Monday, July 24, 2017

The US Navy is Getting Much Closer to an Operational Railgun

The Navy’s futuristic electromagnetic railgun is set to take a major developmental step forward this summer as developers work to increase the number of shots it can fire per minute and the power behind the system.

The railgun has been a pet project for the Navy for more than a decade since early testing of a prototype for a shipboard system began in 2006. The gun uses electromagnetic force to launch projectiles at high speeds, allowing the system to function without the powder mechanism conventional shipboard guns.

In theory, a railgun would be safer and potentially cheaper to fire than traditional weapons. Navy plans have called for installing the railgun on the Navy’s three DDG-1000 Zumwalt-class destroyers, but it’s not clear when that will happen.

For now, officials with the Office of Naval Research are working to build the program up to its target capability envelope.

This summer and into next year, work will focus on increasing the power with which projectiles are fired to the target of 32 megajoules, and increasing what’s known as the rep rate to 10 shots per minute, or one every six seconds, said Dr. Tom Beutner, head of Naval Air Warfare and Weapons for ONR.


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