The United States Navy has developed an innovative weapon system called the railgun which uses technology that borders on what many might think of as science fiction. The railgun weapon technology uses electromagnetic energy to launch a projectile out of a cannon like artillery barrel at speeds exceeding Mach 7 (8046.72 meters a second or 5,328.45 mph).
According to the project manager for NAVSEA PMS 405, Captain Mike Ziv, the railgun has the ability to go from 0 to 5,000 miles per hour in about one one-hundreth (1/100th) of a second. Although the technology is not new and has been in testing phases for several years, the U.S. Navy is preparing to begin tests with the weapon system mounted on ships in 2016 before seeing combat deployment.
The technology works by using two conductive rails. Electromagnetic energy flows down one rail then into the armature and up the opposing rail creating an amplifying effect on the electromagnetic energy which allows the projectile to reach extreme speeds in a fraction of a second. The projectile being shot in fact contains no explosive components what-so-ever. Instead a solid metal shell is fired from the weapon system which utilizes the immense kinetic energy generated by the weapon system which creates a smaller localized explosion on contact during the transfer of kinetic energy.
This new ammunition weighs around 23 lbs at a cost of $25,000 a shell compared to standard naval artillery shells which weigh in between 95 – 105 lbs. Due to their explosive components, traditional navy artillery shells are significantly more expensive at a weight 4 times greater than the new railgun shells showing tremendous potential for optimizing precision naval capabilities if the technology proves its self in further testing.
Although the technology and concept its self is not new and has been used for a variety of experiments in the past, one of the major flaws has always been a requirement for vast amounts of energy and the sheer size of the rails needed to create the energy required to fire the railgun. It is highly likely however that this will become a part of the new military weapon systems to see its way into combat in the coming decades.electromagnetic, kinetic energy, weapon systems