The movie Wanted showed us what it would be like if Angelina Jolie could curve the trajectory of bullets using a combination of martial arts-like moves and a pouting lower lip, but despite Jolie demonstrating her skills by shooting people around slight corners or standing in a perfect circle around her, the movie failed to demonstrate the real value to be had in changing a bullet’s trajectory once it had already left the barrel: hitting a moving target.

Distance shooting at live targets can be compared to playing football in some ways.  One of the first things taught to young quarterbacks is to throw the ball where your receiver will be, rather than where they are, and it’s no different when attempting to hit a moving target at a distance with a rifle.  In order to hit a moving target, the shooter must track the target and predict where it will be when the round reaches its destination, then fire at that point rather than directly at the target.  This adds a number of variables that can remain outside the control of the shooter, increasing the likelihood of missing.

Aside from the usual things a distance shooter must account for, such as wind direction and elevation, living targets add a level of unpredictability, as they may suddenly move, or if they’re already moving, they could change direction or rate of speed as the shooter is firing a round.  The greater the distance, the longer the round is in the air, and the better chance that the target could move, or the conditions could change, just enough to cause a miss – which can have dangerous ramifications for a sniper, whose every round could potentially give away his position.

“For military snipers, acquiring moving targets in unfavorable conditions, such as high winds and dusty terrain commonly found in Afghanistan, is extremely challenging with current technology,” DARPA said in a press statement. “It is critical that snipers be able to engage targets faster, and with better accuracy, since any shot that doesn’t hit a target also risks the safety of troops by indicating their presence and potentially exposing their location.”