The U.S. Navy’s latest weapon is an electromagnetic railgun launcher, a device that uses electromagnetic force to launch high-velocity projectiles by means of a sliding armature that is accelerated along a pair of conductive rails.
It uses a form of electromagnetic energy known as the Lorentz force to hurl a 23-pound projectile at speeds exceeding Mach 7 – that is, seven times the speed of sound.
It is typically constructed as a weapon and the projectile normally does not contain explosives, relying on the projectile’s high speed to inflict damage.
The massive railgun needs just one operator, as it relies on the electromagnetic energy of the Lorentz force – the combination of electric and magnetic forces on a point charge – for power.
The Navy likes the weapon for several reasons, not the least of which is that it has a range of 100 miles and doesn’t require explosive warheads. That makes it far safer for sailors, and cheaper for taxpayers.
According to the Navy, each 18-inch projectile costs about $25,000; compared to between $500,000 to $1.5 million for conventional missiles.
In this CBS news video, top U.S. Navy brass explain the concept, as well as provide some visuals of what could become an incredibly powerful asset to the U.S. military’s arsenal.