The Navy is testing its new generation of artillery, and will be conducting tests at sea in 2016. The new railgun or “supergun” technology will allow artillery shots against land-based targets from 100 miles off shore.
Why They Are Better
A railgun or supergun manipulates electromagnetic fields to rapidly accelerate projectiles to higher muzzle velocities than can be achieved with chemical propellants like gunpowder. The higher velocities mean the projectile does not need to contain an explosive payload, eliminating the prospect of premature munition explosion. A stack of railgun projectiles is just an inert pile of metal.
Railguns from both General Atomics and BAE Systems are designed to have muzzle velocities of about 2500 meters/sec (5600 mph). A conventional 16″ naval gun has a muzzle velocity of about 820 meters/sec, or about a third as fast as a railgun.
Real World Tests Coming
The Navy plans to test the railgun at sea in 2016.
“Energetic weapons, such as EM railguns, are the future of naval combat,” said Rear Adm. Matt Klunder, the chief of naval research in a statement. “The U.S. Navy is at the forefront of this game-changing technology.”
“The electromagnetic railgun represents an incredible new offensive capability for the U.S. Navy,” said Rear Adm. Bryant Fuller, the Navy’s chief engineer. “This capability will allow us to effectively counter a wide-range of threats at a relatively low cost, while keeping our ships and sailors safer by removing the need to carry as many high-explosive weapons.”
According to BAE Systems,
In February 2009, we were awarded a $21 million contract from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) to develop an Innovative Naval Prototype (INP) Railgun. Just under two years later, on December 10, 2010, the U.S. Navy made history at the Naval Surface Warfare Center-Dahlgren Division with our Laboratory Railgun. A 33-Megajoule shot was fired, the energy equivalent of 110 nmi range. In mid-2013,we were awarded an additional $34.5 million contract from ONR for further development of the Railgun under Phase 2 of the Navy’s program. The focus of Phase 2 is to advance the Railgun technology by maturing the launcher and pulsed power from a single shot operation to a multi-shot capability, and incorporating auto-loading and thermal management systems.