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The U.S. Army is developing a radio-controlled "smart" bullet that could be used to kill hidden snipers, NewScientist magazine reports.
The explosive bullets would be fired from a special rifle and detonate within 3 feet of gunmen in tenches, behind walls or inside buildings. That would eliminate the need for artillery or airstrikes.
Field-testing is to begin soon, possibly in Iraq or Afghanistan. The Army wants to use it regularly by 2012.
The rifle's gunsight uses a laser rangefinder to calculate the exact distance to the obstruction. The soldier can then add or subtract up to 3 metres from that distance to enable the bullets to clear the barrier and explode above or beside the target.
As the 25-millimetre round is fired, the gunsight sends a radio signal to a chip inside the bullet, telling it the precise distance to the target. A spiral groove inside the barrel makes the bullet rotate as it travels, and as it also contains a magnetic transducer, this rotation through the Earth's magnetic field generates an alternating current. A patent granted to the bullet's maker, Alliant Techsystems, reveals that the chip uses fluctuations in this current to count each revolution and, as it knows the distance covered in one spin, it can calculate how far it has travelled.
The rifle would allow a soldier faced with a sniper firing from a window to take a distance measurement to the window, add a metre, fire through the window, and have the round detonate 1 metre inside the room. The same method could be used to fire behind a wall or over a trench.