Navy's electromagnetic railgun is ready for field demonstration
ARLINGTON, Va. Office of Naval Research (ONR) officials announced at the Naval Future Force Science and Technology Expo that the Navy's electromagnetic railgun is ready for field demonstrations at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division's new railgun Rep-Rate Test Site at Terminal Range.
Initial repetition of rate of fires of multi-shot salvos have been conducted at low muzzle energy, officials say. The next test sequence calls for safely increasing launch energy, firing rates, and salvo size. Railgun repetition of rate of fire testing will be at 20 megajoules by the end of the summer and at 32 megajoules by next year.
"Railguns and other directed-energy weapons are the future of maritime superiority," says Dr. Thomas Beutner, head of ONR's Naval Air Warfare and Weapons Department. "The U.S. Navy must be the first to field this leap-ahead technology and maintain the advantage over our adversaries."
The railgun relies on a massive electrical pulse, rather than gunpowder or other chemical propellants, to launch projectiles at distances over 100 nautical miles including at speeds that exceed Mach 6. That velocity allows projectiles to rely on kinetic energy for maximum effect, and reduces the amount of high explosives needed on ships.
"Its power level surpasses traditional gun technology, and it reduces explosive ship-board risks to Sailors and Marines at sea," Beutner adds.
The railgun shoots the high-velocity projectile (HVP), a next-generation, low-drag, guided projectile that can be used in different gun systems. With its increased velocity, precision guidance and extended range, the railgun realizes the full range of the HVP's scalable lethality. Together, both technologies will enable naval forces to address threats in the mission areas of surface fire support, anti-air, and anti-surface warfare.
The Navy currently is developing and testing railgun barrels capable of firing many rounds per minute with a tactically relevant barrel life--as well as the associated power and auxiliary systems needed to make that possible. In addition, the weapon's power system now is small enough to fit aboard current and future U.S. Navy ships.
Watch a video of the electromagnetic railgun provided by ONR: