back to article Acoustic gunshot locators get UK military field trials

The UK Ministry of Defence has turned to famed techsploration firm BBN - which among other things gave the world the "@" symbol in email - to provide a shoulder-mounted gunshot detector able to backtrack bullets in flight and locate enemy gunmen firing at British troops. The BBN Boomerang Warrior-X. credit: Raytheon Most …


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  1. william henderson 1


    can it identify "friendly" fire?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      That's easy

      just work with the Americans- if you've been hit, it's probably Friendly fire.

  2. Alpha Centauri
    Thumb Up


    Great headline!

    1. NoDosh
      Thumb Up

      Bullet-crack backtrack attack-smack

      Oh I have to disagree. That's an 11 out of 10 if ever I saw one.

    2. NoDosh

      Bullet-crack backtrack attack-smack

      Oh I have to disagree. That's an 11 out of 10 if ever I saw one.

  3. Ralph B
    Black Helicopters


    Could this perhaps be used on old police radio tape recording to finally finally decide if the shots came from the book repository or the grassy knoll, or both, or elsewhere.

    Maybe we could have that Dallas chap from "Bang Goes the Theory" to use it. In Dallas. On Dealey Plaza. Sitting in a 1961 Lincoln Continental convertible.

    1. Tom 7


      The discovery of a film of LHO doing the business wouldn't stop the 'controversy'.

      But then I would say that wouldn't I.

  4. TRT Silver badge

    Did they...

    test it on bonfire night?

  5. Baskitcaise

    Head shot..

    I presume this works without the soldier having to stand up and expose head and shoulders while looking at his display to get a reading or does a long stick and some gaffer tape come supplied?

  6. Rogerborg

    What the chuff would a Navy fop know about "serious gunfights"?

    Your gunnery training consists of laying an antique on a target then shouting "BANG!"

  7. Jonathon Green


    If you can get a reasonably accurate range and bearing[1] to an unfreindly gun muzzle I'm guessing that it would be a relatively trivial task to get a nearby autonomous (or at least semi-autonomous) robo-turret to send Something Deadly[1] back to the location of said gun muzzle considerably more quickly than a MK1 human who's busy hurling him/her self to the ground behind the nearest available cover could manage - this doesn't bode well for the life expectancy of snipers or unfreindly natives inclined to loose off the odd pot-shot at military units or installations equipped with such devices.

    [1] How accurate the range and bearing need to be will I guess depend on how large and indiscriminate a Something Deadly it's appropriate to deploy in a given environment..,

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge


      ".....autonomous (or at least semi-autonomous) robo-turret...." Such systems are available for helicopters, they slave turret guns like the Apache's cannon to whatever is shooting at the chopper and the weapons operator then just has to press the button to return fire. But a fully automatic system wouldn't be allowed under the current rules of engagement (for example, if the system gets an error from an echo off a building, instead of Johnny Taleban buying the farm it could end up killing a family of innocent civillians).

    2. david wilson

      @Jonathon Green

      Automatic firing back might be the easy bit - the hard bit might be making sure it didn't fire back at the wrong people, whether the wrong people are friendly forces who are firing at the bad guys, or civilians who happen to be standing near to where a passing car was when a shot was fired from it.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Another possible idea

    Instead of having a shoulder mounted system, attached an extra mic to an android phone through bluetooth, mount the phone on the rifle and have an augmented reality display using the phone's camera.

    Add in facebook integration and you can share the sniper with all your friends.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Christ, that'd be dangerous!

      "Sniper_JDouglas checked in at Top Of ToraBora"

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Android phone?

      Forget that mate, the battery'd be flat before the gunfight's over!

      At least they could get nice swishy looking Facebook Twitter and GMail updates whilst hiding behind cover though...

  9. bexley


    Thats an amazing idea, entriely doable as well and the app would only cost about 0.89p per phone as well.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Android app

      I've worked out a bit more on the idea. You get each soldier issued with a gun mounted smart phone (I saw a picture somewhere). Each phone has a bluetooth connected mic on the shoulder or wherever. The phone has a microphone (obviously).

      You use the African computer project that connects up computers to form an ad-hoc network so each soldier has a sound recorder and position information can be transmitted between each phone. The best signal gets the priority for each round fired and the multiple points registering sound pinpoint the enemy shots more accurately even in a large fight since the phone also knows which direction the gun was facing. Each gun then has a augmented target placed on the camera image so to lay down covering fire the soldier does not need a direct line of site, being able to see the phone is enough or having it emit a sound/ signal if the target is dead ahead. Covering fire being a lot more effective if it is hitting around the enemy.

      If the firefight is undercover then the solider drop some mobiles outside and the network pinpoints location using the phones outside. If multiple targets are detected in one location the the GPS can be used to call in an airstrike and the network provides each soldier with a handy "good guys" augmented reality overlay so that if they get split up they don't get caught in their own crossfire.

      The main point of failure would be the second mike as the solider could be facing one way with the gun being carried across the body on patrol, so the secondary mike would be relegated to a lower ranking of accuracy if based on movement of the soldier and the difference in normal sound direction from the phone mic. Also a group of soldiers would be more accurate just relying on their phone/ gun that's where the compass is. Battery power would be an issue in any system.

      Wasn't there a darpa competition for this type of thing ? Who wants to sign up ?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The selection of the system by the MoD is an endorsement

    But surely if it's been picked by the MoD, it's an overpriced piece of crap?

  11. Gene Cash Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Better than the original

    The original design had a couple of hedgehogs of microphones, and needed a HMMV to carry it around. This shoulder-mounted kit looks a hell of a lot more practical.

    Two days ago, Military channel had a show about counter-sniper ops, and showed the amount of effort this one guy went through to track down one sniper in Afghanistan. He would probably have given major organs to have one of these devices.

    They also showed a counter-artillery radar that backtracked incoming rounds and could have 3 rounds in the air toward the shooter before the incoming round hit. The entire thing including automated mortar with 20 rounds was only the size of a refrigerator. I want one of those!

  12. cannon

    war crimes

    so will it distinguish between terrorists & innocents as the UK has brutally murdered, raped and tortured too many of them already....

    so much innovation shame it cant be used to locate starving people and shoot food into their mouths!

  13. Joe User

    Define "serious"

    "With the exception of subsonic rounds. These are rare in serious gunfights, however."

    Yes, I _never_ take .45 ACP rounds seriously....

  14. Peter Rowan

    cuts lowing morale back in 2000

    Based on the BBC article, Ian D-S said a 800million cost saving and also with an annual 3% "efficiency saving" on top of that, he said " many of us believe is just simply another word for a cut." Also he described such a process as "damaging to morale." So what are they doing now in the services, the mind boggles. the morale must have been smashed to pieces.

  15. Charles Manning


    The soldier would do better to take a leaf out of the pirate's manual and put a parrot on his shoulder.

    The incidents of single round fire that can be paired are surely quite low in real life.

    Wouldn't it be better for the tommy to actually keep his eyes on the terrain rather than squinting at his cell phone?

  16. bugalugs

    Interesting bit of kit

    requires first-shot(s) inaccuracy, an Afghani norm ?

    On a stick, gaffered etc for me thanks !

  17. Jacob Lipman

    Subsonic ammunition, or...

    That system could work very well for the majority of small-arms combat. Anyone using a sniper rifle or assault rifle that chambers any of the standard Eastern-bloc or NATO cartridges will be detectable, unless they manage to get ahold of a subsonic load (very unlikely for a rifle cartridge, especially if it's to cycle in a semi- or fully automatic weapon), or a sound suppressor.

    Most AK-47, AKM, and AK-74 (Or the Romanian PSL squad sniper rifle shown in the reenactment from the History Channel sniper program someone mentioned above) rifles and their variants have threaded barrels, usually fitted with compensators or flash suppressors. They can just as readily be fitted with sound suppressors, if they can be obtained - Russia produces some very effective sound suppressors meant for use with their assault rifles; undoubtedly some of these have made their way to Iraq and Afghanistan. A sound suppressor should sufficiently dampen the sound of the explosion so that if the shot is fired from any reasonable distance, the system will not be able to detect it, as the sonic crack alone is not enough information to track the source of the shot.

    Fortunately, most combat situations will involve unsuppressed weapons firing projectiles at supersonic speeds.

    But if someone has a suppressed Thompson... Oh shit!

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