back to article Steerable bullet aims for mass army deployment

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 is three years into research into a steerable .50-caliber round …

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Trollface

I call HAX!

They're using HAX! No fair! This battlefield SUX!

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Big Brother

In 1989 K. W. Jeter published a novel titled Death Arms which included the concept of a 'slow' bullet. It might not get there fast but it always finds its target. I thought this was rather way fanciful at the time, but now.....?

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Meh

The steerable bullet idea was in a Perry Rhodan novel I picked up in 87 or so about an architect building whole cities on distant planets.

But give this to US kiddies in MARPAT™? Great, now we gonna have dead civvies with 100% accuracy. Yup, great win. Couldn't get any better.

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Vinge

It features in Vinge's "The Peace War", published 1984. No rifling, low muzzle velocity. His design was/is still a bit in the future, it was "fire and forget" using image processing to stay locked on what it was fired at.

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movie

this makes me think of that movie from 1984 "runaway" with Tom Selleck. the had bullits like that...

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I was going to mention Runaway...

But instead I'll mention the smart-bullets in "Who framed Roger Rabbit". Those were mexican if I remember correctly.

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"Tuh, dumdums."

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Anonymous Coward

Guns! We need more Guns!

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Joke

Those aren't guided bullets...

*These* are guided bullets... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbRZKrvAZ7U

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WTF?

Re the picture

"A laser designator guides the round to its target"

Well, I found lots of targets in this picture but none where the bullet hit.

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Anonymous Coward

Target doesn't have to be line of sight

I think in the picture they are demonstrating that the target doesn't have to be line-of-sight; the laser designator can operate from a different location from the shooter, even from a micro-drone.

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Re line of sight

AC, I agree. But why would the developer issue a picture which shows a streered trajectory hitting grassland? That way it looks like steered not targeted.

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Re: Target doesn't have to be line of sight

It does - for the lazor beam to hit it (unless you are using someone else to paint the target).

However, the target can be so far away that it can only be hit by indirect fire with high elevation and yet with precise aiming. That is the advantage.

Currently the 50cal guns are sometimes being used to fire indirectly at distant targets but I believe such fire has mostly harassing effect. But if it can be aimed properly it will increase the effective range of your weapon dramatically. Fire at 45 degrees in the sky, then chase your mark with the laser beam - sounds like fun for a teenager 'merkin soldier.

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Re: "none where the bullet hit."

Just shows - Dr Kleiner's not a good shot, laser or not...

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If you need to use a designator, why not just get a bigger laser?

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Because a laser big enough is a lot bigger than an additional gun (or barrel), a designator and a few of these rounds?

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Black Helicopters

Crystal Ball.

I'll have my Mystic Meg award now please.

I even predicted .50 cal....

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IT Angle

(o/t)

Aaaa! How did you do that link?

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BetaTesting Post Enhancements

"Aaaa! How did you do that link?" .... melt Posted Tuesday 31st January 2012 10:00 GMT

Hi, melt,

El Reg are road testing, with a selection/collection/conspiracy of commentards, a few extra bells and whistles on the facilities that they provide to the great unwashed, so that their views can be, ideally, better expressed with added tangents [think added formatting tools] such as the one which provides an active and informative hyperlink like that one and the one you asked about

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Cost?

Let's say a bullet costs $1 (I have no idea what the cost actually is).

How much does this one cost and how accurate is Private Snuffy?

If Private Snuffy hits one time in ten, that's $10 to hit the intended target.

If this bullet costs any more than $10, it does not make economic sense.

Although it does bring into play the Chris Rock theory on gun control. Make the guns cheap, but the bullets so hideously expensive that no one can afford to shoot.

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aha

but it depends on the value of the target. An M2 firing to supress an area is gonna use up more ammo. A burst of 5-10 smart rounds that are pretty likely to hit their target is a much better proposition. Ammo also takes up weight and cargo area. Two cases of smart ammo vs 20 cases of regular also makes supply easier.

How they are going to sync the lase to the round will be fun. The enemy can "repaint" other friendlies or even civvies.

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Accuracy tends to be worse than that.

Especially since most gunfire these days is suppressive. Since this is going to an M2 machine gun, which is a squad weapon (as in only one man in the squad--the machine-gunner--uses this), this looks to be a tactical weapon, meant for short bursts to help take out distant hardened targets. You know, paint the target, fire about 10 rounds or so (depending on the target) and watch them hit. It would reduce the need for anti-materiel snipers in these cases and would have different uses than those other future squad weapons like the XM-25 (which appears to be more an anti-personnel weapon).

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Anonymous Coward

Not quite a SAW...

I'd hate to be the sqaddie who was tasked with carrying a Ma Duce over a M240 or M249 as a Squad Automatic Weapon! They're usually vehicle mounted, being pretty big and heavy and needing a tripod or mount. Not exactly something you can fire from the hip.

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Anonymous Coward

> If Private Snuffy hits one time in ten, that's $10 to hit the intended target.

If Snuffy was consistently hitting 1 in 10 he wouldn't still be a private.....

I believe that for the Vietnam war figures range between 300,000 and 500,000 rounds fired per confirmed casualty. Smart munitions could easily be a cost saver.

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RE: Noy quite a SAW

I suggest the eventual weapon used by the PBI squads will be a smoothbore rifle, something developed from the Barrett M82, for example, in the hands of the designated Marksman. I too would not like to lug the M2HB around - a friend had to lug one up the hills from the beach at San Carlos, and said it took five of them several hours and just about killed them!

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Anonymous Coward

@Danny 14

laser - pulse encoded with some kind of signature, bullets seek only this signature.

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Just like laser designators for other guided munitions, the beam is invisible to the naked eye. You'd have to know you're being lased, know the color of the laser, and know where the shot was coming from.

The seeker on the bullet is going to have a limited field of vision.The bullet would not be able to see a target 180 from the point of aim. The amount of correction available is dependent on the speed of the projectile and the distance to the target. Gross corrections will drastically slow the bullet down, as it is not traveling under power. I suspect that there is a narrow field of vision, 24 - 30 degrees at most, that it has.

It will have nowhere the same kinetic energy that a conventional .50 caliber has using a 600 - 750 gr bullet at around 3,000 fps vs this much lighter, slower round.

Good anti-personnel round. Probably very useful against someone who is going to shoot at you with an RPG.

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Coat

Read somewhere an average sniper round is 3.75 pound sterling apiece. Accuracy of the average private with average assault rifle is in the hundred of thousands rounds fired per hit - most of them not aimed at all but fired in the general direction where the enemy is supposed to be, acting as cover for friendlies advancing. Cost of the round is not important here, the applications are completely different.

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Me - I'm getting a mirrorball

and a couple of lasers for a constellation of targets - should make a cool hat!

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Re: Mirrorball

Might not go down well with your mates who are getting repeatedly repainted. A bit like a ballistic game of pass the parcel

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So it's a miniature guided missile then?

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Headmaster

No

A missile is self propelled.

This is a guided projectile.

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in the military world I think you are correct but a missile can also refer to the unpowered projectile. for example the arrow launched from a bow.

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Also

A rocket is self-propelled but the difference between a missile and a rocket is guidance. A rocket is dumbfire or with minimal guidance, whereas a missile can be guided through television feed, wire feed, IR, GPS, image recognition, and more.

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Headmaster

"in the military world I think you are correct but a missile can also refer to the unpowered projectile. for example the arrow launched from a bow."

It's a misuse of the term, an arrow is still a projectile and not a missile.

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I am not an Etymologist but

from the Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913 + 1828)

Mis"sile, n. [L. missile.] A weapon thrown or projected or intended to be projcted, as a lance, an arrow, or a bullet.

I am not aware of any guidance systems (except suicidal biplanes) in use by 1913.

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Lots of contradictory stuff on the net

Cambridge dictionary states it must be thrown or propelled.

Oxford, is as above.

I think it's safe to say, no-one agrees on the correct definition!

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done

Well I'm glad we could settle this matter for all humanity. Who says comment sections are pointless.

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FAIL

Tin foil hats

In other news, the Taliban show the first practical use of tin foil hats.

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That would help the projectile. What you want is a hat that is perfectly absorbent at the laser frequency.

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a pure spcular reflection is just as useless as 100% absorbtion. Even if you get lucky and get the full return it will probably be too bright and saturate the receiver.

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Joke

A free prediction fresh from my own crystal ball

Two years after deployment, all the 'enemies' - whoever they are at the moment- will be able to manufacture bullets like these and use them against American forces. As they don't have to support all that Military-Industrial Complex overhead, the 'counterfeited' steerable bullets will be cheaper and probably better built.

This kind of situation is what ACTA was designed for.

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Boffin

RE: A free prediction fresh from my own crystal ball

"....all the 'enemies' - whoever they are at the moment- will be able to manufacture bullets like these and use them against American forces....." Really? Laser-guided artillery rounds (like the 155mm Copperhead) have been in use for many years (since the '80s IIRC), but I don't hear reports of the Taleban making use of them. Even laser-guided mortar rounds (such as Saab's Strix) have been available for quite a while, let alone "smart" anti-tank missiles with all types of guidance, yet the Taleban's main weapons are the AK, RPG and the IED. Even when the US and Allies meet adversaries like Saddam, who had quite an arsenal of advanced gear, the bad guys seem to come off a lot worse. It's not just about having the tech, it's about using it as part of a balanced force in a concentrated (and overwhelming) method. Me thinks your crystalball needs a polish.

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Didya miss the icon Matt?

N/T

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Go

A few notes

Technically this is a guided "projectile" like a smart artillery shell (without the GPS and IMU).

The device in Runaway (Tom Selleck, Kirstie Alley and Michael Creighton as director) *was* a missile modeled on the "Dragon" anti-tank missile. It was also an imaging sensor, while this is for like a line follower. It would be interesting to find out the pattern of the 8 sensors.

The 8 bit comment suggest they are serious about this being a low cost device. Had it been 32 bit it could been the biggest ARM's sale ever.

Historically laser designators have been pulse width modulated with a pattern which the sensor knows about. Not sure if this has been adjustable.

Note the game is changing. The number of laser frequencies used is limited and they have to keep being pointed *at* the target till it hits. A fairly simple (non imaging) detector with a wide FOV and suitable sensitive detector would make an adequate early warning device. Remember in Afghanistan it was *assumed* drone video could *never* be intercepted by the insurgents?

This sounds like it could be a cost effective piece of kit but don't expect to surprise people when you start shooting at them.

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Re surprise

Except if the laser designator is synchronised with the gun. If the laser is activated not before the gun is fired or even long (long in terms of bullet speed) after the projectile left the barrel, this wouldn't leave much lead time for not being surprised.

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Designator warning systems exist already so spend too much time trying to patent it. :) The 8 bitter comment seems like press release drivel where someone summarized a powerpoint of a design review. Of course you will use an 8 bit micro, what else would you use (for the prottype)? When you are ready for production bake an ASIC. Standard stuff really.

The assumption with the unencrypted video was not that it would not be intercepted but that when it was it would be such a narrow FOV with no info overlays that it would be rather useless. Maybe they were wrong but they had to make a choice of fielding something not perfect but good or not fielding.

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A new battlefield problem...

You missed, private! Did you forget to charge your bullets' batteries overnight, you moron?

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Anonymous Coward

I hear they are working on AI bullets

that use image recognition to detect turbans and protesters. To combat all threats to America, both foreign and domestic.

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Black Helicopters

you forgot

copyright infringers

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