Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sandia’s Self-Guided Bullet Prototype Can Hit Target A Mile Away

 Son of the Gyrojet of the 1960’s?

New Mexico has great hunting. Combine that with the skills and creativity of two Sandia National Laboratories engineers, and there’s now a patent for a self guiding bullet that the military could use. Two engineers, brian Kast and Red Jones have come up with a dart like, self guiding bullet for smoothbore small caliber firearms. It would
Use laser guidance to hit targets at more than a mile.

They describe their invention as a promising technology that guides small projectiles that is inexpensive and can be produced fast.

This Government affiliated company is looking for a private company to finish testing and develop the round for the market. They have field tested prototypes successfully, but there are some bugs remaining to be worked out.

Here’s how it works. It’s a four inch long projectile that has an integrated laser optics sensor in the nose that detects a laser beam directed to a target. The sensor sends guidance data to an 8 bit processor to control electromagnetic actuators. The actuators steer tiny fins that deploy similarly to RPG rocket guidance fins as it leaves the firearm and is steered to the target. But, these don't spin.

There’s a tiny LCD attached to a self guided bullet in a nighttime test at Sandia Labs that is shown in the photograph below. This test was to show that the bullet’s internal guidance and batteries could survive the round being fired.

Bullet prototype

 Most bullets are shot from rifles that have rifling that cause them to spin so they fly straight.These bullets are shot from a smooth bore. It flies straight due to its aerodynamically stable design, which consists of a center of gravity that sits forward in the projectile and tiny fins that enable it to fly without spin, just as a dart at your local bar does.

This design results in dramatic improvements in accuracy. Computer simulations showed an unguided bullet under real-world conditions could miss a target more than a half mile away (1,000 meters away) by over 27 feet, but a guided bullet like this would get within 8 inches at one mile. They believe that’s close enough for 2,000 meter shots. This is not to take anything away from our military snipers who can take a target out at a mile and a half with precision. 

This is a shot that allows a less trained  shooter to hit a target at very long distance. 
Its accuracy actually improves as the distance of the shot increases. Unlike a traditional bullet, this bullet actually pitches less the further it flies.

Plastic sabots make a gas seal between the bullet and the barrel and protect the delicate fins until they drop off after the bullet emerges from the firearm’s barrel.

The researchers found that the bullet’s relatively small size when compared to guided missiles is of tremendous benefit in accuracy. As the bullet flies through the air, it pitches and yaws at a set rate based on its mass and size. In larger guided missiles, the rate of flight-path corrections is relatively slow, so each correction needs to be very precise because fewer corrections are possible during flight.


The four inch long bullet has actuators that steer
tiny fins that guide it to its target.

The bullet can travel at 2,400 FPS, putting it roughly in the same class as a 30-30 or 7.62X39 rifle round by using commercial gunpowder. The designers believe that special gunpowder can give it standard military speeds close to 2,700 FPS approximately equaling the 165 grain 7.62X51 NATO round. This entire bullet is 1.45 inches shorter than the .50 cal BMG round. A select fire rifle for this round would be very interesting, if the rounds could stand the rigorous rapid chambering of them. 

Courtesy: Sandia Labs 01/30/2012


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