back to article Terry Pratchett computer sniper-scope deal inked

The US military's project intended to produce miraculous sighting systems for sniper rifles - designed to ensure that million-to-one shots will actually be almost certain to hit their target, rather as in Terry Pratchett's Discworld stories - has moved forward. American weaponry behemoth Lockheed has been awarded a $6.87m …


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  1. Thomas 18

    smartgun link - check

    Now for the wired reflexes and sub dermal plating pls.

  2. Fading

    They already have them.

    After playing MW2 and BFBC2 online I'm pretty sure most of the opponents have these equiped already.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    2474 m

    Seriously - I mean who amongst us mere mortals would even try such a shot.

    I mean, with a Howitzer maybe...

  4. skellious

    Pratchett angle necessary?

    I love Pratchett's work, He's far and away my favourite author, but putting his name in the title gave me hope he had personally invented a miraculous sniper-scope.

    1. nickrw

      Re: Pratchett angle necessary?

      I just re-read 'Guards! Guards!' so I found it especially amusing.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      From Guards, Guards

      Million to one chances crop up nine times out of ten...

  5. foo_bar_baz

    Still the weakest link

    .. is the meatbag holding the gun. If you can have stabilization and facial recognition in a compact camera, why can't they produce ... oh, wait. Yeah, marry it with this and make it small enough to be portable.

    1. Richard Gadsden 1


      That's why I still want a meatbag in the loop.

  6. Elmer Phud

    toys for boys

    "Did it work?"


  7. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    Next step:

    Remove the fleshy component from the system

    1. Ken 16 Silver badge

      and mass produce

      the war of terror can really begin

  8. Lionel Baden

    fukken cheats

    Hate ppl with aimbots :!!!

    1. Anonymous Coward

      And I hate people stealing f*** IPR

      I had the same shit proposed to DARPA a year back on their round of "next gen apps" and they dissed it as "not interesting".

      I feel a lawsuit in the making here somewhere...

      1. streaky

        Patent first..

        Also DARPA not finding something interesting is not the same as the US Army or some us mil-attached corporate behemoth not doing...

        But seriously why would you approach anybody with an idea without getting patent applications in first, hypothetically..

  9. Nick Kew

    It's not Pratchett ...

    ... but a fine tradition he re-used.

    Though I'm a great Pratchett fan, in this case I think the Infinite Improbability Drive was a rather better idea.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      @Nick Kew

      If, as Pratchett suggests, million to one chances crop up 9 times out of 10 rules out the Infinite Improbability Drive (IID) could not function.

      If the chance of Dent/Prefect surviving being thrown into space was 2 to the power of 2013456789 (or whatever it was) would mean, under "Pratchett's law" that they would have a 90% chance of being rescued, clearly such device as the IID could not function.

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        More than a million to one

        Therefore more than a nine in ten chance

  10. jai



    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re Jai

      Have you been watching Bambi again?

  11. GrahamS


    > "Better still, it will use a laser beam to measure the wind's direction and strength not just at the sniper team's location but all the way downrange towards the target."

    How does that work then?? Surely wind doesn't deflect a laser? Does it?

    Great tech, but a shame we don't seem to make similar investments in tech designed to make lives better, rather than shorten them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      make lives better??

      It may shorten the victims life, but in turn prolong the users....

    2. bluesxman

      RE: How?

      Killing people in a far away land, who may or may not harbour a specific or non-specific intention of malice towards us, is making us safer day by day.

      Well, that's what the "War on Terror" made me believe. Yes indeed.

    3. Dave Mundt

      re: How?

      greetings and salutations...

      Simplistically....the wind DOES sort of deflect the laser beam. It causes density changes in the air, which refracts the light, causing the reflection of the spot to distort. Software can compare the reflected/refracted image with what was sent out, and, can determine how the density changes, and from that, what corrections need to be done to return the image to "perfection".

      This technology is really useful in the astronomical world, as it allows ground-based telescopes to take vastly improved images by applying real-time corrections to the mirror to back out the distortions of the atmosphere.

      About the only problem I can see is that, in the telescope context, it requires a fairly powerful laser beam to get good results. While this does not matter when one is creating an artificial star in the sky for analysis, I suspect that a target that sees a dot of light on their body, with smoke coming from it MIGHT suspect that something is wrong, and, would seek shelter fairly quickly.


      dave mundt

      1. GrahamS

        re: How?

        Interesting. So wouldn't heat also cause density changes in the air?

        e.g. what if the target is the opposite side of a burning tank or oil well?

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

        @Dave Mundt

        Satellite remote sensing and wind tunnel model study both seem to use some of this stuff already.

        Temperature and wind profiles by laser have been available by satellite for some years. However I'm not sure if they they can do point separations of less than a few 100 m (the motion of the satellite is likely to have a *big* impact on what's possible)

        In wind tunnels and combustion chambers "Laser Doppler Velocometry" and Schilern techniques track either particles in the flow or refractive index changes.

        The joker in this stuff is how long the laser illuminates the target. It's almost certainly IR but once people wise up to it being deployed I think we'll see some very simple but very clever IILDs* being fielded. If the pulse (or pulses) are very short (say <1/50 sec) and very few they will still be useless.

        *Improvised Infrared Light Detectors.

        1. streaky


          Don't have to be visible OR infrared. Seems like in this context you'd actually want an ultra-violet laser anyways, for accuracy reasons and that you'd light up like a Christmas tree on a IR scope (which this tech will almost certainly be combined with at some stage).

    4. Rob

      Don't think it does...

      ..."How does that work then?? Surely wind doesn't deflect a laser? Does it?" but the wind will be carry dust particles and that's probably what the laser would use to measure direction and speed (that's a guess, I'm sure there are some brighter sparks on here that could let us know).

    5. OziWan


      But it will affect the bullet

  12. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge


    Yes, wind changes the density of air, that changes the refractive index and so bends the light.

    I worked on one more than 10years ago, it's based on the systems you use for measuring atmospheric distortion to do adaptive optics in astronomy. Although back then the calculation would have needed a laptop.

    We did invent a system that used lasers to let a soldier fire a grenade on target without sticking their head up and getting shot. Worked great in trials, army loved it then we tried to sell it to them. Think Yes Minister meets Thales/BAe/Vickers

  13. Guido Esperanto

    What are they trying to achieve

    consistently break records for longest combat shot, or save bullets?

    "and he had to shoot and miss several times before getting the necessary corrections nailed down"

    $6.7m will buy a lot of ammo.

    My first thoughts about this was, surely the wind will take effect, but they appear to counter that with wind detecting lasers.

    But I maintain my point, you are detecting wind at your local spot, not at, nor near target some 1500+ m away.

    I'm no sniper expert, but is it plausible that wind variation can differ at such a distance?.

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
      IT Angle

      the simple answer is


      I suspect the sniper scope will measure how far the beam is deflected as the fleshy part aims the little red dot onto the target, then shift the red dot in order to get the fleshy part to adjust the aim until his red dot and the computer's red dot line up.

      The fact the actual gun maybe pointing in a different direction has no bearing

      But I guess the real advantage is that you wont need the ranging shots for such long range stuff, instead, one shot, one kill.... which is as it should be.

    2. Nexox Enigma


      """But I maintain my point, you are detecting wind at your local spot, not at, nor near target some 1500+ m away.

      I'm no sniper expert, but is it plausible that wind variation can differ at such a distance?."""

      Did you read the article? It specifically states that they use a laser to measure all of the wind between the sniper and the target, and it can even calculate a probability of the wind changing too much in the next few seconds.

      """consistently break records for longest combat shot, or save bullets?

      "and he had to shoot and miss several times before getting the necessary corrections nailed down""""

      I imagine it's so that the target isn't alerted and given time to take cover / escape / retaliate, not just to save ammo...

  14. Chris Hawkins

    @How = OoK!!!!!

    Ook Ook!

    This recent programming language if embedded in the scope's innards may help!

    Ook Ook!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    next item for sale on the far east markets.....

    Head/Helmet worn (Anti-Sniper) Laser Targeting Detection Sensors!

    Cost to build maybe £30 topps, RRP $200, front line market prices (ie what our troops will have to pay....£10,000 per unit)

    nice little earner for someone....who knows how to sell sand to the arabs......

    now has anyone registered ASLTDS.... yet?

    I can see there is a substantial market for these in Gaza and middle east (for the locals at least)

    1. Tequila Joe

      Hi-tech foiled again?

      "Head/Helmet worn (Anti-Sniper) Laser Targeting Detection Sensors!"

      Or how about something to simply foil the laser targeting, such as the always useful multi-purpose* crinkled 'tinfoil hat'?

      *Can also be used, with a little loud mumbling, to get a seat on a crowded train.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Just have a missle target the IR

      see title

      1. streaky


        Again, who says it's IR?

  16. John Dougald McCallum


    "nice little earner for someone....who knows how to sell sand to the Arabs"

    as a matter of fact there is a considerable amount of building sand sold to the middle east for concrete making,their desert sand is not course enough gets polished by being blown about a little bit

  17. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    I always thought this would be totally banned for domestic use.

    But then I discovered some Merkins hunt *deer from 950 yards (across a valley) using a bench rest.

    Obviously the idea of actually *walking* over countryside on a stalk seemed a bit tiring when you can just set up a salt lick, crack open a Bud and wait for Bambi to get in range.

    You know they are going to love this thing. It will be the NRA's must have Xmas present.

    What could go wrong?

    *Technically he's not so much a hunter, more an armed consumer.

  18. Robert Hill

    Banned at Bisley...

    I give it 10 years before these are explicitly banned from civilian rifle competitions...just long enough for the price to fall to £3000 or so each and then to hit the civilian market.

    What with F-class and benchrest rifle competitions now being all about reading the wind and not steadying your shot (cause it's off a bipod or rest), I'm not sure what else there would be to DO if these were allowed - squeeze the trigger perhaps?

    Frankly, I'm a bit surprised that these have't been made before - certainly a lot of the basic tech has been around for a while - must have just been a packaging and power issue.

    Grenade - because we don't have a gun icon!

  19. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    @next item for sale

    Already exists, there are laser scanners that look for the retroreflection from the sniper's scope and others that use a cluster of microphones to get the distance and direction of the shot.

    At least in western armies there are also specialist anti-sniper-sniper units.

    Snipers are incredibly effective in modern wars. You have an individual bad guy a mile away, your options are assault the position possibly with lots of your own casualties, call in an air strike and kill lots of innocent civilians or have a sniper take out the target.

    There is also a tremendous morale effect on the enemy - you are safe inside your own people and the leader exorting you to overthrow the infidel suddenly drops dead in front of you.

    1. NogginTheNog

      Respec' for the even braver enemy

      You may have some disagreements with the Taliban's ideology, but you have to give them some respect for continuing to go up against the coalition forces don't you?! Remote planes to blow you up from high in the sky, snipers to shoot you dead from 2 kilometres away, satellites to spot your every move... and STILL they keep fighting.

      War's a fucked up business :-(

      <= Grenade 'cos well it kills people too.

    2. Liam Johnson

      drops dead in front of you

      If he gets hit by one of those big sniper rounds, you will be picking bits of leader out of your beard for weeks.

  20. Jerry

    What about Coriolis & Eotvos?

    If you take out wind and density effects you are left with Coriolis and Eotvos effects that cause the bullet to swing left / right depending on range and latitude, but more importantly up and down depending on the direction you are firing. The major effect is East-to-West vs West to East

  21. This post has been deleted by its author

  22. Kevin Fairhurst

    I may be wrong on this one, but....

    You have the bad guy ahead of you, due north. There's a strong wind blowing east, so you actually aim to the west of the bad guy for the trajectory of the bullet to hit him.

    However, what if there are some innocent kids playing soccer at some point north-west of your position? Does this uber-rifle take in to account the fact that you're now pointing the gun 45 degrees away from your intended target? How many bystanders will be killed before the army ask to add on a second sight showing what the gun is actually pointing at?

  23. Anonymous Coward

    At some point

    ballistic projectiles reach their limit of practicality - and I believe this passes that.

    Maybe just boosting the power on the laser and blinding or burning the foe would achieve the same objective. Likely, such would be deemed excessively cruel, by those who attempt to rate such things and the sniper fraternity would frown, but ray-gun warfare will, sooner or later, be used and best be ready with a counter-force when that occurs.

  24. John Bailey
    Black Helicopters

    Oh goody

    High precision friendly fire.

    Mine's the one with the prisms stuck all over it.

  25. ViagraFalls

    And if 6 out of 10 ain't good enough...

    the sniper could always try making the shot while balancing on one foot...

    I'll get my wizard jacket...

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But does it give more kills than a good human sniper?

    With One Shot

    Chance of first shot kill = 6/10

    Chance of 2nd shot kill if first shot missed = 6/10

    Chance of 3rd shot kill if 2nd shot missed = 6/10


    Now compare with human

    Chance of first shot kill 1/10

    Chance of 2nd shot kill 6/10

    Chance of 3rd shot kill 9/10

    i.e. human can compensate after each shot, but One Shot cannot - so maybe chance of a kill on first shot is greater, but what is the chance of a kill after 3 shots (assuming target stays still, of course!).

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    6 out of 10

    Will this tech actually tell merkin troops whether they are aiming at the right target, a friendly target or an innocent bystander?

    If it can't do that then six out of ten allies and civilians had better watch out.

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