The U.S. Navy is test firing a new so called “railgun” that might be to current military fire power what MRI’s are to X-rays in the health field.
The Navy explains that rail guns are propelled by electro-magnetic fields:
The EM Railgun launcher is a long-range weapon that fires projectiles using electricity instead of chemical propellants. Magnetic fields created by high electrical currents accelerate a sliding metal conductor, or armature, between two rails to launch projectiles at 4,500 mph.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the bombs are 25 lb solid projectiles that can “penetrate 7 steel plates and leave a 5 inch hole.”
The navy is testing the new weapons system right now and has been working on it since 2005.
If or when it’s deployed, the gun would be used in three ways, according to the Navy:
- Surface fire support
- Anti-ship weapon
- Anti-missile weapon
The National Interest reports that though the Navy calls the railgun a game-changer, a very practical reason could negate it’s use:
The railgun’s prohibitive power requirements and stiff capability competition from missiles make it difficult to justify integrating it onto existing warships.
The USN previously had several nuclear-powered cruisers, but the last were decommissioned in the 1990s. A new class of nuclear-powered warships could host multiple railguns (or other power-hungry weapons).
Fox News technology reports that, if deployed, the advantage could be huge:
To put this into context, the average bullet travels about 1,700 miles per hour. Mach 1 is about 767 miles per hour. A railgun projectile will travel at Mach 6 – that’s nearly three times faster than the typical bullet.
Dutchsince reports that Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder says the system never runs out of ‘bullets’:
“Your magazine never runs out, you just keep shooting, and that’s compelling.
It’s now reality and it’s not science fiction. It’s actually real. You can look at it. It’s firing.”
Both General Atomics, a privately held defense contractor in San Diego, and BAE, a British company, have both been involved in the research and development of the railgun.