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Computing smart-scope gunsight for US snipers

Terry Pratchett gizmo makes long shots hit 6 times out of 10

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These days, million-to-one shots come off six times out of ten

The system is to be fully ruggedised and ready for field use, and will be capable of identifying a target as hostile and measuring crosswinds out to 1500m in daylight (and lesser ranges using thermal or nightsight vision in the dark). There's to be a menu allowing it to be used with the most common sniper/marksman rounds: 7.62mm NATO, .338 Lapua magnum and .300 Winchester magnum.

Fifteen hundred metres doesn't come close to the record-breaking efforts of Harrison, Furlong and the legendary Carlos Hathcock before them: but those were exceptional circumstances. Most professional snipers on most days would be very impressed by a first-round hit at 1500m.

Given the nature of the project it's no surprise to find that our old friends at the Pentagon bonkers-boffinry bureau DARPA are behind One Shot. It is, after all, a machine for making sure that extremely unlikely feats can be achieved almost every time - DARPA's institutional desires writ short. The project might almost have been dubbed the Discworld-effect generator or similar: it's well known that in Terry Pratchett's magical universe million-to-one shots come off nine times out of ten. (Actually DARPA are only asking for a 60 per cent chance of a first shot kill, but there.)

One Shot is actually quite realistic and achievable for DARPA, in fact: similar technology has already been demonstrated in the computing gunsight of the XM-25 smartgun, which is able to lob a miniature 25mm exploding shell with such precision it will explode just beyond a street corner, windowsill, trench parapet etc to shower a hidden enemy with shrapnel regardless of his protective cover.

True, hardcore DARPA fans will have to wait for the related EXACTO project, in which a heavy .50-calibre bullet will be furnished with guidance fins allowing it to steer itself in on a laser dot like a tiny smartbomb - presumably scoring first-shot kills at ranges of 6,000 or even 7,000m, making One Shot look like old hat.

That really does sound like DARPA - making tomorrow's technology obsolete today.

Full details on One Shot can be read in pdf here. ®

Bootnotes

*A unique rank used by Harrison's unit, the Household Cavalry, equivalent to a sergeant in most other formations. The Household cav don't use the title "sergeant" at all; this was formerly the case for all British cavalry regiments, but only the Household ones still keep the custom up.

Regimental tradition holds that the thinking behind this lay in the fact that the word "sergeant" derives from the Latin for "servant". As in former times even the lowliest Household trooper would have been a gentleman and an aristocrat, such a title would never be tolerable.

**Arctic conditions are the toughest ones for a sniper rifle designer to overcome: the weapon is suitable for use in all climates. British snipers mostly use the .338 Lapua magnum cartridge.

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