Smart bullet

A smart bullet is a bullet that is able to do something other than simply follow its given trajectory, such as turning, changing speed or sending data. Such a projectile may be fired from a precision-guided firearm capable of programming its behavior. It is a miniaturized type of Precision-guided munition.

Types of smart bulletsEdit

In 2008 the EXACTO program began under DARPA to develop a "fire and forget" smart sniper rifle system including a guided smart bullet and improved scope. The exact technologies of this smart bullet have yet to be released. EXACTO was test fired in 2014 and 2015 and results showing the bullet alter course to correct its path to its target were released.[1]

In 2012 Sandia National Laboratories announced a self-guided bullet prototype that could track a target illuminated with a laser designator. The bullet is capable of updating its position 30 times a second and hitting targets over a mile away.[2]

In mid-2016, Russia revealed it was developing a similar "smart bullet" weapon designed to hit targets at a distance of up to 10 kilometres (6.2 mi).[3][4] At the end of 2018 Russia postponed the development of a smart bullet.[citation needed]

Guided bulletEdit

Outlined in his master's thesis at Louisiana Tech University, the guided bullet was conceptualized by Dr. Rolin F. Barrett, Jr. in March 1993.[5]

As Dr. Barrett first designed it, the bullet would have three fiber-optic based eyes (at minimum, for three-dimensionality), evenly distributed about its circumference.  To activate its guided nature, a laser is pointed at a target.  As the bullet approaches its final destination, it adjusts its flight path in real time to allow an equivalent amount of light from the laser to enter each eye.  The bullet would not travel in multiple directions as though it were an autonomous vehicle, but instead, would make small adjustments to its flight path to hit the target precisely where the laser was placed.  Moreover, the laser would not have to originate from the source of the bullet, allowing the projectile to be fired at a target beyond visual range.  

To allow the bullet to modify its flight path, Dr. Barrett designed the body as a metal and polymer combination.  The polymer would act as a deformable surface that would deflect the air-stream and steer the bullet in real time.  The guidance system is powered by a miniature lithium-polymer battery that is connected to the navigational circuits.  

Dr. Barrett went to great lengths to model the airflow of the bullet, even studying certain butterflies with speed bumps to evaluate the effects of protruding surfaces.  Due to a lack of ballistic programs at the time, he wrote his own simulations in Mathcad to solve for numerous flight variables.  

In addition to modeling the flight, Dr. Barrett modeled the interior ballistics by continuously altering polynomial curves until they were in agreement with publicly available data.  Due to a lack of available terminal ballistics data that would have been representative of the guided bullet, Dr. Barrett compared his data to that of large game hunting bullets.  

Dr. Barrett did file and pursue a patent for his invention and was ultimately awarded one in August 1998.  Today, the concept of a “guided” or “smart” bullet remains a topic of immense research and development.  

Changing trajectoryEdit

One kind of smart bullet is a projectile that is capable of changing its course during flight. One use of this would be to enable soldiers to stay behind protective cover and shoot around corners. One implementation uses a spoiler and micro gyro to control the bullet.[6]


Honeywell Aerospace has produced inertial measurement units based on MEMS and microelectronics technologies that it claims can survive the shock of being fired out of a gun.[7]

Transmitting dataEdit

It has a low range coverage. Another smart bullet is one that can transmit data about the location into which it has been fired. A prototype has been created by researchers at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, USA with funding from Lockheed Martin.[8] The bullet (projectile) has a sensor inside of it that can send wireless data up to 70 meters.


  1. ^ "EXACTO Guided Bullet Demonstrates Repeatable Performance against Moving Targets". Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  2. ^ Sandia's self-guided bullet prototype can hit target a mile away
  3. ^ Russians Launch Smart Bullet Effort in the Wake of U.S. Program -, 20 July 2016
  4. ^ Russia launches ‘smart bullet’ testing in guided flight regime
  5. ^ The following information pertaining to Dr. Barrett's development of the "guided bullet" was conveyed in a one-on-one interview.
  6. ^ "Smart Bullet Patent #6422507
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-07-08. Retrieved 2010-05-19.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ "Smart bullet reports back wirelessly" by Will Knight in NewScientist, May 2004