The United States Navy unveiled prototypes this week of a futuristic weapon that may seem like something straight out of science fiction: an electromagnetic railgun.
The technology behind the railgun is reportedly set to revolutionize naval warfare, according to RT. The railguns are capable of firing non-incendiary projectiles at speeds in excess of 5,600 mph, which is six times faster than a bullet, over distances of 110 miles.
"Literally it is like taking a huge freight train and going through the wall that's a few feet to my left at over 100 miles an hour," Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder, Chief of Naval Research, said.
Awesome picture of our EM Railgun featured on the @USNavy's website: http://t.co/0EnkqLbd1c #cooltech pic.twitter.com/Y2Z8iG2E0j
— BAE Systems, Inc. (@BAESystemsInc) July 11, 2014
The Navy showed off two railgun prototypes aboard the USS Millinocket at Naval Base San Diego earlier this week, according to San Diego 6. The railguns were developed by BAE Systems, and deliver up to 32 megajoules of energy. They operate by sending electrical pulses over magnetic rails to generate electromagnetic force, which drives the projectile. BAE Systems is the same firm behind innovative design concepts in aviation technology that The Inquisitr reported on earlier this week, which include a self-healing plane and an aircraft that separates into smaller vehicles upon reaching its target.
Check it out: As part of the 17th EML Symposium in San Diego, our EM Railgun is displayed on the USNS Millinocket! pic.twitter.com/xWDaUiPOjT — BAE Systems, Inc. (@BAESystemsInc) July 8, 2014
While each projectile for the railgun costs $25,000, Klunder pointed out that traditional missiles cost about 100 times that amount. Railgun projectiles are also much smaller, allowing many more to be stored aboard vessels.
"I can put hundreds and hundreds of these projectiles on our naval vessels with that gun system," Klunder said.
John Perry, a BAE Systems employee, highlighted another benefit of the electromagnetic railgun system, claiming that the lack of incendiaries or explosives involved in the railgun means that "sailors no longer have to handle propelling charges and the safety and liability issues related to that."
Can't get enough of our railgun? Here's another look at our #cooltech on board the USNS Millinocket. #EMLSymposium pic.twitter.com/KtfdpPPqmM
— BAE Systems, Inc. (@BAESystemsInc) July 9, 2014
Despite the effectiveness of the weapon, Klunder says that it is unlikely to replace conventional missiles, which have a far greater operational range. Instead, the electromagnetic railguns would act as a complimentary system that "truly is going to make our adversaries very, very nervous in the future." The Navy says that it plans to test a railgun in 2016, attaching it to a Joint High Speed Vessel. According to Klunder, the electromagnetic railgun system could be deployed operationally as soon as 2017.
[Image via New York Daily News]