back to article Computing smart-scope gunsight for US snipers

US military boffins are about to produce a field-ready computer gunsight which will let snipers kill people on their first shot from a mile away - even with troublesome winds blowing. The technical issues facing the so-called "One Shot" project have already been solved using prototype equipment, and it is now planned to …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Household Cavalry

    Officers still need a personal income - you cannot reply on salary to get you though! Not exclusive at all then....

  2. Anonymous Coward


    ...this new wonder weapon will win the war against 95% of the Afghan population. I mean, the V2 wonder weapon won the war for Hitler, don't cha know ?

    If not, it will win the war for an Arms supplier.

  3. Dan Wilkinson

    And the connection is?

    To Terry Pratchett, I mean...

    1. Kevin Johnston


      very, very thin.

    2. Woodgie

      His Pratchettness once quipped...

      Something along the lines of:

      "...It was a million to one chance but as we all know a million to one chance crops up nine times out of ten..."

      1. Steve Brooks

        million to one - EXACTLY

        "Something along the lines of:"

        More along the lines of;

        Has anyone ever heard of a 997,686 to 1 chance happening, or a eleventy billion to one chance? Nope, its ALWAYS a million to one, so if something is EXACTLY a million to one then 9 times out of ten it will happen. SO if I take this arrow, stand on one leg, close my eyes, hold my bow and arrow in my left hand that should be a million to one to hit the dragon, its bound to work!

        Of course it didn't work in the end, it wasn't exactly a million to one no doubt. The similarity to Pratchett ends about here I am afraid, sine they want to make this million to one shot about 6 to 1 its bound to fail. They need to take the sniper, put him in a donkey suit, tie a string around his bollocks with the other end attached to a small furry animal with a penchat for jumping around (an excited kitten would do!), douse his hands in a can tomatoe sauce and strap a balloon marked sniper to the top of his head. That should make it about a million to one to hit anything even if its standing right in front of him, bound to work, right?

        Of yes, big fail for this one, don't try to channel Terry Pratchett, the man actually has some talent, as opposed to just about every journalist in the world these days.

  4. OffBeatMammal

    did you wear the lilac?

    1. richard101


      Pratchett. All the little angels.......

  5. Craig 28

    One step towards...

    The "Smartlink" system in the Shadowrun table-top RPG. All we need is the ability to fit this onto everything from a pistol to a rocket launcher...

    All this aside while it might not be a wonder weapon, and even wonder weapons generally turn out pretty crappy in the end anyway compared to expectations laid on them, if used sensibly it could be a damn good tool.

  6. Liam Johnson

    Corporal of Horse

    Oh, so nothing to do with the size of his weapon?

  7. Jolyon Ralph

    Israeli solution

    The israeli solution to defeat enemy snipers in the Lebanon wasn't to rely on one-shot-one-kill, but to use six-barrel gatling guns on top of armoured personnel carriers, normally designed to shoot down enemy aircraft, and blast the crap out of not only the sniper but anyone and anything that happened to be in the general vicinity.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      re. Israeli solution

      If you don't care about collateral damage, then you won't care that you're still fighting 20 years later.

      Any idiot can apply excessive force, but it rarely helps in the long run.

      Maybe we could do like the Nazis and start executing people in nearby villages as a warning to potential collaborators?

    2. ratfox

      The US solution

      In Yugoslavia, the merkins got rid of snipers with a subtle AC-130

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    1 in a million shots happen 9 times out of 10

    Terry Pratchett in 'Guards, guards' said '1 in a million shots happen 9 times out of 10'

  9. Hein-Pieter van Braam
    Thumb Down

    One nagging problem

    The whole point of sniping is to kill high value targets at a long distance without them knowing about it, on account of the long distance.

    Sending a nice 'heads up' in advance through an easily detectable fucking laser beam seems to me to be ever so slightly damaging to the whole fucking concept.

    IF use of this becomes pervasive, how long until the aforementioned high value target have 5 dollar laser detectors on their coats?

    Hell, you could even have a form of laser shield like it was in use in the 'stinger' anti-speed ticket device. (Detect laser, shoot garbage laser beam back confusing the device)

    Does this not seem stupid to anyone else?

    1. Pablo

      Good question

      I assume they would use an IR or other invisible laser. Theoretically, it could still be detected, but in practice I imagine that would be fairly difficult.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Umm, only you would jump to this conclusion...

      The laser does not emit in the visible portion of the spectrum and is generally used to determine the range that the computer uses for its calculations.

      So yes, you are somehat deficient in common sense

    3. Tom Maddox Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      This just in . . .

      . . . not all lasers are in the visible spectrum. So, no, not so much.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Hein-Pieter van Braam

      I have to support you here because as per usual, the commentards are thinking a few steps behind. I especially like the moron that jumped to the conclusion that you had jumped to a conclusion about something when you hadn't. It don't get much more tardy than that.

      Anyway, every point you make is valid, lasers of any spectrum are easily detectable and I think you've hit the nail on the head with the $5 laser detectors, the start of a new arms race?

      I think this tech would give you an advantage so I wouldn't call it stupid. Especially if your location is not a secret, i.e. guard tower.

    5. Saigua

      Israeli Laser Solution QED

      A laser is hard pressed to pierce the night humidity (atmos. condensation, really) and dust of day for 2km. and dwell as aimed, long enough to get signal back to the scope. There isn't exactly a DragonBall Z monocle for sensing that threat. Or maybe shady BluDisk vendors float more IP now, in convenient digests. That said, wearing lampblack, having a rhino with reflectors, going around in lots of buffer smog and flashy coatings (bumper sticker 'My other car is your primary objective') has its own drawbacks. Staging laser gobos at the site has to be fine for both jamming and strategy. Light's fast, but if the same slop as sonar in a rainstorm's there, you have to reconsider unbolting the stock, going 2km with it, and picking a line that way. Plus la change, plus la meme MDK stage miroir chôse.

      $5 laser detectors, if they magically worked, would give you a fine 3-second chance to teleport away. More, if the scope really choked so you were manually re-targeted. Or laugh at the 2 m/s the round might have at sighting distance. LAG!

      1. lasersage

        laser dwell?

        So lets assume that the guy you're targeting is an unrealistically far 5000m away. Assume the laser beam travels there at near enough the speed of light in a vacuum (3x10^8 m/s) and then has to get back to your scope, so 10000m at 300000000m/s gives 33 micro seconds. Is that really too much dwell?

        I fully agree moisture in the air/dust could be a problem.

        I'd love to know just what there $5 laser detectors people or discussing are. Granted they're probably using IR and black and white video cameras/webcams will pic it up easily enough, but this $5 gadget must be pretty clever or they'll be targets diving for cover every time someone changes channel on the telly. IR DETECTED FIND COVER!!!!!

        1. Hein-Pieter van Braam


          There have been car laser and radar detectors for ages, they are now outlawed in a lot of European countries though since they 'interfere' with detecting people who speed (which is, incidentally exactly what they were designed for)

          While they might not be 5 dollars exactly, they are remarkably accurate and I doubt the scatter from a television remote somewhere in the vicinity (as in the same block of buildings) would be enough to trigger an alarm.

          There are a whole crop of companies who even sell 'laser warning systems' to the various military around the world to protect planes from laser guided missiles and other equipment like it.

          If it were that trivial to make a beam of energy that does not interact with anything you send it to, but does send a measurable information back we have solved the Heisenberg uncertainty principle! :P

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    So the laser isnt going to give away the sniper position then?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      RE: Laser?

      I was thinking the same thing, sure it's likley to be infra-red rather than visible but it would be trivial to pick up especally with market available night vision equipment which specialises in that part of the spectrum.

      I could calculate what it needs to in a split second, meaning that the laser only need be on for the minimum of time. probably activated by a half pull on the trigger just as your shot is lined up in the sights. A quick adjustment as per the readouts and bam.

      The added range it would give you is probably well worth the risk of using it. But it would depend if you were in the field staying low and trying to remain hidden or sniping from a base at attackers from afar.

      It defenately is a cool tool, assuming it all works like that anyway. if you have to have a bloody great laser shining everywhere then well....I don't think it would take on.

    2. OrsonX

      Stupid... almost...

      Until last week I would have replied:

      "how on earth can the laser possibly give away the snipers position?"

      - given that it doesn't work like a torch radiating in all directions? BUT, last week I saw a BBC news report showing a police chopper being dazzled from the ground by a green laser, and to my amazement the beam could be clearly seen, as could the protagonist on the ground.... now if only the copter had had "One Shot" fitted then it would have been problem solved!

      1. Anonymous Coward

        RE: Stupid...almost...

        Good title, fitting...

        The reason you can see lasers from other angles is because the light is scattered by dust particles and moisture droplets. Indeed, it is the movement of these particles that will make it possible for this tech to work in the first place. SO, IR, UV & visible spectrum lasers all have scatter and that scatter can be detected, giving the location of the sniper.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Red and blue

    The best feature is that the sight will apparently "be capable of identifying a target as hostile". Really? If it were true, that would be very good news for America's allies...

  12. Bombjack

    Is this related to Sex Panther Cologne?

    One shot - sixty percent of the time, works every time.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    LASERs not all have to be in the visible spectrum.

    Could also be pulsed/modulated to confuse detectors, the idea wouldn't be to 'paint' a target as is required by LGBs etc. you'd only need a fraction of a second to take the readings, adjust aim, fire.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      LASER detectors can be any frequency as well.

      Plus they can easily use scatter from the beam, thus not actually requiring the detector to be in the beam.

      If the laser dot couldn't be easily detected, the system wouldn't work at all as it relies on taking readings from the dot on the target.

      On the other hand - how long does the sniper need the system running to set up his shot? Probably not very long - set up a rough aim 'as normal', then turn on the computer, small adjustment and fire.

    2. dux

      lasers used to determine probability

      AC - if the laser is going to detect probability of bullet destination accuracy, and expected condition changes, then it is going to be monitoring regularly, if not continuously.

      such a weapon would be fine against a low-tech enemy, but an enemy with resources could easily put together a laser beam detection system to provide sniper warnings. It doesn't have to be visible to be a detection risk.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Depends on the length of time it takes to calculate the shot

        if it's fractions of a second, your warning becomes a bang quarter of a second after the bullet hits its target.

        If it's a few seconds, it'd be a case of "SNIPE---oh, he's fallen over."

        Even with visible light it's barely a problem on that timescale.

        And the laser detector idea works on the idea of the enemy having laser detectors and bodyguards who'll wear IR goggles during the day. Or a target who's wearing all over refractive clothes. Even then, your sniper could target the non-refractive roof above him, move the gun down slightly and pull the trigger.

  14. Mike Bird 1

    millions to one odds = 50/50

    Lets face it .. either a thing WILL occur or it WILL NOT occur.

    There fore the odds of anything is strictly 50/50.

    1. weegie.geek


      There's a 50/50 chance of you being abducted by aliens tonight while you sleep? Having been experimented on by extra-terrestrials would go a long way to explaining your understanding of frequency probability.

    2. Captain Thyratron

      You fail it.

      It is the probabiilty.

      If an event has one outcome four hundred times out a thousand and another outcome six hundred times out of a thousand, what would you call the odds of each outcome?

      If, for about every seven million times a thing happens, a certain specific outcome arises thrice, what are the odds of that specific outcome?

      Think, man. "50/50" odds of an outcome to some event are what you have if, as the number of trials approaches infinity, the ratio of trials with the outcome in question to total trials approaches 1/2.

      Of course, Pratchett was just being silly and making fun of people who underestimate the likelihood of supposedly unlikely events. You, however, are simply being daft.

    3. Anonymous Coward


      Any odds are "will/will not" you wingnut regardless of the probability.

      50/50 just means that the odds are even, there is no bias towards one result or the other.

    4. Noons
      Thumb Up

      beware the black hole

      Mike, nice reference to Mr. Wagner's sophisticated argument against the LHC experiments. Pity so many people don't seem to be aware of it. It's maybe more obscure than we both assume.

  15. Mike Moyle

    Re: ...nagging problem/Laser?

    Presumably they're using an infra-red or similar non-visible-spectrum laser -- which might have the advantage of further lighting the target up when viewed through an IR scope. Since the beam itself would be invisible to the naked eye and visible only to an IR detector that was in line with the bean and pointed in the right direction it's probably not that big a problem unless clothing completely covered with IR sensors becomes popular.

    I'm just wondering how heavy the final unit is expected to be. Since it sounds like it's actually doing the job that the spotter is intended to do, I wonder whether it mightn't eliminate the need to infiltrate two soldiers where one would do. Is it just the difference in field of view between a spotter scope and the (presumably) higher-powered rifle scope that the sniper uses?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Actually laser beam is never quite perfect, unless you are working in a vacuum, in fact this is the very thing which enables the device to work. Detection is just a matter of proper analysis of scattered light across very narrow range of wavelengths. In fact you contradicted yourself by first saying that you can see the beam through nv goggles (correct), and then by saying that detection would require a point detector :).

      1. Mike Moyle

        Not really.

        "In fact you contradicted yourself by first saying that you can see the beam through nv goggles (correct), and then by saying that detection would require a point detector :)."

        To the extent that: 1 -- the target's teammates could always be looking at him from all sides with IR goggles to see if he suddenly "lights up", or; 2 -- a detector near enough to the beam path and pointed in the direction of the sniper could spot the laser source (unless masked by another strong IR source on the same line, possibly) you are correct.

        However, what I was talking about was the likelihood of a detector (human or automated) which is outside of the actual beam path looking ACROSS the beam and seeing enough atmospheric IR scatter to identify as a threat, which I would put at vanishingly small -- particularly considering how many other objects that might be directly in front of the detector radiate in the infra-red, like vehicles, people, hot tarmac, etc., and might serve to mask the scatter.

        To be most certain of spotting the beam in transit and the source one would need something pretty damned close to a point detector. It doesn't have to be ON the target, but it would have to be within a pretty narrow cone of the sniper/target line and looking in a direction pretty close to the direction of the laser source, unless, as I said, you were just looking at the target to see if he "lights up".

  16. Gene Cash Silver badge

    That... is sweet...

    I was always disturbed by the amount of work the Military Channel shows for the sniper & spotter to take a shot. It involved a lot of time and a lot of tapping into a calculator and looking up tables, and a little SWAG on top of that. It seemed a lot like the level of effort of muzzle-loading, and not really something I wanted to do in combat.

    Plus, the first job ENIAC had was to calculate Army shell ballistics tables, so the more things change...

    Speaking of lasers, they use laser rangefinders now. Cpl Rob Furlong's shot was measured with one. So apparently, detection isn't an issue, especially with the low-tech Taliban.

  17. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    good questions on lasers

    A very short pulse would be *very* difficult to detect but would need *lots* of processing to pull all the factors off of such a pulse.

    Note that repeated pulses could trip a fairly low tech detector that had hysteresis.

    Tricky. but pretty clever.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Laser Sights are Humane ...

    ... as demonstrated on "The Professionals" in the Seventies (I think). As soon as the villain sees the laser designator spot on his shirt he immediately surrenders!

  19. cphi

    now snipers will have to take shots while hopping on one leg...

    sorry has to be said

  20. Spanners Silver badge

    Remember the old saying

    "Tracer works both ways."

    I think it applies to laser as well.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      There is a reason...'s called the two way range.

  21. Mark 65

    Slightly related question

    In one of the articles about Harrison's efforts he stated they took about 9 rounds to calibrate the distance ready for the attempted (successful) shots.

    Anyone know how you do this without alerting the target you're sniping at them or was this a peculiarity of this case whereby they could do it as the targets may have been under other fire or otherwise unable to detect the calibration rounds as they were firing a large calibre machine gun?

  22. Nigee

    Nothing really new

    handheld ballistic calculators - been around for 30 years (although this one may use NABK and that needs some grunt and precise trajectory closure may need a lot of iterations).

    handheld laser rangefinders - ditto, although this one is very short range.

    electronic moving aiming marks - ditto, been used in artillery sights for 20 years.

    using rangefinders to determine wind - nothing new here either.

    Invites the question 'what took so long to package this into one device' ?

    1. kissingthecarpet

      Thank you

      for not writing "begs the question" as so many would have(and do)

  23. This post has been deleted by its author

  24. Noons
    Black Helicopters

    I love the smell of napalm in the morning...

    That's why I so enjoy reading about the latest news on killing IT over breakfast. Pity there's no photos of maimed bodies. Maybe you could give it a thought next time, Mr. Page? I'll go and play with my tin soldiers now.

    What's that red spot on my shir......

  25. raggedyman

    Pure filth

    100% wanton gun porn.

    Keep it up :-)

  26. Jerry


    I have in a past life been an army marksman - British variety rather than American so my bullets grouped pretty damned close - perhaps I was closer to an American Designated Marksman.

    I am also a trained physicist so I know about stuff like the Coriolis force.

    I have read about, but not got any further info on, the effect of Left and Right hand twist in rifle bores.

    The story is that British rifles during the early Afghan wars were calibrated in the UK. When they were deployed in Afghanistan, they shot quite badly, especially at extended ranges. The cause was the Coriolis force pushing the rounds to one side. I remember - vaguely - that the left or right twist in the rifle barrel changed the error

    Do these new-fangled sighting systems account for Coriolis force? Do they account for rifle twist direction?

  27. Daniel Evans

    What's the problem with lasers?

    Surely they've already got some fairly powerful, not-often-detected-nor-defeated, flight-stabilised lasery things, stuck on their bombers, for all their laser-guided bombs.


  28. The elephant in the room

    Why not loose the bullets and turn up the beam power?

    Sniping paraphernalia looks pretty big and heavy to me. Surely DARPA must working on a chemical laser system of comprable weight. A very low rate of fire, or even a single-use weapon would be acceptable for some missions as accuracy will be perfect, the shot will be silent, and the effect instant (well, at the speed of light).

    Or are there rules against such an unsporting weapon?

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Coriolis Force

    A very interesting article about a not-particularly-new idea.

    Few people have any idea about the difficulty of hitting targets at this distance or the number of variables which come into play, particularly as regards atmospheric conditions and wind. It isn't just about putting the crosshairs in the middle and pulling the trigger. In particular, wind is a real pain as the strength of the effect differs at different ranges, it can change very quickly and is very hard to visualise. Additionally, the topography of the range can really screw things around because it will direct the wind up and down as well as introducing vortices. There is "vertical" wind as well as horizontal!

    As regards a question in the thread above about coriolis force the system will have to take account of spin drift (which is affected by barrel twist) as well as the rotation of the Earth (which isn't, if I remember correctly):

    Spin drift is a lateral drift resulting from the interaction of the bullet's spin with the air it is travelling throught. It is negligible under about 900 yards, but becomes significantly more important thereafter as it is a nonlinear effect. For a 308 Winchester (virtually identical to 7.62x51mm) the drift is about 1 minute of arc at 1000 yards (with a 155 grain bullet of muzzle velocity 2950fps.) As far as I am aware all rifle barrels made these days are right hand twist (for historical reasons.)

    The rotation of the earth only really comes into play at extreme ranges and is beyond the field of my knowledge; although I do not believe that it is affected by barrel twist.


    1. Jerry

      Eötvös effect as well

      Coriolis effect causes a left or right deviation. Surprisingly the faster the projectile, the greater the effect.

      The interrelated Eötvös effect causes a rise and fall of shot depending on whether you are shooting east or west.

      Back-of-envelope calculations for 1000m/s round are deviations of 2-3 cm at 1000 metres depending where on earth you are and which way you are firing. (For Americans, 3000 fps and about an inch at 1000 yards)

      The other - greater - effect I found was light level. "lights up, sights up". The optical illusion caused by light changes has a quite marked effect.

  30. Jason Togneri

    Waste of bullets

    "who hit and killed two Taliban machine-gunners at a distance of 2,474 metres in November last year in as many shots"

    You need some parentheses, mate; this sounds like he hit them "at a distance of 2,474 metres [...] in as many shots" until you read beyond it! I'm picturing a fully-automatic sniper rifle and a terrible marksman ;-)

    Otherwise, great article.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture


    By any other name is still murder.

    1. PirateSlayer


      ...just let everyone else 'murder' our enemies so you are able to be a pacifist without having your balls cut off.

      1. Anonymous Coward


        If you befriend your enemies or better work to avoid making enemies in the first instance you might not worry so much about having your "balls cut off" or feel the paranoid urge to develop killing technology that will be used to inflict pain and suffering on others.

        1. PirateSlayer
          Thumb Down


          I am desperately trying to keep Hitler out of it but...

          If party A (lets call them 'Axis') wants to exterminate party B (lets call them 'Children of Israel, gays, transexuals, gypsies, anyone opposed to dictatorial rule). Should party C (lets call them 'Allies'):

          1) Befriend party A and allow party it to exterminate party B, thus keeping their hands and murderous consciences clear of human blood (except the millions who would die at the hands of Party A)


          2) Annihilate party A for being thoroughly unpleasant and murderous.

          Two wrongs DO make a right.

          The Middle East is like this too. Fundamentalist religion is a threat to secular democracy (the type that you almost enjoy). If you want women to be stoned to death for adultery, gays to be crucified together for homosexuality, forced subjegation through religious diktats created by mysogenistic autocrats here in the UK or spread to neighbours in Europe...'befriend' away.

          I prefer to make sniper rounds my enemies friends. Close friends.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Completely Illogical

            What you are describing is a zero sum game. Taken to its logical conclusion -

            Party A have nuclear weapons.

            Party B have nuclear weapons.

            Conflict equals mutually assured destruction.

            Break the cycle of needless violence and achieve a mutally satisfactory outcome instead.

            When you pull the trigger and cause the death of another human being it is like killing your own father, brother, grandfather or uncle. It doesn't matter that you label them the "enemy" or yourself the "rightious".

            Furthermore violence and aggression perpetuate a cycle of hatred of hatred and revenge that continue to cause enourmous harm until all involved realise the ultimate pointlessness and futility of their actions.

          2. kissingthecarpet

            Armchair generals

            are rather sad people in my experience. You killed anyone recently, PirateSucker, eh? Because you must be a sniper judging by your closing remark.

            Supported the last Iraq debacle too, didn't you?

            Your remark about "The Middle East" for example - the UK & US have been "befriending" Saudi Arabia for decades - a country exactly like the one you describe, so why haven't we adopted their ideas yet? For the same reason they haven't adopted ours - they're not us & we're not them. Do you really think that "we" declared war on Germany in '39 because they were " being thoroughly unpleasant and murderous"? No, "we" declared war on them because of international treaties(same as WW1). If they'd stuck to being "unpleasant" to countries that weren't in any treaties or not worth cash to us, then "we'd" have done bugger all (like the US did until their interests were threatened - if they'd had a more right-wing pres at the time, we'd probably be speaking German now)

            Remember when "we" loved Saddam Hussein? Until he thought that "us" not doing anything about his murderous genocidal activities meant that he could invade Kuwait. Or how about Darfur?

            "We" do 1) most of the time, except when "we're" forced to do something.

        2. Steve 114
          Paris Hilton

          Goolie Chit

          My father was friendly to the tribesmen, but he would have needed it if captured. (except, the girls wielded the knives, and they couldn't read...)

    2. richard101

      War, What is it good for?

      Nope, incorrect.

  32. PirateSlayer

    Oh noes

    Another reason to fear and loathe bush wookies.

  33. Big Irish Dave
    Thumb Up

    Check this out

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