DV Berkom is a thriller writer who wrote to me recently with a question about using self-guided bullets in her WIP. Berkom’s question brought up a key concept about self-guided bullets that I think pop culture gets wrong. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:
Here’s Berkom’s question, re-posted with her permission:
The year is 2006…I was thinking about using a .50 caliber smart round and its guidance system, but DARPA didn’t start working on one until 2008 and didn’t fire it until 2014, so it seems a bit of a stretch. I realize it’s fiction, but I’d like to be within the realm of possibility. If you were to read this, would you chuck the book across the room, or is it plausible enough?
Here’s my response:
Here’s my take with self-guided bullets. Although the first example of a successful test I can confirm was in 2012, this is technology that’s been tinkered with for decades. If you want to come up with an underground or DARPA-style version for your fiction, you’d be fine with the timeline you outlined. I just don’t have an example to give you for 2006 (although there’s probably good reason for that).
That said, the only eye-rollers I’d suggest you avoid are depicting the bullet performing maneuvers beyond slight adjustments in its trajectory.
This tech isn’t like a heat-seeking missile. It’s more like an intelligent paper airplane. So, 45- or 90-degree turns are out, but pinpoint precision isn’t.
And here’s exactly how that tech functions in the real world:
Writers looking to pull off something similar to that movie clip at the top of the post may want to provide some explanation. It’d probably look more like a rocket and less like a bullet at that point.
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