The EXACTO self-guided bullet.
The EXACTO self-guided bullet.

The US military has developed a self-guided .50 caliber bullet, claimed to be the first of its kind.

The Pentagon has announced that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), recently conducted its first successful test of the bullets, which were developed as part of the Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (Exacto) programme.

In a video released of a test, a bullet is fired away from its intended target, but curves back around and finds its mark.

The Exacto programme is tasked with improving "sniper effectiveness and troop safety" and is designed to "revolutionise rifle accuracy and range by developing the first ever guided small-calibre bullet," said Darpa.

The bullets have fins and computers to help guide them towards laser-marked targets up to 1.2 miles away.

The project is being carried out by a subsidiary of Maryland-based private defence firm Lockheed Martin and Teledyne Scientific and Imaging, with the latter receiving $25.5 million in funding from the US government in 2010.

In a statement, Darpa said the bullets could help ensure accuracy in adverse conditions such as the "high winds and dusty terrain commonly found in Afghanistan."

"Exacto's specially designed ammunition and real-time optical guidance system help track and direct projectiles to their targets by compensating for weather, wind, target movement and other factors that could impede successful hits.

"The Exacto programme is developing new approaches and advanced capabilities to improve the range and accuracy of sniper systems beyond the current state of the art."

Justin Bronk, Research Analyst at The Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) think-tank said that the cost of the bullets would prevent their use by all but specialist sniper teams.

"In incorporating the electronics and control surfaces necessary to effect guided course changes in flight, the terminal ballistics and penetrative power of the bullet will likely be adversely affected," he told the Independent.

"There will also be a huge increase in the cost of each projectile which will limit such rounds to specialist sniper teams and the like, rather than being general issue for heavy machine gun teams and vehicles. "