The U.S. Navy railgun made its debut at the Navy's Future Force Science and Technology Expo at the Washington Convention Center this past week. The showing must have been a success since now the U.S. Navy is considering expanding the Navy's railgun test to include a third Zumwalt destroyer.
Vice Admiral William Hilarides says the new U.S. Navy railgun may end up replacing one of two other guns on the ship's deck house if engineering studies determine it's feasible.
"We have begun real studies – as opposed to just a bunch of guys sitting around – real engineering studies are being done to make sure it's possible," Hilarides said. "The team is working diligently now but it would not happen until after delivery of the ships – probably the third ship is where we'd have it. That would certainly be my recommendation."
The first two ships in the Zumwalt class, the Zumwalt (DDG-1000) and Michael Monsoor (DDG-1001), are unlikely to receive the new Navy railgun system based upon their production and testing schedule. The third planned Zumwalt destroyer, the Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG-1002), is the likely candidate since it's currently under construction with an expected delivery date of 2018. The U.S. Navy railgun will still be tested onboard the Joint High Speed Vessel USNS Millinocket(JHSV- 3) next year.
Installing the railgun system does come at a cost.
"We'll go do the studies and I suspect they'll say 'yes,' but it's going to come at a cost of some of the capabilities on this ship – of course," Hilarides said according to USNI News. "It's physics. Without taking something off, you're not putting on a many ton system, so a gun would be a logical thing to take off and put the railgun in its place."
The Zumwalt destroyers were designed to field two 155mm BAE Advanced Gun Systems (AGS), whch are capable of firing the Long-Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP) at a range of up to 75 nautical miles. As a comparison, the railgun can fire its $25,000 projectiles over 110 miles at a speed of Mach 7.
It's also expected that the new Zumwalt destroyers will also field the new U.S. Navy laser cannon, which is designed to take out jets, planes, and unmanned drones. The Laser Weapons System (LaWS) is already ready to deploy according to Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder, the chief of Naval Research.
"It's almost like a Hubble telescope at sea," Klunder says according to The Week. "Literally, we're able to get that kind of power and magnification."
U.S. Central Command has already approved of the Navy laser cannon being used in actual combat, and the Zumwalt destroyer is said to be the perfect platform since its two massive Rolls Royce MT-30 gas turbines and two smaller Rolls-Royce RR450 produce 80 megawatts of power. Check out the Navy laser cannon video to see how the concentrated beam of light can "dazzle and destroy" the enemy... at a cost of only 59 cents per shot.
[Image via Wikipedia]