The US Navy’s prototype railgun is awe-inspiring
New footage has been released of the gun so powerful it’s a danger to itself
The United States Office of Naval Research (ONR) has released incredible footage of a demonstration of the Navy's prototype electromagnetic railgun.
The test, conducted by the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, shows successful “initial rep-rate fires of multi-shot salvos”.
Rather than using conventional gunpowder or other chemical propellants, the weapon is powered by a massive electrical pulse to launch projectiles at distances of over 100 nautical miles and at speeds exceeding Mach 6 – twice as fast as existing projectiles.
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The gun’s rounds can also hit targets with little or no warning compared to a volley of cruise missiles.
Programme managers are assessing the viability of the railgun for the Navy’s warships in the near future but the sheer power of the weapon has caused a problem.
To prevent the gun from damaging itself after just a few shots, years of development has been underway to toughen the launcher core and its related components, which can become dislodged.
It also remains unclear how a railgun would be balanced and integrated with conventional weapons systems.
Pending upgrades aim to see the weapon fire ten shots per minute at 32 megajoules – the equivalent of over 23.5 million foot-pounds of force.
That amount of power can currently only be generated by a small number of ships in the US fleet, namely the three Zumwalt-class destroyers built specifically to deal with energy-guzzling future systems.
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Operational deployment of the railgun is likely to take several more years as testing has yet to take place at sea, where salt-spray could impact performance, or in combat environments.
However, other cutting-edge weapons have already been declared ‘operational’ and deployed. The Laser Weapons System (LaWS), a directed energy weapon, was established on the USS Ponce amphibious transport ship last year.
Powered by electricity, the $40m system fires a high-energy laser at 50,000 times the speed of an incoming intercontinental ballistic missile and has destroyed UAVs and moving surface targets during trials. It is yet to be proven in a real combat situation.
Earlier in the year, Russia released a report on its own 'breakthrough' efforts to produce a railgun but on a much smaller scale than the US project.
View the full video footage of the electromagnetic railgun below.
Source: Office of Naval Research
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