Navy Railgun Unveiled

 

The U.S. Navy has publicly unveiled its long awaited railgun at the Future Force Science and Technology Expo in Washington. Talked about since the days of Reagan’s Star Wars program, the weapon uses electromagnetic pulses to generate a magnetic force between two long rails.

Whereas a Hellfire missile travels at about Mach 1, the railgun projectile flies at Mach 7. This speed is so fast that the “bullet” does not need gunpowder or explosives; the impact alone will obliterate the target. It also travels a long way. Instead of 13-mile range of a 5-inch naval gun, the railgun can hit targets 110 miles away.

Reuters has a video of the superweapon in action.

http://youtu.be/o4ZqfEJTGzw

There are 50 comments.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  1. Member

    I have to admit, I’m a little scared. I think I’ll stay on my porch.

    • #1
    • February 9, 2015 at 5:11 pm
    • Like
  2. Thatcher

    Ooooh… that’s gonna leave a mark.

    • #2
    • February 9, 2015 at 5:24 pm
    • Like
  3. Member

    Paul Dougherty:I have to admit, I’m a little scared. I think I’ll stay on my porch.

    With a range of 110 miles, the Navy guys can just about stay on their porches and fire the gun from home.

    • #3
    • February 9, 2015 at 5:27 pm
    • Like
  4. Inactive

    One of the benefits is it makes ships safer. No gun powder, much lower risk of fire.

    • #4
    • February 9, 2015 at 5:40 pm
    • Like
  5. Inactive

    Can they run that off reactor power? That could be really interesting.

    • #5
    • February 9, 2015 at 5:46 pm
    • Like
  6. Inactive

    Fabulous! Keeping ahead in the field of weapons!

    • #6
    • February 9, 2015 at 6:22 pm
    • Like
  7. Inactive

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: Instead of 13-mile range of a 5-inch naval gun, the railgun can hit targets 110 miles away.

    Well, it can hit *something* 110 miles away.

    • #7
    • February 9, 2015 at 6:36 pm
    • Like
  8. Member

    Only 110 nautical miles. Not impressed.

    • #8
    • February 9, 2015 at 6:42 pm
    • Like
  9. Member

    Brayden Smith:Only 110 nautical miles. Not impressed.

    A nautical mile is 1.151 statute miles, so that’s actually just shy of 127 miles.

    • #9
    • February 9, 2015 at 7:03 pm
    • Like
  10. Member

    Totus Porcus:Can they run that off reactor power? That could be really interesting.

    Whether it’s a nuclear reactor, gas turbine, or diesel power plant on the ship the electricity at the socket is the same. Short answer: yes.

    • #10
    • February 9, 2015 at 7:04 pm
    • Like
  11. Inactive
    MLH

    Holy Moley!

    but the important question:

    Can it be mounted on a Warthog?

    • #11
    • February 9, 2015 at 7:13 pm
    • Like
  12. Member

    This is fair, skips the physics in favor of the morass that is military procurement
    It pains me as an electrical engineer to think as a taxpayer, and not as an 8 year old boy.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/394715/railguns-next-big-pentagon-boondoggle-mike-fredenburg

    • #12
    • February 9, 2015 at 7:13 pm
    • Like
  13. Inactive

    DOH re me. Imagine how you could arm a modern Iowa-class battleship with just Mach 7 projectiles and uranium. And food and rum of course.

    • #13
    • February 9, 2015 at 7:17 pm
    • Like
  14. Member

    OK, so I like rail guns as much as the next guy, but how on earth do you hit something at 127 miles? At that range you are putting the projectile half-way into orbit.

    • #14
    • February 9, 2015 at 7:26 pm
    • Like
  15. Member

    “It’s like a Flux Capacitor…”

    No. No it isn’t. That’s the worst pop culture analogy you could possibly come up with. Who the heck wrote that for you?! Go home Admiral, you’re clearly drunk.

    • #15
    • February 9, 2015 at 7:27 pm
    • Like
  16. Founder

    Is anyone able to address Sabrdance’s question–that is, how do you hit something 127 miles away? If that kind of range is actually practicable, and if we mounted this weapon on, say, half a dozen ships, then we could cover a great deal of Mediterranean world (including Libya and Lebanon) without having to to move in terribly close to shore, where our ships might be vulnerable to attacks from small craft such as those that crippled the USS Cole.

    That’d make a lot of very bad guys very nervous.

    • #16
    • February 9, 2015 at 7:34 pm
    • Like
  17. Inactive

    Is anyone able to address Sabrdance’s question–that is, how do you hit something 127 miles away?

    The obvious answer is, with a rail gun.

    Seriously though, over the horizon fires such as the rail gun is capable of would generally concentrate on fixed (buildings, bridges, etc…) or semi-fixed (command and control facilities, logistic depots, etc…) targets. When combined with forward observation, either manned or unmanned, it is even possible to engage tactical equipment such as artillery or air defense pieces while stationary.

    Sorry but I was showing my land force bias. If I was commanding the planned Chinese carrier, this capability would scare the bejeezes out of me.

    • #17
    • February 9, 2015 at 8:10 pm
    • Like
  18. Inactive

    Sabrdance:OK, so I like rail guns as much as the next guy, but how on earth do you hit something at 127 miles? At that range you are putting the projectile half-way into orbit.

    The hyper-expensive Zumwalts are the only ships that will be capable of carrying them anyway. At around $4 billion apiece… for a frickin’ destroyer …. we can’t afford more than the 3 we have budgeted. And retrofitting the Burke Class would cost too much and displace other needed equipment.

    BTW, I’m more convinced every day that the Zumwalt Class is either someone’s idea of a joke in the Navy Dept, or someone at flag rank is actively whizzing on ole’ Elmo’s grave. The guy who advocated the cheap + many strategy getting a Destroyer named after him that cost as much as a Nimitz carrier cost in the 90’s…

    • #18
    • February 9, 2015 at 8:17 pm
    • Like
  19. Inactive
    AIG

    Peter Robinson:Is anyone able to address Sabrdance’s question–that is, how do you hit something 127 miles away? If that kind of range is actually practicable, and if we mounted this weapon on, say, half a dozen ships, then we could cover a great deal of Mediterranean world (including Libya and Lebanon) without having to to move in terribly close to shore, where our ships might be vulnerable to attacks from small craft such as those that crippled the USS Cole.

    That’d make a lot of very bad guys very nervous.

    Short answer: GPS. Rounds can be made maneuverable, and guided by GPS.

    This is already done for ground-based artillery rounds as well as naval rounds now in development.

    • #19
    • February 9, 2015 at 9:11 pm
    • Like
  20. Inactive

    Question will be whether/when they can develop a round with terminal guidance that can withstand a 0-to-Mach 7 launch. I’m sure someone is working on it.

    • #20
    • February 9, 2015 at 9:19 pm
    • Like
  21. Inactive

    I wonder what sort of sustained fire rate they are targeting.

    • #21
    • February 10, 2015 at 1:13 am
    • Like
  22. Coolidge

    I’m about halfway through Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors, and let’s just say a 100-mile reach for a destroyer or destroyer escort would have solved a lot of problems in the Leyte Gulf.

    As others have noted, not having to tote gunpowder and explosive rounds in a magazine (or less of both of them) is a bonus. You’re just carrying the rounds for your naval rifle.

    I’m less concerned about equipment, however, than I am about having a president who’s unwilling or unable to understand the value of the military in ways other than as bargaining chips to be given away in return for nothing.

    • #22
    • February 10, 2015 at 3:21 am
    • Like
  23. Member

    Actually, the rounds fired by a railgun are solid – no GPS. The targeting is via sophisticated ballistic programs.

    Power density is high, so it required the engineering plant of the Zumwalt’s to mount the railgun. The Zumwalt – especially the electric plant – was Mike Mullen’s baby. It is too expensive, but does work as a great technology demonstrator and experimental platform.

    The railgun does some interesting things and has great potential. It does not do a lot of other things, however – active guidance missions are not something it can handle. In combination with sea-based laser systems and the next generation missiles, it will provide a new margin of weapons superiority – so it’s a good thing.

    • #23
    • February 10, 2015 at 3:40 am
    • Like
  24. Member

    Great news! Now we just have to make sure the plans don’t show up in Bejing via diplomatic pouch.

    • #24
    • February 10, 2015 at 3:58 am
    • Like
  25. Inactive

    It would take less than 90 seconds for a projectile traveling at Mach 7 to reach a target 127 miles away. This assumes no deceleration due to air friction, so the actual time to target would be slightly longer. Still, pretty darn fast.

    • #25
    • February 10, 2015 at 5:33 am
    • Like
  26. Inactive

    Misthiocracy:“It’s like a Flux Capacitor…”

    No. No it isn’t. That’s the worst pop culture analogy you could possibly come up with. Who the heck wrote that for you?! Go home Admiral, you’re clearly drunk.

    Isn’t it? There clearly is some manner of capacitor array in the thing; how else would one store the necessary charge? (Whether that particular admiral knows this or not is a separate question.)

    My nitpick is with the announcer at the start of the video. Nowhere in Star Wars (in the original trilogy, at least) was a railgun mentioned. The only weapons I remember were laser blasters and proton torpedoes.

    • #26
    • February 10, 2015 at 6:20 am
    • Like
  27. Inactive

    Brian Skinn:My nitpick is with the announcer at the start of the video. Nowhere in Star Wars (in the original trilogy, at least) was a railgun mentioned. The only weapons I remember were laser blasters and proton torpedoes.

    Railguns are more common in future-earth sci fi like Mass Effect. They may be mentioned at some point in the Star Wars EU, but I can’t remember any off the top of my head.

    • #27
    • February 10, 2015 at 6:55 am
    • Like
  28. Member

    Brian Skinn:Isn’t it? There clearly is some manner of capacitor array in the thing; how else would one store the necessary charge? (Whether that particular admiral knows this or not is a separate question.)

    Oh, I’m sure the railgun employs all sorts of fancy electrical capacitors, but Doc Brown’s Flux Capacitor stored up temporal energy. Tachyons, probably.

    ;-)

    • #28
    • February 10, 2015 at 8:59 am
    • Like
  29. Inactive

    How are they powering it? Have they come up with anything better than a homo-polar generator? Because that can be as dangerous, in terms of potential energy, as a munitions dump.

    • #29
    • February 10, 2015 at 10:37 am
    • Like
  30. Inactive

    Franco:Great news! Now we just have to make sure the plans don’t show up in Bejing via diplomatic pouch.

    Who needs a diplomatic pouch, when China can simply hack defense company computers and get it instantly? The Chinese have built what is in essence a two-engined F-35, thanks to data they lifted directly from Lockheed Martin’s servers. I expect they’ll continue to get whatever they want from BAE or any other contractor via similar methods.

    J31-f35-compare

    • #30
    • February 10, 2015 at 10:51 am
    • Like
  1. 1
  2. 2