The U.S. military’s new Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) program has an audacious goal: creating self-guided bullets that never miss their target, even from as far as a mile away. As DARPA explains:
The objective of the EXACTO program is to revolutionize rifle accuracy and range by developing the first ever guided small-caliber bullet. 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.
The EXACTO bullets are laser-guided and change trajectory by way of retractable fins. For reasons that are not clear (probably having to do with light contamination), they currently only work at night.
Initially, use of EXACTO is likely to actually reduce deaths as it could mitigate friendly-fire casualties and replace the use of explosive ordnances that kill bystanders. But as EXACTO is more widely adopted, especially if it falls into the hands of civilians and domestic law enforcement agencies, it’s going to radically change what it means to be safe. Politicians and activists will need to be more careful about where and if they deliver outdoor speeches, spree shooters will be able to rack up a higher casualty count before they’re incapacitated, and so on. This Faustian bargain has come with every advancement in weapons technology: the easier it is to kill someone, the harder it is to guarantee your own survival.
EXACTO is scheduled for field use beginning in 2015.