Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Navy Railgun Weapon Promises Quite a Barrage

It could take up to a decade to find its way into shipboard systems - and the budget for the final weapon is now in some doubt.

The energy level has jumped from 0.5 megajoules to 1.5 megajoules. Even at one megajoule, the projectiles hit with the force of a one-ton car striking a wall at 100mph. _DailyMail

The Navy began pursuing the railgun in 2005, and for now, there are only lab prototypes of the weapon. But already the Navy has set a world record (see video below) for muzzle energy used in a weapon--33 megajoules. According to Defense Market, a shot of that magnitude could potentially reach "extended ranges with Mach 5 velocity."

Ellis said, the Navy has awarded contracts to BAE and General Atomics to build prototypes that "are more tactical in nature."...when the railgun is finally deployed, it is likely to be used--or at least be ready for action--in several different kinds of missions. First, Ellis explained, it could be used from a ship to fire inland in support of marines as they come ashore.

At the same time, because the weapon's range is so long, it could allow a Naval ship that features the railgun to defend itself from sea-borne threats long before it can itself be attacked, or from missiles fired from land or sea.

Now it's on to the next phase of the project. According to Ellis, that phase includes demonstrating that it's possible to fire a railgun at a rate of 10 rounds per minute _CBS
9 Second Clip of Record Setting Naval Rail Gun Shot

To supply it, Raytheon’s building a “Pulse Forming Network” or PFN. That's a large power system that stores up electrical power and then converts it to a pulse that is directed into the gun's barrel, John Cochran, the railgun program manager in Raytheon's Advanced Technology Group, told CNET’s News.com. _FoxNews
The US Navy desperately wants to put this gun onboard its attack ships, but it is not clear whether the railgun will be used by land forces or sea forces, if it ever does make it through all the levels of financing and final approval.

This electromagnetic catapult weapon may be a glimpse into the future of medium distance ballistic weaponry, particularly if it can achieve pinpoint accuracy over hundreds of miles distance. Providing the massive amounts of electricity required over a sustained attack might well require a nuclear reactor, along with Raytheon's pulse-forming network.

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