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U.S. Navy is developing target-tracking ‘smart bullets’ to defend against drone swarms

Why it matters to you

warfare is evolving, so the Navy is taking steps to ensure that US ships can defend themselves against possible drone attacks

Now that drones are used by most modern militaries, swarm attacks are a very real threat to the United States Navy. But not to worry — the The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has a solution for that: smart bullets.

DARPA recently announced an $8 million contract with Raytheon Missile Systems to enter phase two of its Multi Azimuth Defense Fast Intercept Round Engagement System (MAD-FIRES) program. As part of the deal, Raytheon will build and test MAD-FIRES bullets that are able to alter their path in real time, according to Military Aerospace. Additionally, they’ll be able to track and engage with multiple targets with serious precision from a variety of different directions.

Related: U.S. Navy reveals F-18 fighter simulator for VR powered by Nvidia’s Quadro GPU

Concepts and simulations of the technology were completed during the first phase, which also included Lockheed Martin Corp. Missiles and Fire Control. Lockheed will likely receive a contract to conduct their own prototyping rounds, too.

MAD-FIRES smart bullets are expected to be fast, powerful, and have the same accuracy as regular missiles, using 20 to 40 caliber ammunition. So even if attacks from drones, missiles, planes, or swarm boats are coming from all different directions, the MAD-FIRES bullets could potentially take all of them out.

The Navy is also working with the Office of Naval Research to develop unmanned swarm boats designed to patrol U.S. shores. As with its MAD-FIRES bullets, the swarm boat program is part of the Navy’s increased efforts to embrace technological advances. Unmanned swarm boats reduce risk, while MAD-FIRES bullets offer a new, low-cost solution for “guided, gun-launched projectiles.”

Related: The Navy is building fleets of unmanned ‘swarmboats’ that can overwhelm and confuse enemies

Raytheon’s phase two is scheduled to finish in March 2018. So while the concept of “smart bullets’ seems like something you’d only see in the movies, it seems that it’s not as far-fetched as you might think.