The U.S. Navy is in the process of testing a new futuristic electromagnetic railgun, a weapon that can fire 5-inch projectiles a range of 100 miles.
It’s reported that the Office of Naval Research is trialing rival railguns. ONR completed its testing of a railgun from BAE Systems yesterday, and will try out a competing weapon from General Atomics in April. In a press release, the U.S. Navy announced:
“The firing at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division … kicks off a two-month-long test series by [ONR] to evaluate the first of two industry-built launchers. The tests will bring the Navy closer to a new naval gun system capable of extended ranges against surface, air, and ground targets.”
Neither weapon requires explosives to fire – instead, projectiles are shot using an electromagnetic system that depends on a ship’s onboard electrical power grid.
Speaking to CNET, John Cochran, the railgun program manager at Raytheon’s Advanced Technology Group, said the process of firing the gun is similar to a car’s starter being activated – the gun uses what is known as a pulse-forming network that stores up electrical power and then converts it to a pulse that is directed into the railgun’s barrel. Pretty sure that’s how the Quake II version worked. Yeah.
Using this method, a 5-inch projectile can be fired at between 4,500 miles an hour and 5,600 miles an hour. The ONR said the BAE gun it has tested is a 32-megajoule prototype. The ONR pointed out that was like having 32 one-ton cars being thrust at 100 miles an hour. Basically, it’s pretty damn powerful.
As for when the railgun will first be of any use on battlefield … well, it could be a while: it’s unlikely the weapon will be deployed before 2025, and even then its success would hinge on financial and political considerations.