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EXACTO demonstrates first-ever guided .50-caliber bullets (darpa.mil)
201 points by yurisagalov on July 11, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 150 comments



The video and program page[1] don't reveal anything about how this works. I remember watching a documentary a few years ago on Discovery channel where this project was discussed. The bullet was essentially divided into a front and back portion, which could twist independently. The twisting then allows for corrections in the air. There's another design by Sandia labs where the bullets has little "fins" (like a missile)[2], however judging by the render provided on the DARPA page[3] it's not the bullet by Sandia.

Either way we now have IRL aimbot.

[1] http://www.darpa.mil/Our_Work/TTO/Programs/Extreme_Accuracy_... [2] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmAzAmYv364 [3] http://www.darpa.mil/uploadedImages/Content/Our_Work/TTO/Pro...


That may explain how the target corrects its trajectory towards the actual target, but how does the bullet determine what the "actual target" is in the first place?

I would imagine this would be simple in test cases, but in the real world, what about a hostile target may differentiate it from a friendly ally that is nearby?


I commented below that it's marked by laser, but the counterargument was that if you can aim a laser you can aim a rifle. Let me rephrase: the goal of this system is to correct for deviations from the actual target which occur in the air. Because of wind, temperature, rotation of the earth (when taking really long shots) and other factors a marksman might have to adjust his or her aim and actually aim off-target to get the bullet on target. However, using this system you would just keep the crosshairs on target and the bullet will correct itself in the air to hit that target. I think that aiming the rifle in a different spot is only done for test purposes. I can't imagine why you would want to create a system that automatically determines the target instead of letting a trained marksman determine the target and help that marksman.


One of the aims of this program was to essentially give any 18 year old kid the tool set to perform like a highly trained sniper. There will still be a need for marksmanship training but this enables the minimum standard of marksmanship for its user to be akin to an expert. Ballistics computation is complicated but this simplifies it to a more straight-forward "point and shoot" approach that almost anyone can understand.


Seems like a silly thing to focus on. Learning to shoot accurately is by far the easiest part of becoming a sniper.


That may be true, but the harder parts about being a sniper get a lot easier if you're as accurate from a mile as today's snipers are from 200M.


i don't know... i think the missions will just get harder. or remain just as hard, to up the success %.


Yes, either of those would make the project a success, no?


Think bigger: a drone at 2000 ft having to deal with the cross-wind from different altitudes.


Drones don't use 50cal machine guns. What they use is missiles and bombs, and they've been guided for decades.


Missiles have the problem of collateral damage. Anytime you explode things, shrapnel and shockwaves will endanger people you may not see nearby.

What you'd like to do is put a drone in the air where you can lase 5 people, and have it precision assassinate them. Then have it loiter and wait till their colleagues show up, who, by observing their actions, you can assassinate them to.

The size of a bullet means you'd have a lot of operational time would be very long - you could carry hundreds of rounds on a drone, that would still be just as capable of disabling vehicles or hitting passengers.


Just guessing, but maybe future drone models (esp. low altitude ones) will use machine guns?


These bullets are not going to be used from a machine gun. It would make zero sense. They're for long range sniping.


Well, sniper drones then?


Cough... five comments and no one wonder about the possibility of shooting at drones with this rifle?


Impractical. The effective ceiling of an MQ1 Predator is 25,000 feet, which approximates to 4.5 miles.

The effective range of a Barrett M82 (50 Caliber rifle) is approximately 6,000 feet, and that's not shooting straight up.

Point blank (which, despite the common vernacular meaning 'really close', actually means 'the range of the bullet before you have to adjust for elevation') is 1500 feet, past that, gravity begins taking over.

TL;DR, the range of a Predator drone is definitely greater than the naked eye's visibility range, and even with optics, target acquisition is nearly impossible, and even if it weren't, unless it's flying very low relative to its ceiling, you can't hit it anyway.


In metric:

25000 feet = 7620m, which approximates to 7.6 km ;)

6000 feet ~= 1800m

1500 feet ~= 450m


Ironically enough, I converted some of those measurements FROM yards into feet.


> "I commented below that it's marked by laser, but the counterargument was that if you can aim a laser you can aim a rifle. Let me rephrase..."

Some things never change...

  spotter: acquire the target.
  sniper:  rodger. target acquired.
  spotter: laser paint the target.
  sniper:  what color?
  spotter: we should paint it blue according to IEEE 802.11eeek
  sniper:  But we're on the *RED* team! Not the blue team! dummy!
  spotter: Don't call me a dummy. I read the IEEE spec. Did you?
  sniper:  We should paint it RED! according to IETF RFC-31337
  spotter: No! No! No! 802.11eek clearly says blue!
  sniper:  I'M CERTAIIN IT SHOULD BE RED!!!111``
  spotter: calm down or you'll miss (again, haha) and just use blue.
  sniper:  you started it with the "No!No!No!" crap. I want red.
  spotter: you're too frustrated to type "certain" correctly. blue.
  sniper:  but I really wanted red, impending doom an all that.
  spotter: with blue you'll get purple if you hit the damn target!
  sniper:  Oops! too late. target lost. he hid behind that bikeshed.
(sigh) Where is PHK when we need him?


Also, everyone seem to assume the laser comes from or near the rifle, when it could come from a much closer team member for various reasons. Easier to conceal both a laser and yourself than a full blown sniper+weapon in shooting position. Alternatively, moving targets.

All sorts of known strategies applicable to e.g Hellfires come to mind (sorry for the dubious reference and descriptions, I recently unearthed old Comanche 3 and Longbow games): shoot timed salvos and light up targets in sequence, shoot blind and hidden then pop up and light up at the last second...


I took it to mean that the rifles physical aim is independent of what the bullet is being aimed at through that video system.


Why would the rotation of the earth matter? It's a constant speed and the person that fires it is rotating with the earth so the rotation is already part of the trajectory of the bullet. So is the wind for that matter.


At long ranges (1 km+), the rotation of the earth affects both the horizontal and vertical point of impact. A summary is here: http://thearmsguide.com/5329/external-ballistics-the-corioli...

Wind has a larger effect that is evident even at shorter ranges. Bullets are fast, but during their time of flight they are blown around by the wind just like any other object passing through the air.


Two points on earth with different latitudes move at different speeds. The effect that affects the bullets is known as the coriolis effect (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coriolis_effect).


> I think that aiming the rifle in a different spot is only done for test purposes

I could imagine some scenarios where indirect fire, perhaps coordinated with a drone that can light up the target with the laser, could be useful.


If it's like other smart ordinance that is self guided, it requires a designation of some sort. This is often done with a laser. Snipers work in tandem with a spotter already. Their job could go from spotter to laser operator. Or it could just be a function of the actual shooter. Keep your scope (and laser) on the target until impact. Actual the recoil would probably screw that up. I think you would have to have the spotter manning the target designator.



There is some sort of active guidance. Either it is doing the seeking itself (according to a laser designator of some kind) or something tells it where to go in real time, based on that "something" else's targeting capability.


Some new rifles allow you to "tag" targets and with sufficiently advanced software it should be able to tell the difference, unless the two targets overlap, then it's a maybe.

Sniper rifles already exist that can tag and track moving targets.



Laser designator, I think.


Just guessing, but the guidance is almost certainly handled remotely.

Which opens it up to being hacked... a smart enemy might cause bullets to veer away from him.


It's unlikely to be actively guided remotely. It's likely a small sensor package in the bullet itself. I imagine a simple passive guidance system akin to one of the early MANPADS (i.e., Redeye or Strela-2), but, using a laser designator instead of target radiated infrared.


I wonder what each bullet will cost once production starts?

I sometimes think about the origins of the second amendment and if it's intent was to empower citizens against a potentially oppressive government then it has failed. US military technology might as well be black magic. What can a "well regulated militia" do against smart bullets, M1 Abrams, Apache helicopters, etc?

Thank goodness we are kept fat and happy.


The basis of American freedom isn't some libertarians with rifles. Its the fact that the U.S. military consists of poorly-paid kids who care more about family and community than they do about abstract ideas. That and the fact that the military and its arsenal is physicislly distributed over numerous states. More powerful military technology makes us more free, not less. It just means it takes fewer people to break ranks from an oppressive government and effectively oppose it.

The biggest threat is well paid mercenaries. It always has been.


Interesting thought pattern which I agree with to some extent. Have you come across any articles related to this? Would love to read.


> More powerful military technology makes us more free, not less.

Hogwash. Military technology is by definition the usurping of freedom. Always has, and always will be. You are born free - the machines are made to take it away from you.


Well, pretty soon the U.S. military will consist of even more poorly-paid drones who care less about family and community than they do about abstract bits of information coming from the command center.


Well, those are controlled by humans too. You could say the same thing about those pilots.


That also relates to the why the police is generally enforcing whatever a government wants, while the military always sides with the people when things go really wrong.


Counter examples. Civil war, Japanese internment, numerous actions against native Americans although you may not consider them protected by bill of rights.


In the context of "oppressive government" I'm thinking of the classic 1984 type situation, with a small faction suppressing the will of the majority. I.e. subversion of majoritarian will through military power.

Civil war was a civil war, with the country split into two sides. Regional bonds took precedence over national ones but the military of each faction sided with the people of their region. Japanese internment and native Americans involved minorities. The soldiers didn't come from those communities, and native americans were barely considered people much less Americans. It doesn't take much to get the majority to take action against a minority, but that's not an existential threat to democracy.


I can't even begin to express how ass-backwards this comment is. Genocide of natives and internment not only constitute existential threats to democracy; by the time either of these happens, democracy is already long dead (excluding voting and other basic human rights to only the demographics most aligned with your interests generally doesn't count as democracy. The US today would probably impose massive sanctions on the domestic US of WWII or especially the US of westward expansion).

What you're saying, albeit you managed at least a bit of tact, is that Japanese internment and the genocide of Native Americans don't count as military-assisted oppression because "it was just the minorities".


Democracy is nothing more or less than rule by the will of the majority, either directly or indirectly. If the will of "the people" is to exterminate a minority, and the military carries out that intent, that's not anti-democratic. It's lots of other things, it's definitely oppression, but it's not anti-democratic. It doesn't represent an existential threat to a political system rooted in rule by the majority.

The genocide of native Americans, slavery, segregation, and Japanese internment were all carried out consistently with the desires of the relevant polity of the time. When George Wallace stood in front of the school house and shouted "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" he didn't do it to try and impose his idiosyncratic view of the world. He did it because he knew it would endear him to "the people" of Alabama.


> If the will of "the people" is to exterminate a minority, and the military carries out that intent, that's not anti-democratic.

Well then, I don't care much for your notion of "democracy", and don't particularly understand why it would be worth defending or even necessarily better than minority rule in the first place.

Most reasonable definitions of democracy delineate between mere mob rule, and democracy as a governmental philosophy (including aspects like equality before the law).


> don't particularly understand why it would be worth defending or even necessarily better than minority rule in the first place.

The word "minority" conjures up images of the oppressed, but through most of human history, the minority have been the oppressors. The majority were, historically, ruled by the will of a minority of people that made up royal families, etc. Saudi Arabia, for example, is a society in which a minority rules the majority.

Now, of course, in a democracy the majority can use violence to suppress the minority. But that is in fact the bulwark of democracy: the majority using violence or the threat thereof to suppress royal families, warlords, etc. And while ideally the majority does not do this, oppressive rule by the majority is almost certainly preferable to any situation where the minority is in power.


Kent State

Peterloo

two examples I can pluck from memory


How about when we replace the kids with war drones and robots?


Hope you have generals that were soldiers instead of politicians or businessmen, I suppose.


Look at what the U.S. military has been doing - they're effectively well paid mercenaries. For the last 60 years, hardly anyone in the military has had a vested interest in any of the conflicts, and does it just for the money.


That describes zero of the people I've met who serve in the armed forces.


While I served > 10 years ago, you could classify everyone into a couple types: mercenaries (time servers, GI Bill folks, can't get any other job, in for the benefits, etc), and zealots (true believers in either the Red, White & Blue or in some flavor of dominionism, with plenty of overlap).


As someone who used to be a submarine officer, it describes about 80% of the people I met.

If you took away the college loan forgiveness and other benefits of the military, you'd lose quite a bit of the force.


There are always articles popping up about people being so poor that the only way to escape was to join the military, or recruiters bribing people with college degrees.


But it's not true on average.

Members of the all-volunteer military are significantly more likely to come from high-income neighborhoods than from low-income neighborhoods. Only 11 percent of enlisted recruits in 2007 came from the poorest one-fifth (quintile) of neighborhoods, while 25 percent came from the wealthiest quintile. These trends are even more pronounced in the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program, in which 40 percent of enrollees come from the wealthiest neighborhoods-a number that has increased substantially over the past four years.

-- Who Serves in the U.S. Military? The Demographics of Enlisted Troops and Officers

http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2008/08/who-serves-...


Not for several hundred years it hasn't other wise the Swiss would still be in business as condottiere.


> Thank goodness we are kept fat and happy.

This concept is actually called "bread and circus", and was originally applied by mid-roman emperors to better control the populace and keep political satisfaction up. I'm kinda disappointed that the wikipedia article doesn't go into detail about this because it played a huge part in maintaining control of the empire.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bread_and_circuses


Junk food and reality shows/professional sports nowadays.


Militias don't have to fight directly against tanks and fighter jets. That's why they're effective.

You can't maintain a police state by blowing up houses. If you do that, you end up cutting off your only revenue source (taxing employed people), because your tax base either can't or won't work (because they're dead, the roads are impassable, etc.). In fact, this situation would actually be quite beneficial to an insurgency, because if an attacker can't pay or feed their foot soldiers, they will lose their army.

In the end, you need foot soldiers to maintain a police state. It's not economically feasible to give everyone state of the art sniper rifles like this, and spending 10x more money on soldiers doesn't make them 10x more effective.

It is exponentially harder to maintain a police state than to destroy one, which is why even poorly trained, poorly equipped insurgencies can effectively fight against well trained, well equipped governments. If the US government has problems with this in Vietnam and Iraq, imagine how much worse it would be if they tried the same thing on their own well-armed revenue source.


> It's not economically feasible to give everyone state of the art sniper rifles like this.

The US has ~2M active duty / reserve military members.[1] The SR25 is a common choice for 'sniper' rifles in the military and costs about $5K new and kitted out. If this state of the art rifle costs 5x the typical rifle, it would cost $25B to outfit half of our current military with these weapons.

The US spends over $650B per year on our military[2], so that $25B would only represent 4% of our annual budget.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_number_of_...

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_military_e...


Also I don't think anyone's proposing giving everyone these. A couple of hundred could make quite a difference.


The flip side is that you can't fight a police state by blowing up houses, because you cut off the support of your people. (That is, unless the government is already busy blowing up houses and people decide there's no other way out.)

I always feel that "well-regulated militias" acting as a counterweight to the US government is a silly idea, because by the time a militia is called into action, (1) the government can also mobilize all its shiny toys and crush whoever's in the way, and (2) WTF were you doing while your country slid slowly and painfully into the level of present-day Iraq?


I don't think they ever intended the 'well-regulated militia' to be an organized force. They used it in the way we mean 'militia' when we talk about middle eastern nations in conflict - armed locals organizing when they feel as though they need to.


To maintain a police state you need mass surveillance and informants. Secret police make you disappear long before your armed rebellion starts and your neighbors will be too scared to get involved or are the informants who turned you in. Flooding the streets with police isn't needed, along with informants they can always work with gangs like Assad does to act as street enforcement. The state's only cost is looking the other way while trafficking goes on and paying a network of snitches in every community.


The Syrian and Russian model won't work in the States. Despite all its glaring failings there is still a relative balance of power.


I believe you mean "second."

Additionally, vastly superior technology doesn't necessarily outweigh other factors. It certainly makes a huge difference but history is littered with counterexamples.


Yes I did, thank you. The second amendment is the fourth article of the Bill of Rights.


We should probably be more worried about the non-lethal weapons that can be used to effect control and compliance — like the mobility denial and active denial systems.

At least firehoses, dogs, and guns have a chance of illiciting sympathy from onlookers (e.g. the international community). Protesters on a big slip-n-slide will probably just end up on /r/funny.


Especially because "non-lethal" is a misnomer. For example, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Victoria_Snelgrove and all of the people killed by tasers.


While I'm not for or against the second amendment, do you honestly think it's a realistic scenario that the government gets oppressive to the point where people will pick up arms? Do you really honestly believe that? Do you think other developed nations like the UK, France, or Japan are at a higher risk of turning to tyranny b.c they do not have guns widely available?


Every nation you listed including our own has at some point fought against it's own government.

The assumption isn't whether a government can get oppressive to the point where people fight. It's "Is our government so good that citizens will never have cause to oppose it, for the rest of human history?"


Just because something has happened before, doesn't mean it's bound to happen again. All those countries have also had slavery and monarchies, but we don't worry about that happening again b/c humanity moves forward and certain things simply become impossible - this includes things like the return of nazism, communism, evil tyrants, emperors, juntas and whatever other anachronism you can think of

"nearly all the autocracies in the world with a higher [than $6000 ] per capita income are petro-states" http://thediplomat.com/2012/10/is-chinas-communist-party-doo...


What was the UK's popular uprising against its own government?


The English civil war(s) from 1642 to 1651 which resulted in the regicide of Charles I and then Cromwell's Protectorate. Until everyone decided that maybe Kings were kindof OK, as long as parliament could tell them to fuck off if they got too demanding, plus Cromwell (and son) had generally pissed everyone off by then...


The English Civil War wasn't a popular uprising against the government. The king had delayed parliament to try and weaken its powers, and the civil war was about parliament versus monarchy, not people versus government.


>Thank goodness we are kept fat and happy.

If by "we" you mean you and me, and people like us. Plenty of people are skipping meals to save money.


It is not so much about the weapons, but that you won't even have the chance to use them.

How would you organize your coup? The government listens to all your calls, reads your email/im, knows where you travel and what you buy.

You would be branded a terrorist and detained before you could say "unconstitutional".

Like guns would even make a difference...


"I sometimes think about the origins of the second amendment and if it's intent was to empower citizens against a potentially oppressive government then it has failed."

The government doesn't actively need to attack people with their own agents. They just need to make it known that someone won't be protected, and let the criminal element do the rest. In some places, weapons for self-defense can be a defense against that kind of government.


The greater the asymmetry of technology, the greater the PR problem. PR problems are infectious, but they require a sympathetic protagonist. A pre-emptive solution is to fake unsympathetic protagonists that can be crushed ruthlessly to dissuade contagion. Parse wisely.

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/antz/


>What can a "well regulated militia" do against smart bullets, M1 Abrams, Apache helicopters, etc?

First of all, have you seen how much of a fight low tech militias have put up against the U.S. lately?

Secondly, don't forget that the people trained to use that technology are U.S. citizens too and will fight for their family before they fight for their county (most of them anyway).


There is one thing to note about the "difficulty" the modern US military has faced versus low tech militias. The US military has been required to exercise due caution so as not to cause significant collateral damage.

The trade off is lives saved today versus those lost tomorrow. If WW2 had been fought the same way it may have taken years longer. You do not end support for an enemy until you beat the population that supports them. There is no infinite number in resistance, ww2 proved that.


There's no government that would turn the US military against the US population. It just wouldn't happen. What is happening though is the militarisation of the police, and making it more and more 'normal' for the population to accept it. The idea of a national army being turned against it's own people is hopelessly outdated in the modern, western world. There are more efficient and more subtle ways to control the population.


Read up about the bonus riots, not an episode the US military is particularly proud of I would bet.


They don't in most cases come out and fight - they use the most effective tactics for their lower quality troops and poorer equipment.


And an armed insurrection in the US would do different? Further, as pointed out above, anything popular enough to become a huge deal would have an awful lot of military members supporting it. The fancy gear would find it's way into the hands of both sides.


Every year in the USA, some 18,000,000 (yes, eighteen million) snipers engage in live fire live target training. They operate independently with their own weapons, camo, comms, transport, and other gear (much if it high quality) - and do so as lone operators with minimal government involvement. "Operation Deer Season" is a resounding success.


I always assumed that was an argument for havin militias that have Apache helicopters and high explosives.


This is why well into the 20th century we didn't have standing armies.

We should do away with the one we have now.


And draft a lucky few hundred thousand when the "need" arises. :)


No revolution succeeds when the military is united against the rebels. Any scenario which has the US government successfully overthrown includes some significant part of the military either deserting or switching sides.


The 2nd isn't really to protect you from the combined might of an oppressive nation-state. If it gets that far, its really already too late. The 2nd is to protect you from Bob down at the police station in Podunksville deciding that he might like to have a go at running the town his way and helping himself to your stuff. Its the safety valve on the local-est kind of corruption.


The 2nd was initially more to assure the states the means to protect themselves against encroachment by the central government (and thereby dissuade such encroachment), a concern that was within vivid living memory for the framers, and was of particular concern to skeptics of the centralization that the Constitution represented compared to the Articles of Confederation.

Like all of the Bill of Rights, it was about constraining the Federal government, not the Podunksville Police.


Fire is a cheap and freely available force multiplier.


fourth?


Here is a decent overview of the different approaches to the problem ranging from consumer (TrackingPoint) to military (DARPA/Sandia): http://www.army-technology.com/features/featurelock-and-laun...

The TrackingPoint system is pretty awesome especially since it's tech which is available today and has some pretty neat applications such aiming through another device: http://www.military.com/video/guns/rifles/trackingpoint-shot...


That system is impressive. The website has a slightly more explanatory video - I wasn't quite sure what I'd seen from the DARPA link.

So basically the gun has a LIDAR for range, IMU for gun attitude and a Linux computer inside. You tag your target and it will use some kind of machine vision algo to track it even if it moves. You hold down the trigger and it will automatically fire when you put the gun in the right place. It's not truly guided like the parent, so if it's a windy day you're still likely to miss, but under calm conditions you can pretty much guarantee a perfect shot.

http://tracking-point.com/


Can't decide if this will be mounted on the robots that take over ... or we will need them to fight the robots


Realizing that the United States' military capabilities are good enough, DARPA employees have turned their attention to replicating scenes from video game boss battles.


Considering the robots can use radar to see the bullet, calculate the reverse trajectory and have their own laser guided bullets heading towards you before it even hits... I imagine humans will only be fighting robots in person for a brief slice of history.


Initially you'll only be able to use them with a Zorg ZF-1 pod weapons system.


It's sad how much effort and talent is directed toward killing.


This rifle by TrackingPoint takes another approach but seems similarly effective, the main thing that it doesn't account for is wind changes. I think you basically hold down the trigger and it fires when it thinks it'll hit the target.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVLmf_CBHKM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBC8IFWC1P0 "Vice - The Rifle That Aims Itself"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mZB6NtCx38 Moving targets

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OA_ndsi5wnA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xleHVuj2uGQ


I imagine you pair this with a Tracking Point (http://tracking-point.com/) rifle and you'll get some impressive performance. Thinking through how this would work .. would the sniper's spotter also become the painter? Or would it take a team of three Sniper+Spotter+Painter to combine these two technologies?


You could probably use the Spotter as the Painter in the scenarios where there's s Sniper and a Spotter (e.g. SEALs don't use Spotters, whereas Army SF does).

However, having a Spotter in a different location than the Sniper (or Sniper + Spotter team) leads to other interesting capabilities. Things like, "I have the target marked, based on your current GPS position, just aim to the West."


I wonder what is the technology behind this? Does the bullet have a small GPS module along with small motors that change the form of the bullet so that it can be guided by the rifle over radio frequency? What about the radio waves being interrupted or jammed etc.

Or is it something more ground-breakingly advanced?


It says "optical guidance system" in the article. I suspect that the sniper needs to light up the target with a laser sight, and there's a small computer and microchip that adjusts the form of the bullet (per other commenter's description here) so that the laser dot is always directly ahead.

The article also says it's designed to compensate for "weather, wind, or target movement", so my assumption is that the sniper has to keep the target in their sight at all times, but it can compensate for the bullet ending up off-course after it has left the barrel.


"It says "optical guidance system" in the article."

It doesn't make much sense that if you were developing an advanced weapons system that, other than to get out disinformation, it would be a good thing to tell exactly what you are doing in any detail at all.

What is the advantage of releasing any information at all other than:

1) To insure support and funding for projects

2) To scare the enemy.

3) To get the enemy to spend resources on the wrong thing

..etc.


This article sounds like a PR piece designed to get out in front of news and control the messaging. Likely they have reason to believe the project will leak shortly, and rather than having the media spin it as "Secret military lab designing killer guided sniper bullets! Police state imminent!", they want it out in public as "Your tax dollars are going toward some very advanced technology to ensure American military supremacy."

Just a hunch, having worked with some PR people before.


Good point. I agree that's a possibility that instead of being a fresh "discovery" it becomes old news (if not reported right away). [1] But I'm wondering whether if that were the strategy it wouldn't make more sense to provide easier to understand (for layman) information? It was hard for me to follow from the visual I can't see any reporter simply writing about it or getting interested from what appears there. In other words it doesn't look very "sexy" visually. And presents as if it's in a very basic form (but then maybe that is exactly your point..)

[1] Obama did this with revelations of cocaine usage. Once it was out there it wasn't a big juicy story to present. Media likes scoops, exclusives not just digging up old info (ala some HN posts) of things that perhaps people missed (unless there is an angle that they can work).

I guess here is the thing about old news. People must assume that if something were said in 2012 and nobody made a fuss about it then it's because it's not a big deal.


It doesn't need to be any more than what it (apparently) says on the tin. .50 BMG is very ballistically efficient as it is, so at shorter ranges, windage really isn't much of a concern. But at a couple of kilometres or more, drift can be significant. Keep in mind that these bullets will be used for individual kills of high-value human targets (no point putting it any differently; there's no advantage over tracers when used for automatic fire for antimateriel purposes where single shots would be ridiculous to contemplate, and there's no "shoot to wound" in the military, both by the rules of war and for more practical "he can still shoot back" reasons), and that recent operations (particularly in Afghanistan) have been in conditions where trying to get closer than a couple of clicks is suicidal due to lack of cover.


0) To inform the people that supplied the funding how it is being spent, in case they want to provide some feedback.


I have absolutely no idea. But it seems like these would be moving far too fast, and the maneuvering far too precise, for GPS tracking to be used.


Between 880-930meters/sec. I would think that a gps would have a hard time fitting inside a typical 50bmg bullet anyway. They only weigh about 45grams.


there is a lot of wasted space in a 50 BMG cartridge - you could easily make the bullet much longer without using up needed powder capacity. As long as you make it the same mass, you should be OK to fire it in guns currently chambered in 50 BMG. If you need to trivially prove this, pick up a loaded round and shake it. You can hear the powder jostling around in there.

Why is there wasted space? As powders become more efficient, you need less powder to get the same result. Consider the age of the round - there's been a lot of development in powders in the interim.


Looks like something around 40-60gr worth of powder space depending on bullet and desired COAL. (I don't have any of my reloading manuals near by so that's based off wikipedia/handloads.com info)


you don't get many rounds out of a keg of powder, that's for sure. If you're not magazine feeding them, of course, you can get a longer COAL. I don't know of anyone doing compressed loads (why would you?) but I assume it's possible. If we assume a 50BMG-shaped round that isn't actually to standard, you could load it with titegroup or something exciting, but I think making something like that which would chamber in a 50 BMG would be borderline criminal.


Fascinating, I thought it was the finned bullet but this doesn't seem to be that. There was an interesting, if somewhat forgettable, movie staring Tom Selleck called 'Runaway' which posited "tracker" bullets and use the of quad copters for remote surveillance.

I expect the next step will be fabrics that fluoresce in the visible spectrum when hit by IR or UV laser light to help warn people they are being 'designated.'


"by compensating for weather, wind, target movement and other factors that could impede successful hits."

Translation: those poor suckers who try running sideways will still get hit with these new bullets.


Now get your targets and guidance from an overhead drone and shoot at people you can't even see!


or arm the drone.


I wonder if there are any startups in weapon technology.


> startups in weapon technology

Metal Storm: old but interesting. Mike O'Dwyer conceived of an idea for "a rapid-fire gun prototype ... can fire up to 1,000,000 rounds per minute, or 16,000 rounds per second." [0] to give extra fire-power for Special Forces soldiers. More details can be read here: http://www.abc.net.au/austory/transcripts/s167329.htm

cf: [0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._Mike_O%27Dwyer


Were these the guys who adapted their technology to fire fertiliser pellets into the ground from the air, for agricultural purposes?


@prawn, not sure but probably not.


AFAIK Boston Dynamics was a decently small company that produces cool military tech. (Now bought by Google).

Also, there was a small company that had a show on the Discovery Channel for ~2 seasons called Howe & Howe Tech that produced a cool lightweight continuous track vehicle.


They actually produced a number of tracked vehicles and I see some new information after visiting their site too. Thanks for the reminder!

http://www.howeandhowe.com/


Another thing for killing. Just what the world needed.


This is what I initially thought, but there is always a flip-side.

Unless, humans agreed to complete cessation of violence (intentional or not), which to my knowledge has never lasted more than a week in recorded history (of wars), someone will always try to kill someone else.

Although I don't support the Military Industry, I think projects like this have the potential to get less people killed in battle.



I imagined the final scene from Wanted (2008)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QADr4hVKs3Y


Bah, 1984 called and Tom Selleck and Gene Simmons want their self-guided bullets back: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lA6ybohAVq8


This is being voted down, why? The entire subject of _Runaway_ is self guiding bullets and killer drones, and it came out in 1984.


This is exactly what popped in my head when I read this headline. The camera angle from the bullet is pretty hilarious, with people diving out of the way and what not.


ROFL

/thread

Seriously though. How do they plan to designate the target for this round?


Anyone seen Aliens? Anyone say M56 Smart Gun?

http://alienanthology.wikia.com/wiki/M56_Smart_Gun#Target_Tr...

"When powered up, the gun begins tracking targets via its infrared tracker mounted above the barrel. The tracker consists of a 256 x 256 element platinum-silicide focal plane array cooled to 770 degrees K by a tiny cryogenic gas cooler working on the Stirling principle. This system monitors a 30 degree cone in front of the gun and transmits high-resolution thermal images in the 8-10 um range to a miniature video display in the operator's eyepiece."

Thats all available technology - right now.


The replay button of The Fifth Element trumps that, but it's not available yet http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7wOX2WqbXE


That... was the parent comment.


Maybe I misunderstood your comment but parent was about Aliens, this is about The Fifth Element. Different movies different fictional weapons. TFE's one is more fictional.


I believe that targets are marked using a laser.


If you can aim the laser, you can aim the weapon. This would certainly involve computer vision, makes it even more scary.


I think the idea is to automatically compensate for wind or other factors that would otherwise take the bullet on a path that is not on target. I think the part where they aim away from the target is just for demonstration.


A laser is unaffected by things like gravity, recoil, wind, dust particles, drag, etc... Also, if it's a line of site issue. The sniper could be out of the line of site and as long as the laser operator can put light on target, it still gets hit (theoretically).


A laser is affected by temperature differences in the air (think about the mirage seen over a hot road surface) and even by gravity; a laser beam drops over distance like a bullet or a baseball, only it travels so fast that the effect is unnoticeable over earth-scale distances.

The effect of a temperature inversion, though, can be significant; it's possible that military laser designators use diverse wavelengths to avoid or compensate for it.


Yes, yes, your technically correct (the best kind of correct?) but compared to a bullet arching through the air, it's minimal.


After thinking about it more, I realised you're absolutely right. It doesn't matter if the laser designator beam takes a knuckleball path through the intervening air; if the laser dot is on target---classical optics are time-reversible---the shooter will see it on target. The effect of those same air density variations on the bullet is similarly irrelevant [1], because the bullet continually aims for the laser dot.

It works by negative feedback, like a servo; all the error terms in the middle cancel out. Neat!

[1] The refraction of a laser by air density variations is bound to be different from the ballistic effects of those same density variations on a bullet passing through them. But it doesn't matter, because the corrections are applied continually along the trajectory, not at the source.


You can hit stuff that moves after the bullet is fired. It doesn't require computer vision.


Some(body|thing) else can aim the laser and now you can hit out of sight targets.


I thought they were marked by the incumbent powers that be!


How did Tom Selleck defeat these things?


By being barely smarter than Gene Simmons. Michael Crichton directed IIRC.




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