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CNO: Railguns and Hellfires Make Ships More Lethal

by Matt Cox on April 9, 2014

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The Pentagon may not escape the crippling budget cuts on the horizon, but that isn’t stopping the Navy’s top admiral from talking up the sea service’s future weapon programs.

“We have got to better match our mission and tailor our platforms to the missions as to what they carry,” Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert said recently at the Navy League 2014 Sea, Air and Space Exposition. “Our platforms have to be adaptable.”

Greenert showed a video of the electromagnetic railgun the Navy is testing. The service plans to fire the hyper-velocity weapon from a joint high speed vessel in 2016 as part of a broader effort to develop the long-range, high-energy weapon.

“We are beyond lab coats; we are into engineering now,” Greenert said. “We’ve got the power level figured out, we know what the projectile looks like and we are testing it.”

The railgun uses electrical energy to create a magnetic field and propel a 23-pound kinetic energy projectile at speeds up to 5,600 miles per hour, Navy officials maintain. The hyper-velocity projectile is engineered as a kinetic energy warhead, meaning no explosives are necessary.

“It’s not only going at a tremendous high-speed; it will break up and deliver a pretty decent effect,” Greenert said. “It’s a lot of power.”

Navy vessels are “evolving in other ways,” Greenert said.

“We’ve got a missile going on board the Littoral Combat Ship,” he said. “It’s the Longbow Hellfire. It’s an interim fix; we are going to get a long-range missile eventually. We are making the Littoral Combat Ship more lethal.”

The Navy is also in the process of arming the patrol boats it has in the Arabian Gulf with a new missile system, Greenert said, adding that testing is going well.

““It works,” Greenert said. “They need to be more lethal. We need to put a missile on it.”

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