Railgun Is Not Science Fiction
The New Millennium has seen the development of sophisticated and practical military technology that is closer to “Star Wars” than the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) imagined by President Ronald Reagan in 1983.
The U.S. Navy and General Atomics have been developing an electromagnetic railgun, started as a $500 million pilot project in 2005, that uses GPS to accurately hit a target over 100 miles away. The electromagnetic energy used to fire the projectile is known as the “Lorenz Force”. The railgun is intended for use aboard joint high-speed vessels as part of the program to develop and deploy long-range, high energy weapons to protect navy ships. One of the ships that will carry the new weapon is the Millinocket, a catamaran cargo ship with a broad flight deck that provides space needed for the gun mount, the weapon, and a power supply.
The railgun accelerates 23 pound (10.4kg) projectiles at up to 5,600 mph (9,012km/h) or Mach 7, and because of the force of impact does not require explosives. For these “hypervelocity projectiles” the range of 100 miles is much shorter than the Tomahawk Missile which can reach targets 1,200 miles (1,800km) away, circle four hours and shift course.
Technology Provides “Asymmetric Advantage” Over Enemies
The Electromagnetic Railgun creates an electromagnetic field between conductive rails and launches projectiles at supersonic speed. The railgun has a “muzzle energy” of 32 megajoules (MJ) of force. The gun was developed and designed for single shots, but recent versions can shoot up to 10 rounds per minute.
BAE Systems was awarded the “Phase 2” contract last year for full development of the railgun with other vendors providing parts of the system. The estimated cost of a railgun projectile is just $25,000. Other military services are now considering what the application might be on land or in the air.
To see the railgun in action, take a look at the following video.
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