of soldiers as well. The video demonstrates that a novice shooter is able to hit a moving target just as accurately as an experienced sniper. This spells out trouble for enemies of the United States. Regular soldiers, not traditionally trained in sniping, may be able to utilize this technology themselves. This expands the capabilities of the average soldier and turns them into expert snipers with little training. This could also reduce the costs of the government who has to pay for extra training for snipers. In the future, it may be the case that sniper training is less thorough and detailed. The quicker this technology gets implemented, the better it is for any American interests. This deadly killing weapon is very effective in many different conditions in which traditional snipers struggle. Instead of having to calculate external forces, users of EXACTO will have the bullet do most of the work for them.
Overall, the many new technologies that the government creates are both impressive and terrifying. However, they do it to best suit the needs of the country, so it is hard to blame them. The hope is that bullets like these will save American lives. This is always a primary goal when developing new technologies. Though the government has been forthcoming about the state of the technology, they have been less apt to show where and when it may be used. This information is kept confidential in order to not tip off enemies. While the bullet is an impressive upgrade, it is not perfect. Enemies could possibly find a way to alter the technology if given an appropriate warning. It is not clear to what extent technology has been implemented in day-to-day combat.
The best way to avoid having one of these bullets come after you is to not draw the ire of the United States military forces. This is probably a wise decision regardless, but this bullet should seal the deal if nothing has yet. The one thing that we know for sure is that DARPA will continue to develop new technologies for the foreseeable future. They are always looking to be one step ahead of the enemy; this is something that won’t be changing anytime soon. It is not possible to say what the different implications for combat might be. Hopefully, the technology is ultimately used for good in order to reduce collateral damage and the loss of human life. This is something that everyone can hope for.
Written by Liz Flynn
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