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Navy Rail Gun Showing Promise

by Kris Osborn on January 16, 2014

U.S. Navy Demonstrates World’s Most Powerful Electromagnetic RailgunCrystal City, Va. — Navy developers are moving into a second phase of testing for an electromagnetic rail gun that Navy leaders hope to mount to surface ships in the future, service officials said Wednesday at the Navy Surface Warfare Association Annual Symposium.

The rail gun is a long-range, high-energy, multi-mission weapon able to fire high-velocity projectiles three times as far as most existing Navy guns.

“We’ve gone through prototype phase 1 and had two industry gun systems. We’re now on phase two which will give us multiple rounds per minute,” said Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, Chief of Naval Research.

Klunder expressed enthusiasm that the rail gun successfully went 8-for-8 in a recent test firing at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

“It went exactly where we told it to go with good telemetry,” he explained.

The rail gun, which can hit ranges of 100 miles or more, uses electricity stored on the ship to generate a high-speed electromagnetic pulse sufficient to propel a kinetic energy warhead. The result is an inexpensive, high-impact and long-range offensive weapon, service officials said.

The Navy, which has been testing the rail gun at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Va., plans to integrate it aboard a ship by 2016, service officials said.

The 23-pound hyper-velocity projectile can be fired from a rail gun as well as from Navy 5-inch guns and even 155mm artillery weapons, Klunder added. The round currently has what’s called command guidance but may be engineered for self-guidance in the future.

In addition to range and lethality advantages, the rail gun is also much less expensive than other weapons in the Navy arsenal to operate — the rounds cost about $25,000 each, he added.

The gun is high-heat and high-energy so cooling technologies are required, Klunder said.

“There are multiple designs that we are evaluating. Obviously it is not just the gun but a lot of the systems that go behind that,” said Don McCormack, Surface Warfare Center Director.

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