The U.S. Navy’s railgun is one of those future weapons that’s awe-inspiring when you watch the railgun firing videos. Once limited to science fiction and video games like Halo 5, a U.S. Navy admiral is discussing the possibility of skipping at-sea prototype trial in favor of deploying a fully operational railgun on to the Zumwalt destroyer the USS Lyndon B. Johnson, which is scheduled to go into the Navy’s service by 2018. In the past, the Navy has also discussed deploying a U.S. Navy laser cannon.
“The Zumwalt-class is one of a number of options being explored for the electromagnetic railgun,” said Lt. Cmdr. Hayley Sims, a Navy spokeswoman. “Due to the size, weight and power requirements, some platforms will be better suited for the technology than others.”
While it almost sounds like fiction, a railgun uses energy to fire chunks of metal at Mach 7 with a massive destructive force. And that’s working today. The Navy railguns were developed by BAE Systems and can deliver up to 32 megajoules of energy. They operate by sending electrical pulses over magnetic rails to generate electromagnetic force, which drives the hyper-velocity projectile down the barrel. The round currently has a feature called command guidance, and can already be used to intercept guided nuclear missiles, but the railgun rounds may be engineered for self-guidance in the future.