© usnavyresearch / YouTube
A technology miracle able to launch relatively cheap tungsten projectiles at the speed of Mach 6 (7,400 kph, 4,600 mph), “obliterating everything in its path.”
The gun is said to be able to target almost any target within a 125-mile radius, be it on land or at sea, including incoming missiles. The missile defense capability, however, is theorized to be “at least a decade away.”
The US Navy has revealed a video of the first commissioning tests of a railgun, a futuristic weapon that many people hope could shift the balance of power in naval warfare away from aircraft carriers and back to surface warships.
UK-based BAE Systems appears to have made an operational railgun, however, and test fired it at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Virginia in November 2016. A short video of that test was made public by the Office of Naval Research on Tuesday.
The railgun is designed around the principle of launching a metal projectile using a series of magnetic coils, rather than chemical propellant. Because of this, it is also known as the coilgun or Gauss rifle, after the German mathematician credited with discovering the concept in the 19th century.
BAE Systems tested a 32-joule half-power prototype at Dahlgren in 2013. The full-power version was scheduled for testing in mid-2016 aboard the USNS Trenton, a Spearhead-class expeditionary transport, but the schedule was pushed back to mid-2017 without an explanation.
Popular Mechanics has speculated that the railgun might end up being installed on board one of the three ships in the Zumwalt class, the experimental super-destroyer with a power plant strong enough to operate the weapon. The recently commissioned USS Zumwalt has been experiencing difficulties with its 155mm Advanced Gun Systems, designed around the projectiles that cost around $800,000 apiece.
This image released by the US Navy, shows the Office of Naval Research's Electromagnetic Railgun located at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division. © John F. Williams / AFP
Crucially, the weapon currently requires a 25-megawatt power plant of its own to fire at all.
The vast power consumption can so far be supported by only three US destroyers being built.
DDG 1000. Three US destroyers being built.