NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 7, 2005

A private-sector firm has developed a cutting-edge technology for the Pentagon that will help U.S. soldiers under fire locate snipers in Iraq, writes John Cary of BusinessWeek magazine.

BBN Technologies was hired by the U.S. government to develop a bullet-tracking system, dubbed the Boomerang, which could function on the move as well as be cheap enough and small enough to place on vehicles. This is how it works:

  • Like supersonic airplanes, bullets create shock waves as they speed through the air.
  • With seven microphones arranged like the spines of a sea urchin, a shock wave from a bullet will hit each microphone at a slightly different time.
  • By measuring those time differences, it is not only possible to calculate the trajectory of the bullet but the elevation and range of a sniper as well.

The Boomerang was difficult to complete because, in addition to sophisticated mathematics, the technology had to be smart enough to compensate for the cacophony of urban warfare.

In the future, Boomerangs will be linked together in a wireless network to increase their range. Helicopters will also be outfitted with a similar technology. There are also plans to combine sniper systems with the ability to fire back automatically in the direction of the sniper.

Source: John Carey, "Taking Quick Aim Against Snipers," BusinessWeek, January 31, 2005.

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