Three years ago, on April 1, 2018, a small company was formed in a little place called North Fork, Montana. About an hour west of Bozeman, the company – Smart Munitions And Remote Targeting, Inc. (SMART) was stood up for the express purpose of developing and producing a programmable munition that could be fired from a weapon carried by a single person. The purpose was to develop a munition that didn’t require a crew-served weapon to use.
The uses for such a munition were obvious in the military and defense industries, but for law enforcement the use was seen as limited at best; and that was even IF such a munition could be successfully developed and deployed. The design team at SMART was comprised of veteran military precision marksmen (snipers) and some of the best young engineering minds that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) could produce.
The team recognized from the outset that it would do no good for the engineers to develop a product that the snipers couldn’t use. The snipers knew what they needed but didn’t have the technical knowledge to develop such. The fabrication engineers on the team would be tasked with producing the product the design engineers specified based on the needs and requirements put forth by the operational team – the snipers.
The team started out making their list of operational needs and requirements from the snipers. That list included engagement distances, working environments, weight limits for the munitions and more. Based on that list of needs and requirements, the team realized that they’d be working with nothing smaller than a .50 caliber projective. In fact, according to Melvin “Boattail” Spitzer, President and CEO of SMART, they originally started out with a .75 caliber round. “It wasn’t unheard of,” Spitzer said. “Before the development of modern metallic case ammo, there were .75 caliber soft lead projectiles pushed out of black powder rifles. So using something that big wasn’t a challenge.” He explained what the challenge actually was. “The bigger problem was that we didn’t want to design a whole new weapon. We wanted to develop a munition that could be used in existent and in use weapons.” Within the first 90-days of the company’s work they settled on a .50 caliber projectile.
With a working diameter of .510” the typical projectile length was insufficient, so they had to increase it. Increasing the length changed the stability in flight so they had to adjust for that as well. In the end they produced an 860 grain projectile comprised of a (mostly) copper jacket, bonded lead projectile with a titanium encased protected core that held, of all things, micro-circuitry. That micro-circuitry is connected to the copper jacket in no less than196 spots by fiber-optic link. The jacket, titanium “bucket” (as Spitzer referred to it), and circuitry is also produced as a single unit. Then the unit is moved to the “pour station” where the remainder of the space is filled with lead dust before being heated just sufficiently to soften the lead into a bonded unit. The projectile is then loaded into a standard .50-cal case and, when fired, leaves the rifle at approximately 2,800 feet per second.
Now, here’s the part no one has ever read or heard about before:
The circuitry contained in each projectile is connected, via Bluetooth, to the shooter’s cell phone and targeting optic. The projectile itself can be “programmed” to track a given target, chasing it (so to speak) until impact is made. The partner piece to both the munition and the phone app is the targeting system or, as the team calls it, the “got you” telescope. With the phone connected via Bluetooth, the shooter aims the rifle at a given target. Then he confirms the target by pushing a button on the phone app and locks that target into the projectile’s “memory.” Once the bullet is fired, it will track the target and “chase” it until impact is made.
Adjustments in flight are made by almost immeasurable electrical charges, sent by the circuitry through the fiber optic connections to the copper jacket. The resulting minor changes in heat and density of that specific face of the jacket causes the bullet to turn in flight allowing it to track the programmed in target.
When asked about how the projectile tracks the programmed target, Spitzer said that the specific programming was classified and proprietary… and that he couldn’t / wouldn’t discuss it beyond that. When asked about how the company insulated the contained circuitry from the impact of being fired, his response was the same.
It took two years before they had working prototypes and each of them was expensive to produce. Once they got to production of the first 100 SMART .50 rounds, the cost was roughly $115,000 per round. Those 100 rounds were all test fired with complete experimental data tracking and documentation performed. Once the projectiles were determined to be successful, the second production run – this time of 1,000 rounds – was begun. The cost per round for the second production run was reduced to $22,000 per round.
While that cost still seems prohibitively high, Spitzer said he expected the cost to continually, if slowly drop, to a minimum of about $3,000 per round at the lowest. Even that may seem too high of a cost for most law enforcement agencies but it has to be measured against the potential savings from a variety of factors. This new SMART .50 system virtually guarantees that no unintended target will ever be hit. That equates to high levels of potential liability reduction. The training required for this munition system is also reduced as compared to that of traditional precision marksmen. Weather impact is virtually non-existent so snipers using this system would no longer need to factor in air density (altitude), humidity, wind, etc. The SMART .50 app is free but the targeting optic is projected to cost about $8,000 once it’s in production.
Smart Munitions and Remote Targeting, Inc. is a completely fictional company created to support this completely fictional article about the new military and law enforcement smart munition, the SMART .50. The terms boattail and spitzer are both related to rifle projectile design. So… Happy April Fool’s Day!