Well, the Office of Naval Research has begun test firing BAE’s new 32-megajoule railgun and we’ve got the video to prove it. Remember, the Navy wants a 20 to 32 megajoule railgun that can fire a projectile at speeds of up to 5,600 miles per hour over distances of 50 to 100 nautical miles. The Navy’s standard five-inch gun has a range of about 13 miles and can fire 20-rounds per minute, according to ONR officials.
Railguns use a ton of electromagnetic energy to push a projectile out of a barrel made of two long rails at hypersonic speeds. The energy contained in one megajoule is equivalent to a 1-ton car traveling at more than 100 miles per hour, the Navy likes to remind us.
The guns will eventually fire sleek projectiles (that may be guided) using pure kinetic energy to destroy targets. For now, the service is firing 40-pound bricks designed to test out the guns’ barrel strength and their ability to stay cool while firing up to ten rounds per minute. These tests are set to run through 2017, ONR’s Roger Ellis told a group of reporters during a phone call today.
As we’ve said before, their speed and range give these guns enormous potential for use in everything from shooting down enemy planes and missiles to blasting enemy ships and even targets well inland.
The Navy hopes to move this from a science project to an actual acquisition program in time to field the weapons by the early to mid 2020s at the latest.
Click through the jump to watch the Navy’s newest railgun in action.
Afterwards, click here to watch a great DT exclusive on General Atomics’ railgun, a bigger version of which the Navy will also start testing soon.