Gamers and scifi enthusiasts are familiar with the much-vaunted railgun — an electrically powered projectile launcher capable of propelling objects at speeds reaching Mach 7. We've seen the Navy's railgun in action before — but we've never actually seen it destroy stuff. Until now.
Navy officials have been busy at work testing the railguns to see how effective they could be against cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, and targeting vehicles. Here's the new video:
In a recent Foreign Policy article, a Pentagon official said they're performing well in test scenarios, though it sometimes takes two or three projectiles to take out a target.
The next task is to make sure it can fire multiple times in a minute without overheating — which is no small feat. Ideally they'd like it to do ten rounds a minute.
More from FP:
The massive amount of energy needed to fire the weapon wore out components of the gun quickly, leading to skepticism it would ever be practical. The Senate Armed Services Committee even moved to kill the program in 2011, feeling that "the technical challenges to developing and fielding the weapon would be daunting, particularly [related to] the power required and the barrel of the gun having limited life," a committee staff member told Wired magazine at the time.
Proponents in Washington moved to keep the railgun program, however, and it survived. Last year, the Navy selected a version of the weapon made by BAE Systems as its primary option. It uses electromagnetic energy instead of gunpowder or other explosive propellants to launch the projectile, the company says. The weapon would draw the power primarily from battery-like components, eliminating the safety concerns that go with using gunpowder or other old-school explosive propellants.
[ via FP ]