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Navy Awards EM Railgun Contract

by Kris Osborn on July 3, 2013

U.S. Navy Demonstrates World’s Most Powerful Electromagnetic RailgunThe Navy has awarded BAE Systems a contract to develop a next-generation launcher with higher rates of fire for its now-in-development Electromagnetic Railgun, service and industry officials explained.

The Office of Navy Research is currently developing an EM Railgun which uses massive “pulses” of electricity to propel a projectile or an explosive at distances greater than 100 nautical miles.

“You get much higher velocity by creating an electromagnetic force behind the projectile,” said Amir Chaboki, program manager for advanced systems, BAE.

The pulses from the weapon can achieve incredible speeds of Mach 6, Mach 7 or faster, thus striking long distances in a short period of time, he added.

An EM Railgun launcher is described as a long-range weapon that fires projectiles using electricity instead of chemical propellants, according to statements from the ONR.

“Magnetic fields created by high electrical currents accelerate a sliding metal conductor, or armature, between two rails to launch projectiles at 4,500 mph to 5,600 mph,” the ONR website states.

ONR Launched the EM Railgun program in 2005. The program began with Phase I wherein the technology was demonstrated as a “proof-of-concept.”  The program is now moving well into Phase 2, an effort to refine and improve the technology and be able to sustain more rapid rates of fire.

The Navy has already demonstrated the ability to fire a single shot or “pulse” from the weapon at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren, Va. The ONR’s current Phase II launcher contract is aimed at developing the ability fire 6 –to-10 pulses per minute, Chaboki explained.

BAE plans to have its first prototype versions of the launcher weapon ready by as early as next year, Chaboki said.

A Railgun works by creating a magnetic force between two power rails conducting large amounts of electricity, Chaboki explained.

“Schematically you have two power rails that conduct electricity. We send a pulse onto one rail then connect the two rails. Magnetic force then pushes the projectile,” he explained.

The EM Railgun needs large amounts of electrical power, some of which could be stored in batteries if the weapon were transported on a ship, he said.

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{ 113 comments… read them below or add one }

hibeam July 3, 2013 at 5:51 pm

EM Railgun below deck. Windmills on deck. Everybody happy.


blight_ July 3, 2013 at 5:52 pm

I find it interesting that the priority is rate-of-fire over reducing the power demands. I suppose this means that the power demand is deemed "acceptable" with whatever technology is in the pipeline…or, the power demand is /projected to be eventually acceptable based on BAE's powerpoint about reduction of the power demand/; which means if BAE's timetable slips, we could have invested significantly into rate-of-fire for railguns without addressing the power demands required in shipboard use.

Concurrently, I imagine they are working on flywheels or super-capacitors, which would address the power demand on firing and the rate-of-fire question. That said, using direct mechanical energy from a diesel or a gas turbine to spool up a flywheel is an option.

We'll find out in a few years.


Nick July 3, 2013 at 5:59 pm

The minimum amount of energy to fire the projectile is fixed (F=MA), there's probably some loss in the system but it's likely negligible compared to the minimum energy.

The hard problem to solve here is rail erosion and with rapid firing you'll likely need some intense method to tool the rails between shots.


Tri-ring July 3, 2013 at 10:53 pm

Not to mention the rails trying to rip each other apart due to repulsion, one of the inherit problems of a rail gun. For advance utilization I suggest placing a rifle type twist to the rails to give the projectile a rotation for better stability.


Thomas L. Nielsen July 5, 2013 at 2:11 am

I may be considered to be nitpicking here, but F=M*A is the formula for the force F required to give a mass M the acceleration A.

If you want energy, the formula is E = 0,5*M*V^2, for kinetic energy.

And while I certainly agree that "there's probably some loss in the system" (or actually, make that "certainly some loss"), I can't agree that "it's likely negligible compared to the minimum energy". If a railgun can be made to work with more than 75% efficiency (without things like high-temperature superconductors), you can colour me surprised.

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen


David July 8, 2013 at 11:17 am

They may consider power consumption as part of the rate of fire equation.


Robert July 26, 2013 at 12:53 am

You make a lot of sense, in your statement that such technology in that it would need to store energy for "immediate use", the technology would be some kind of low mass but also able to tolerate high rotational speed's. Ie; A flywheel based on more recent material's. I can't see any current battery system being as robust, or since batteries of any kind, are not natural capacitor's, but flywheel's are, you get it.

Never the less, if we (the US) has an advantage on any technology, in this case a ship mounted rail gun, it's only going to remain a secret…

Until we use it in combat. You can bet after that there will be a lot of people staying up reading old journal's that have anything to do with EM Rail Gun's. After all, since then we would have demonstrated we have one, after then everyone else will want to play…


Thunder350 July 3, 2013 at 6:07 pm

The sooner the Navy gets this thing up and running, the sooner we can shoot giant transformers trying to access secret doomsday weapons hidden inside Egyptian pyramids.


Bruce Wayne July 4, 2013 at 12:14 am
Justin July 16, 2013 at 3:37 am

Navy has been using a LONG time! EM propulsion is old tech, really….
This is an improved platform for higher speeds and longer distances


jake July 3, 2013 at 6:15 pm

1 small step towards photon torpedoes ;)


USS ENTERPRISE July 3, 2013 at 9:04 pm

I would aim for Quantum Torpedoes…….


Ben July 3, 2013 at 6:41 pm


I'd hate to have seen the railgun get the axe in favor of ship-borne lasers. These will prove to be much more useful when the tech matures.


Dave July 4, 2013 at 9:49 am

I think in the near future rail guns will replace the 5" mounts and lasers will replace the CIWS. Also lasers would be pretty ineffective for over the horizon shore bombardment so railgun is here to stay.


Ben July 4, 2013 at 11:42 am

It's a lot more potent than even that, though.

It could be used for medium range anti-missile or anti-air. It could even be used to replace cruise missiles to an extent.


Matt July 3, 2013 at 7:15 pm

I'm interested to know if the curvature of the earth is greater than the 'drop' on the projectile? that would rule out ship to ship engagement at medium distance as the rounds would fly over head.


blight_ July 3, 2013 at 8:09 pm

Gravity will win before the curvature of the earth becomes a factor.


Ben July 4, 2013 at 12:11 am

Easy enough to "dail-in" the right charge. Not all shots need to be fired at full strength.


hunter76 July 4, 2013 at 8:09 am

The highest number reported was Mach 7. Gravitational escape velocity on Earth is about Mach 34. The projectile will come down.

Once they get the "gun" working dependably, they'll need to develop smart munitions for it, otherwise it's pretty useless.


Numerics January 21, 2014 at 4:18 pm

Actually Mach 24 is all thats needed to send it into orbit… still aways to go. Mach 34 and you escape Earth's gravity altogether, sending the projectile into Solar Orbit.


Joseph Kunder January 22, 2014 at 12:24 pm

The projectile would have to be fired atvs speed faster than the earth rotates. It might effect in which direction it is fired weather it is with the rotation or against.


elportonative77 July 3, 2013 at 7:24 pm

So does this mean the General Atomics variant is a dud or canned?


David July 5, 2013 at 10:17 am

I think it was a technology demonstrator much like the x-47.


wpnexp July 17, 2013 at 6:57 pm

General Atomics is likely going to at the game for a while. Better to have at least two companies in the game to keep the competition going. Also, I believe the Blitzer has some inherent use on the Army side too.


ohwilleke July 3, 2013 at 7:30 pm

Why is there a huge amount of smoke and fire in a picture illustrating a story about a rail gun? Isn't the whole point of a rail gun to dispense with hydrocarbon ignition at the launch stage?


ASF July 3, 2013 at 7:51 pm
SJE July 5, 2013 at 5:45 pm

Yes. Its plasma


ben July 4, 2013 at 1:41 am

more specifically, the erosion of the projectile and rails produces a metal vapor that is is at around 3000 degrees, hence the incandescence.


SJE July 5, 2013 at 10:41 am

its the clouds of awesomeness


USS ENTERPRISE July 3, 2013 at 9:05 pm

So, we have the gun. What about, say, the energy source, the platform…………..?


Rob C. July 8, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Zulwalt Class would be able to handle this monster. Other platforms may include the CVNs since their nuclear powered. Problem is the bottleneck Congress has made and inflated prices of the builders. So nothing new can be built. I doubt the Burkes can be modified any further hand stress this weapon going to produce.


wpnexp July 17, 2013 at 7:03 pm

Actually, the power generation of the original DDG-51s is the problem from what I hear. Additional generators would have to be added, and the capacitors and batteries would take up a lot of space. Not sure if just removing the 127mm gun would make enought room. As the Block III will be a different design, it could be enlarged somewhat. Also, developing the ship using all-electric pwer systems would help, as power can be diverted to various systems as needed.


RAZORBACK July 3, 2013 at 11:56 pm

Lets see the chinese version, i bet they must have stolen the blue prints from the BAE secure server by now and making there own version as we speak.


Stan July 4, 2013 at 1:37 am

I can certainly see the advantage of not having to store powder on the ship. Also having a high speed projectile for bombarding hardened shore targets or delivering a guided projectile to the target quickly is nice in assymmetric warfare. But what will this weapon enable the Navy to do in an engagement with the Chinese which while highly hypothetical is likely to not be assymmetric?


STemplar July 4, 2013 at 4:45 am

Keep them 100 miles from a surface force lest they desire to be peppered with Mach 7 Tungsten death rods…..


Ben July 4, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Possibly defend against DF-21s or other aerial threats.

Save money by using place of expensive cruise missiles.

Quicker and more precise response.


Stan July 6, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Both of you seem to be under the impression that the Chinese will let you within 100 miles of the shore to plink away at them with the cannon. Missiles have ranges well in excess of this.


USS ENTERPRISE July 6, 2013 at 8:37 pm

As do ours……


oblatt1 July 8, 2013 at 10:59 am

nothing this technology is designed to extract design funding not produce an useable weapon. We are basically throwing dumb rocks at an enemy using smart networked hunter killers.


Muldoon July 4, 2013 at 8:03 am

1) How long must the rails be to impart the desired velocity?
2) I can see banks of selectable super capacitors armed and ready for sequential discharge – then rate of fire becomes a factor of (a) how quickly the next projectile can be loaded, or (b) mandatory rail cool down…


pyrotak July 12, 2013 at 11:16 am

It doesn't even need to be reloaded after ever shot, I bet they can design it so that it works similar to metal storm where you have multiple projectiles in the same tube (if they wanted to that is)



John Zimmer July 4, 2013 at 9:47 am

What's the projectile made of?


Ben July 4, 2013 at 11:53 am

It's just a hard metal slug, and that's really all it needs to be when traveling at those speeds. If they ever ramp this thing up to the 33 megajoule goal, even a solid steel slug would hit its target with the force of a tomahawk cruise missile. No explosives necessary.


Hans Zimmer July 4, 2013 at 2:25 pm
Tri-ring July 4, 2013 at 11:08 pm

There is one property the slugs requires for them to be shot out.
They need to be conductive so electricity can flow from one rail to the other to create a circuit.


SJE July 5, 2013 at 10:41 am

No: only the sabot needs to be conductive.


Tri-ring July 5, 2013 at 12:32 pm

If they are fitted with them but the balancing act within the rail is going to be tricky.

Paul July 4, 2013 at 11:29 pm

I wager it has to be tungsten or DU coated steel for it to keep it from the round from warping.


William_C1 July 5, 2013 at 12:10 am

Also under consideration is a shrapnel shell containing up to 10,000 tungsten cubes that would disperse before impact, at a velocity enough to cut through the roof armor of a tank or anything else.


Ricky July 4, 2013 at 11:41 am

Shou,d make tanks with rail guns now. Or try making it into a rifle of some sort.


SJE July 5, 2013 at 5:43 pm

We need to get the basics to work first.


COchronic July 4, 2013 at 11:46 am

This might be a stupid question but what’s the possibility for a mis-fire? When they start to get up into the higher rate of fire the probability of over heating or a malfunction increases I could imagine the amount of destruction it’d cause if that energy were released on a ship


Tri-ring July 4, 2013 at 11:01 pm

It depends on what you mean by "mis-fire".
It has no chemical explosives using electricity as propellent. The worst thing that I could think is the connectivity between rails are disrupted due to bad spacing in which an arc discharge will occur between the projectile and the rail.


hibeam July 5, 2013 at 4:59 pm

There are no stupid questions. Only stupid people. Ask good questions to be safe.


SJE July 6, 2013 at 1:18 pm

There are tremendous stresses on this system, which is why its so difficult. The early cannons were dangerous and tended to explode on the users (as in explode sideways) until we got good enough with metallurgy. With the rail gun, you have enormous current and EM forces: just think how much energy is required to accellerate something to Mach15 over a few meters. The amount of energy turns the air into plasma, which basically eats up anything. A few years ago you had to basically rebuild the gun after firing. I don't know how far we have gone since then.
Perhaps some advances in superconductors have occured.


rty July 4, 2013 at 6:41 pm

When it comes to increasing rate of fire are we talking about:
- multiple shots fired with a single charge?
- smaller projectiles fired more frequently?

As an aside, does anyone worry that we are so obsessed with the next-generation technology that we we are missing the current generation technology? Wouldn't a bunch of missile cruisers help us out a lot more today than a high-tech gun that destroys itself a little bit every time we fire it?


blight_ July 4, 2013 at 11:15 pm

The count of VLS tubes per DDG is quite a bit of missile firepower, and I'd hope that railguns could be resupplied at sea; at least far better than trying to reload a VLS tube underway.


Ben July 5, 2013 at 11:02 am

Not to mention railgun shots are expected to be a whole hell of a lot cheaper than cruise missiles.


blight_ July 5, 2013 at 11:16 am

"- multiple shots fired with a single charge?"

Hooray for the return of the multiplex round!

"- smaller projectiles fired more frequently? "

Which is basically the "MetalStorm trick"; fire a bunch of projectiles electrically, going as far as to stack caseless rounds in a barrel and ignite each one iteratively so quickly as to be able to post very high hypothetical rounds-per-minute numbers.


Belesari July 4, 2013 at 8:56 pm

Considering modern GPS guided artillery takes a make of 15,000 g's and these rounds will take something like 60,000 'gs and need a entirely different guidance system I don't see this as a land attack weapon so much as a hell of a BMD weapon.

Power is going to be a bitch though.


SJE July 5, 2013 at 10:43 am

There is no guidance system. Something this fast is more like direct fire.


blight_ July 5, 2013 at 11:17 am

If we're talking about using railguns as indirect fire support in the near future, then it means that we will be firing railguns at low accelerations so as to favor guidance systems.

That said, very long rails should be able to accelerate a projectile more gradually…?


Belesari July 5, 2013 at 3:38 pm

The problem is unless it hits a certain speed its just not going to be worth it. And while longer rails would allow for more time to accelerate the projectile the problem would still be how do we guide it from a cone of fire and plazma.


Belesari July 5, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Yea turns out it just doesn't work far more resistance than they thought.


EW3 July 5, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Been thinking on this problem going back a few years.
The weakness in a GPS is the bonding of the internal chip to it's substrate and then the connection from the chip to the board it's mounted to.
I am familiar with accelerometer chips that can survive over 50KG's. (See memsic MXP7205VF). So silicon to chip substrate would seem to be solved.
The same company makes modules using their chips and they spec 1000G for 1 ms. Since this is a mass produced device, suspect the bright guys at a place like Draper Labs can make this work for a price.


Tri-ring July 5, 2013 at 9:24 pm

Big problem is how to get mechanical wings to operate after being zapped by a huge load of electricity during firing.


EW3 July 6, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Suspect all active electronics would be encased inside a Faraday shield.
Don't really need wings and even the GPS till it's slowed down enough to not have an ionization layer around the projectile. (GPS would be useless till then. You could an INS system to keep a rough fix on the projectile)
If the are shooting it 100KM for example, you could wait till it was 25KM out to activate GPS electronics and control surfaces.


Tri-ring July 6, 2013 at 10:29 pm

A lot of people are misunderstanding how faraday shields works.
For it to work properly all circuitry needs to be shielded including any and all wiring so there can be no wires to connect the circuit boards to the actuators that moves the wings since any unprotected wiring are susceptible to an EM surge which will either feed back to the circuit and/or melt the wires.

Dfens July 5, 2013 at 9:50 am

I'm glad they are paying for development of these guns — again. At this rate, in 30 or 40 years the US Navy might actually field a weapon. Of course, it's not like the defense contractor will make a profit off of every single day they drag things out and jack up costs. Oh wait, yes, yes it is just like that. I'm sure they're too stupid to notice. No, it seem to be only the US taxpayer that's too stupid to notice how their money is being spent. The defense contractors seem to be well aware of how to maximize their profits. Who knew capitalism works?


hibeam July 5, 2013 at 4:57 pm

In California we haved used this concept to develop very fast trains. Its like getting on an Airplane and then taxing all the way to your destination at over 100 miles an hour. Except its a train. And it costs way more. We invented this concept. Get your own.


Jeff July 21, 2013 at 10:51 am

Are you talking about that train that was "invented" by the Engineers in California that no one has ever seen or heard of? Or are you talking about that poor copy of the High Speed Bullet Trains that Japan and Germany have been using for years? I know it was a good deal anyway, since its only a short walk from the Victorville Station Parking lot to the front door of Ceasers Palace.


blight_ July 21, 2013 at 11:23 am

Elon Musk thinks people will get on his pneumatic tube to SF…VEGAS!


oblatt1 July 6, 2013 at 10:56 am

Another operationally useless wunderwaffen that is supposed to leapfrog our military into the future but really will just seal its fate. The real innovation is happening in russian and chinese missiles not these throwbacks to the battleship era.


SJE July 6, 2013 at 1:22 pm

The US spent millions and decades trying to get heavier than air flight to work.


USS ENTERPRISE July 6, 2013 at 8:36 pm

The Wright Brothers, what?


Dfens July 8, 2013 at 12:30 am

Yeah, and failed. The Wright Brothers did the job in the free market economy and did it for a fraction of what the US government spent.


UAVGeek July 9, 2013 at 3:57 pm

And then billions were spent by governments to get it to a usable point. This is a cycle with technology.


blight_ July 6, 2013 at 7:43 pm

What innovation? They're going with what works for them. Short range and high speed anti-ship missiles.

Brahmos is a curveball, and may become the "Sunburn" of the 2010's.


Dfens July 8, 2013 at 12:34 am

Guns, whether chemical or electric powered, are a good way to put a pounding on an enemy without wasting a lot of money doing it. Rail guns are an idea whose time is well past. What we need to do is get the Navy out of the business of funding research for research's sake, and start getting these systems deployed on ships where they belong.


BobK July 6, 2013 at 12:17 pm

The Navy is having problems with maintance of their current fleet due to the force budget cuts, yet they have money to pay for this? Really?


Rob C. July 6, 2013 at 11:02 pm

Depends on what state of the fleet will be by the time the technology ends up maturing. In some ways, development doesn't mean its fleet ready.
Maintenence is huge issue, sooner or later it will have to be addressed. No mater what the US political parties are fighting over. Hollowing of the US fleet nearly 40 years ago maybe forgotten to some, but it still in minds of others.

EM Railgun is a game changer when its finally developed.


hibeam77 July 6, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Two Alka-Seltzer and a warm glass of Dr. Pepper. Same result.


nimrod July 6, 2013 at 6:13 pm

waste of money. we should have more big guns on destroyers and less of this unproven crap. We need armor on our ships instead of these thin tin foil hulls of modern ships. And we need thousands of ships not mere 200's.


Rob C. July 6, 2013 at 11:10 pm

Quanity over quality? That may have worked in World War II era, but today ships can do alot more than those ships of the past. I agree US need more ships, but i rather seem them build right. Development of ships and their weapon systems are insanely more expensive in comparison to 1930s-1940s dollars when events leading to and into WW2 made development happen rapidly. US Fleet and other arms forces were under allot economic stress back then too. Recovering from the original Great Depression being one of them.

Also, alot know how and means to replicate and make classic weapons like the Iowa Class Battleship's 16 inch guns are barely possible today and insanely more expensive too. I remember reading when US Congress wanted see if was possible build NEW Battleships and found out it was in billions, in 1980's dollars.


blight_ July 7, 2013 at 9:13 am

Building a new capital ship is a stupendously expensive venture.

If you have to choose between developing a new carrier program and new battleships…the choice is obvious.

Don't forget we had tons more shipyards back then than we do now. We are better served with COTS ships on the small end, and building destroyers and "cruisers" (question: cruiser with cruiser hull, or up-scaled destroyer hull?)

Any of the WW2 admirals would've gladly traded the Lex for the striking power of a supercarrier. Let's not overglorify WW2 too much…though in WW2 the Navy could have significant combat power in many places at once in the same general theatre, a capability we no longer quite have.


USS ENTERPRISE July 7, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Ahem, Pearl Harbor? I mean, that is probably the big thing. In a world where planes can knock out a ship from 100 miles, and subs can operate undetected, in great depths, how is a large battleship suppose to survive? Some might even put that argument to the carrier (though it striking power, in my opinion, makes it indispensable) as a large ship that is an easy target. CIWS and Missile launchers only go so far…..


Dfens July 8, 2013 at 12:27 am

Name one ship that is COTS. There are none. What we have is specially developed small ships that are built in quantities of ones and twos. Before we had heavily armored ships that were built by the hundreds. Today's ships can be sunk with a .50 mounted on the deck of a pirate scow. The ships we used to have could take a pounding and still deliver.

As for WW2, what's wrong with learning lessons from the last war we won? You'd rather learn how not to do things from the wars we lost?


d. kellogg July 8, 2013 at 8:53 am

On key factor that seems consistently overlooked: since it is a projectile weapon that is NOT speed-of-light, it will be susceptible to aerodynamics and gravity.
So to hit anything with useful accuracy, it will need onboard precision guidance and control mechanisms.

It has taken considerable research, development, time, and money just to get reliable-enough guided projectiles for today's chemical propellant guns that can withstand their launch stresses.
But now all of a sudden, newest-and-best railgun technology emerges, and people are all "gee whiz" about it,
forgetting the guns will STILL need launch-hardened guided shells to hit anything at considerably greater ranges than today's propellant guns.
What are those going to cost to even develop, let alone the per-round cost to field them?


hibeam July 8, 2013 at 9:18 am

Nice weapon but it looks to me like it could harm innocent civilians in Pakistan. So I have cancelled it. — Your Commander In Golf.


matt July 8, 2013 at 9:24 am

Understanding the tremendous effect of the impact at mach 4+, how much does that diminish with loss of speed? Talk of guidance and electronics is fun, but if the projectile has to slow to a certain point to be able to steer it, what do you have left in terms of kinetic energy? And as far as size, theres still a point of diminishing returns when it comes to payload in a projectile. If it can be guided it is going to be too slow to rely strictly on impact, it will need something inside to make it go boom.
My solution…
Build Navy ships with spots for tanks to be mounted. Let the tanks do the shooting, and when they get near land jettison for the ride up to the beach and on to victory!


Jeff July 21, 2013 at 10:56 am

I was in an Armor Battalion that did that during the Korean War. B Company, 1st/68th Armor. The only Armor or Cav Unit in the US Army with an Anchor on its crest.


Foamythedog July 8, 2013 at 11:24 am

I love the idea of shipboard flywheels- should make combat and evasive maneuvering interesting. Full left (or right) rudder, the ship turns, and the flywheel keeps going straight….right through the hull. Then again it might be cool in rough seas!


blight_ July 8, 2013 at 2:15 pm

I've not heard of flywheels in vibration-heavy environments…but there's always a first?


Chuck July 11, 2013 at 2:34 pm

The flywheels go on gymbals. Problem solved.


Rob C. July 8, 2013 at 12:52 pm

The weapon still has away to go till it hits production. I hope they'll be able to do it without losing the technology due to cyber theft. Chinese is managing to get rather similar weapons systems added to their arsenal or on their way their.


Tony C. July 9, 2013 at 10:28 am

The rail gun projectile traveling at high mach speed will deliver enough energy to explode on impact. There won't be a need for an explosive warhead and this projectile could destroy the hull of an enemy warship on impact. The rail gun limitation is rate of fire, all else can be overcome with ships power generation.


Steve Z. July 10, 2013 at 7:33 pm

Has anyone mentioned what the electro-magnetic pulses would have on the ships current electronics or the avionics in the aircraft, especially the navigation equipment!!!


Steven Cl Superslamma April 5, 2014 at 8:10 am

What about EM shielding.


Stu-Man_fu July 11, 2013 at 7:07 am

So how many billions are we trowing at this and paying for it by furloughing civilians?


David Drezner July 11, 2013 at 2:17 pm

How will they power this? A one time chemical/electric system, or a nuclear power plant? The power requirements must be massive. With the same power you could probably power a pulse based laser system, which would mean we'd need a whole new class of railgun/laser platforms designed especially for electrical systems.

I see a super-capacitor in their future, should we ever get one out of the laboratory.


Kevin Hale July 12, 2013 at 3:17 am

I think they are fielding electrical tech similar to super-capacitors + super conductive cables/wires. Also, it helps to know if the EM railgun has adapted to suit aerodynamic conditions to reduce drag as well as knowing how many alphas and charlies current sequences. Wonder what type of computer is determining targets and trajectories.

As for energy storage, they might have fuel cell capacitor hybrids they can alternate in supplying and directing the weapon.

This weapon seems more suited to base bombardment than most other weapons.


Brian B Mulholland July 14, 2013 at 7:59 pm

My own inference, from the apparent importance assigned to rate of fire, is that the Navy is looking first at this system for major advances in point defense against incoming antiship missiles, including ballistic ones. Building a guided shell capable of surviving 60,000G launch accelerations is going to be difficult, but something that releases a shotshell of antimissile flechettes, or something similar, might be easier than building a munition meant to be guided after launch.

David, what about the capacitors used in EMALS? We might not be that far away from that kind of power spike capacity.


Carl T. Steinmetz July 16, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Much of what has been said here is the same things that were said about many advance in military tech. Having been in the Marine Corps for 20 years I found that advances in tech take time and money and do "Save Lives"! The Little-Boy is a great example. Yes, today people bitch about what it did to the people of Japan, but if we would have landed troops to take the main land it would have cost up to 1.5 million American lives and most likely have cost the Japanese 2-3 million dead and Many more injured.
Yes it is expensive, but what is your son or daughter worth. As for more ships, well the truth is if you had 25-50 with the fire power of 2-3 rail guns you could cover most of the worlds hot spots, saving the need for aircraft and heavy ships to do the work. Look at it this way, the rounds (about 1000 pounds) from a 16 inch gun can take down a building at 25-30 miles and one shot (40-60 pounds) from a rail gun can do the job at 100 miles today and up to 400 miles in the near future. The stand off alone makes the ship safer, the light load means more can be carried on the ship and less chance of injuries with the explosive used to fire the 16 inch rounds.


suprafootwearjapan August 25, 2013 at 8:28 pm
Joe February 17, 2014 at 8:18 pm

“Schematically you have two power rails that conduct electricity. We send a pulse onto one rail then connect the two rails. Magnetic force then pushes the projectile,” he explained.
The EM Railgun needs large amounts of electrical power, some of which could be stored in batteries if the weapon were transported on a ship, he said.

Nuclear power eliminates the need for batteries, and since some subs are powered that way why the hell can't a few ships.

The kinetic energy from one small projectile could sink a ship or devastate a bunker 50 or 60 feet below the ground surface. These weapons will set a new precedence in warfare.


Steven Cl Superslamma April 5, 2014 at 8:12 am

All you have to do is drop a large heavy rock from orbit. Gravity will handle the rest massive explosion with no fallout.


William_C1 July 5, 2013 at 12:07 am

yes what?


EW3 July 7, 2013 at 3:01 pm

That's why I said pull all electronics inside a faraday shield. Everything including the batteries.
The only interface to the outside could be with pneumatic or hydraulic lines which could be made out of non-metalic materials.
The only thing I can't figure out (yet) is the GPS antenna.
The faraday shield is not needed after the projectile leaves the gun. So that be the key to handling the antenna.


blight_ July 8, 2013 at 2:18 pm

I suppose this means going with sabots, and putting something in the sabot to protect the electronics?


EW3 July 9, 2013 at 1:30 pm

That's where I'd start working.

Suspect they need a sabot round anyway, as the damage to the outer layer of the round will likely not very aerodynamic after being ablated.


blight_ July 9, 2013 at 1:45 pm

People have alluded to heavy barrel wear with railguns, so I guess the next question is how to repair that in real time. One could simply change large barrels at sea, but it doesn't sound very quick. Replaceable barrel liners? Laser sintering?


EW3 July 9, 2013 at 3:46 pm

The biggest problem will be heat. The I^2*R heat will be enormous (a million amps is a lot of coulombs per sec)

Which may be why the want to solve the rate of fire problem first. Perhaps it's the heat and not the power supply they are concerned with.

But a quick fix would be to have several pairs of rails per ship. Fire the first round through one pair, the 2nd through the next pair and so on…. This would give the rails a chance to cool. (Warping due to heat is another danger)

Perhaps the rail pairs could be disposable ?


blight_ July 9, 2013 at 4:08 pm

I guess it's back to multiple barreled turrets. The WW2 buffs will be pleased.


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