The U.S. Navy has invented a new electromagnetic rail-gun weapon that is so advanced that it has set a world record. (H/T ECM)
A theoretical dream for decades, the railgun is unlike any other weapon used in warfare. And it’s quite real too, as the U.S. Navy has proven in a record-setting test today in Dahlgren, VA.
Rather than relying on a explosion to fire a projectile, the technology uses an electomagnetic current to accelerate a non-explosive bullet at several times the speed of sound. The conductive projectile zips along a set of electrically charged parallel rails and out of the barrel at speeds up to Mach 7.
[…]An electromagnetic railgun offers a velocity previously unattainable in a conventional weapon, speeds that are incredibly powerful on their own. In fact, since the projectile doesn’t have any explosives itself, it relies upon that kinetic energy to do damage. And at 11 a.m. today, the Navy produced a 33-megajoule firing — more than three times the previous record set by the Navy in 2008.
“It bursts radially, but it’s hard to quantify,” said Roger Ellis, electromagnetic railgun program manager with the Office of Naval Research. To convey a sense of just how much damage, Ellis told FoxNews.com that the big guns on the deck of a warship are measured by their muzzle energy in megajoules. A single megajoule is roughly equivalent to a 1-ton car traveling at 100 mph. Multiple that by 33 and you get a picture of what would happen when such a weapon hits a target.
Ellis says the Navy has invested about $211 million in the program since 2005, since the railgun provides many significant advantages over convention weapons. For one thing, a railgun offers 2 to 3 times the velocity of a conventional big gun, so that it can hit its target within 6 minutes. By contrast, a guided cruise missile travels at subsonic speeds, meaning that the intended target could be gone by the time it reaches its destination.
Furthermore, current U.S. Navy guns can only reach targets about 13 miles away. The railgun being tested today could reach an enemy 100 miles away. And with current GPS guidance systems it could do so with pinpoint accuracy. The Navy hopes to eventually extend the range beyond 200 miles.
“We’re also eliminating explosives from the ship, which brings significant safety benefits and logistical benefits,” Ellis said. In other words, there is less danger of an unintended explosion onboard, particularly should such a vessel come under attack.
[…]There’s also a cost and logistical benefit associated with railguns. For example, a single Tomahawk cruise missile costs roughly $600,000. A non-explosive guided railgun projectile could cost much less. And a ship could carry many more, reducing the logistical problems of delivering more weapons to a ship in battle. For these reasons, Admiral Carr sees the railgun as even changing the strategic and tactical assumptions of warfare in the future.
You may remember those big battleships that use to sail around 60 years ago during World War Two. Those are long gone now because even a 16-inch gun can only hit a target 20 miles away. But guided cruise missiles, like the Tomahawk cruise missile, came along and suddenly ranges of 200 miles became possible. That’s why you never see big guns on ships any more, and battleships are no longer built. The problem with SSMs though is that you can shoot them down with other missiles, like AEGIS-class vessels using RIM-161 missiles to intercept them. Can you intercept these rail gun slugs? I don’t know. If not, then that is a game changer.
I still think that this new weapon is not better than a nice carrier battle group with a couple squadrons of F-18 Hornets armed with Harpoon or Maverick ASMs. But it might be CHEAPER than a carrier battle group. And that is interesting. Maybe the Navy could mass produce these things so that they could be used in places where an expensive carrier battle group is not needed – against countries that do not have carriers or bombers of their own.
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