- Futuristic weapon is another step closer to being deployed
- Navy reveals industry-built prototype is now being tested
- Uses magnetic field and electric current to generate energy
By Lee Moran
Last updated at 7:07 PM on 29th February 2012
A futuristic supersonic weapon which fires ammunition up to 100 miles is another step closer to being deployed by the U.S. Navy.
Officials have revealed an industry-built prototype of the electromagnetic railgun is now being tested at its Naval Surface Warfare Centre Dahlgren Division in northern Virginia.
The weapon, which it is hoped will be fitted on ships from 2017, uses a magnetic field and electric current, instead of chemicals, to generate energy to fire the rounds.
Scroll down to see video of testing…
Explosive: The railgun can be seen flying through the air (centre of left image) and milliseconds after it was fired from the cannon (right)
It will ultimately be used to target enemy ships, provide self-defence against cruise and ballistic missiles and offer support for Marines storming a beach.
Five-inch guns on destroyers currently have a range of just 15 miles.
Navy officials said that they were currently focusing on making sure it can safely fire the rounds, which will reach seven times the speed of sound – a staggering 5,600mph.
They added that more research and development would be needed over the next five years to ensure the weapon can cool down, handle repetitive fire and ensure the 40lb metal projectiles do not disintegrate.
Roger Ellis, the Office of Naval Research’s electromagnetic railgun program manager, said: ‘As you can see, it represents a significant increase in range.’
He added that, because the gun can fire at such high speeds, it would not necessarily have to shoot an explosive to inflict damage.
He would only say that it would carry a ‘lethal mechanism’. The Navy has been developing the weapon since 2005 at a cost of about $240 million.
Similar funding is expected to keep the programme until 2017, when the Navy anticipates the weapon will be ready. But it could still take several more years before the gun is put on all ships.
The 40ft-long gun being tested more closely mirrors a final product than previous versions. It has been test fired six times since last week.
A second industry-built prototype will be delivered to the Navy for testing in April.
General Atomics, one of the companies providing a prototype, has also invested $20 million.
Tom Hurn, director of the firm’s railgun programme said: ‘We believe this is definitely a game changing capability that’ll enable our forward presence and freedom of the seas.’
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