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The Military Technology

U.S. Navy Receives First Industry Built Railgun Prototype 277

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the killing-pirates-with-magnets dept.
Zothecula writes "Two years after BAE Systems was awarded a US$21 million contract from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) to develop an advanced Electromagnetic Railgun for the U.S. Navy, the company has delivered the first industry-built prototype demonstrator to the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Dahlgren. The prototype launcher is now being prepared for testing which is scheduled to take place in the coming weeks."
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U.S. Navy Receives First Industry Built Railgun Prototype

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  • There is an annoying popup on TFA. Reload to temporarily defeat it.
    • Re:Pop Up (Score:5, Funny)

      by osu-neko (2604) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @12:12PM (#38967717)

      There is an annoying popup on TFA. Reload to temporarily defeat it.

      Hmm, I don't see any popup. I suspect your NoScript settings are set to something insane, like "not installed"...

    • by Nadaka (224565)

      Or you can use firebug to inspect and delete the annoying popup. Its what I do when I find a site that I really need to use, but is broken without javascript and more broken with javascript.

  • Wow (Score:5, Interesting)

    by koan (80826) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @12:08PM (#38967649)

    Can you imagine the sound this weapon makes when a projectile exits at 5000 MPH, that alone would terrify the enemy.

    • The enemy would be terrified by the noise, but I suspect wouldn't risk much from the gun, as a projectile exiting the barrel (or whatever passes for a barrel in a railgun) at 5000 mph instantly vaporizes when it hits the atmosphere.

    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

      by vlm (69642) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @12:14PM (#38967743)

      At mach one zillion and hundreds of KM away, they won't hear it until long after the dust settles from impact.

    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Tim C (15259) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @12:50PM (#38968203)
      Perhaps, but not the enemy that it was aimed at - the projectile will get there before the sound does.
      • by sycodon (149926)

        No need to lead those little pirate boats anymore.

    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @12:50PM (#38968207)

      I work at the facility in question. The sound is comparable (but louder) to a 5 inch shell being fired on the range.

      It is quite capable of startling someone not expecting it from about a km away.

    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Informative)

      by PPH (736903) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:20PM (#38968623)

      If you've heard it, it means you've survived.

      The projectile will arrive before the sound.

  • by Thud457 (234763) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @12:09PM (#38967669) Homepage Journal
    gizmag, really?!!
    Couldn't you have at least found the story at Janes?!!
    • Re:WTF submitter?! (Score:4, Informative)

      by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki@gmail. c o m> on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:43PM (#38968979) Homepage

      Sadly most people these days don't know what Janes is. Probably because most people don't follow either the military or gun culture on /. sad but true. Anyway, I keep wondering whether or not railgun tech will be what brings the battleship back into use. I can see scaled down versions of this on cruisers. But if you want to hammer something down from way off shore and cheaply, I don't think anything else beside a large chunk of floating iron will do.

      • Re:WTF submitter?! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by BisexualPuppy (914772) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @02:07PM (#38969373)
        Probably because most people don't follow either the military or gun culture on /. sad but true.

        There are so many things I can learn with passion, and killing people is not one of them. Is that sad ?
        • by Abreu (173023)

          Probably because most people don't follow either the military or gun culture on /. sad but true.

          There are so many things I can learn with passion, and killing people is not one of them. Is that sad ?

          Well said. Quoted for lack of mod points.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          There are so many things I can learn with passion, and killing people is not one of them. Is that sad ?

          Remember that the next time you're commenting on "assault" rifles and the rest of military or gun culture. You actively chose not to learn based on your own narrow minded belief system.

        • by Fnord666 (889225)

          There are so many things I can learn with passion, and killing people is not one of them. Is that sad ?

          Everyone has to have a hobby of one sort or another.

        • Re:WTF submitter?! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by x0 (32926) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @03:42PM (#38970963) Homepage

          There are so many things I can learn with passion, and killing people is not one of them. Is that sad ?

          What is sad is that you equate gun ownership with killing people. I have quite a few guns, and not once have I threatened anyone. I have, however, made plenty of holes in paper and made steel targets 'ding'.

          How about taking that passion and learning the difference between lawful gun ownership and violent criminal activities.

          I suspect that your passion for leaning stops when your worldview is threatened...

          m

        • Re:WTF submitter?! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by couchslug (175151) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @04:50PM (#38971941)

          No. You can delegate it and pretend the world runs on rainbows and unicorns.

        • by Mashiki (184564)

          There are so many things I can learn with passion, and killing people is not one of them. Is that sad ?

          Military and gun culture equate killing people. Well... If I have a gun, I don't need it to kill people or even need to use it to kill people. I can use it as a hobby, for enjoyment, for survival and providing for myself. As for military culture. Janes in itself, is probably one of the best resources on military tech and culture, current and past. Myself I study historical battles and the technology of the day. Both are central to understanding the know-how and the why-how of why things happen in t

      • by Fnord666 (889225)

        Anyway, I keep wondering whether or not railgun tech will be what brings the battleship back into use.

        To heck with battleships, when do I get a man portable sniper version? Imagine 2km shots with the scope parallel to the bore!

  • Those Strogg [wikipedia.org] mofos are going to be sorry now!

    And it looks bad ass too. [navy.mil]

  • Comments at TFA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mdsolar (1045926) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @12:13PM (#38967733) Homepage Journal
    Some wish that we would put efforts into more peaceful technology. It is worth remembering that the German V2 research became the basis for manned space exploration both in the US and in the Soviet Union. Eventual space cooperation led to better arms reduction treaties. The rail gun may also have eventual launch applications and promote cooperation and peace as well.
    • by iamgnat (1015755)

      Just the minor little inconvenience of those squishy things we call bodies not really caring for the G force generated by such acceleration...

      I do agree with you though as I too think there will be practical applications for sending non-compressible items into orbit (or beyond) until we can address the limitations with our squishiness. I'd be interested to see a comparison of the energy requirements of such a launch compared to the current means, from the basics I understand these things take a crap ton of

      • by Anrego (830717) *

        I've envisioned a very long rail-gun style launch system .. where the acceleration is gradual enough that you don't end up with liquid organs, but still end up at enough speed to get into orbit.

        Disclaimer: I haven't done any math on this, or looked at any practical elements .. it's just a quick thought.

      • by mdsolar (1045926)
        What is important is the amount of energy you need to carry with you. With a rocket, you need to carry your fuel, with a gun, you don't. It may make sense to use a longer rail for human spaceflight. Last I checked, about 60 miles was a comfortable rail length.
      • A lot of energy, yes, but for a very short period of time.

        Given that the cost of the entire prototype program is vastly less than the cost of a Shuttle launch, it is safe to assume(!) that the per-kilo cost to orbit is substantially less via railgun.

        In addition, given that the payload is launched by a single initial impulse rather than a long, slow burn, the mass fraction is much higher. You are not using energy to lift a bunch of fuel to provide energy to lift a bunch of fuel to provide, etc., etc. to lift

      • You may win in the initial sprint but the slow and steady pull is going to win the race.

        Doing some ball park figuring in my head I would say it is not realistic. You are trying to have an initial velocity (exiting the gun) that is high enough that the constant deceleration of gravity and the decreasing levels of friction and wind resistance will not prevent it from maintaining escape velocity until it is free from the earth.

        The amount of initial energy you have to pack has to be more than the total amount

    • by Viol8 (599362)

      I doubt it'll be much use as a launcher anytime soon. You'd have to get up to escape velocity (actually greater due to atmospheric friction) in the length of the barrel unless you have propellants on board the projectile and then you enter all sorts of problems of containment. As for launching astronauts - forget it.

    • by Dynedain (141758)

      It is worth remembering that the German V2 research became the basis for manned space exploration both in the US and in the Soviet Union. Eventual space cooperation led to better arms reduction treaties

      The research also became the basis for the nuclear arms buildup in the first place. If you can put a man into controlled orbit, you can also put a warhead wherever you want it.

      • by mdsolar (1045926)
        Actually, we started out with bombers, which we still use. But I'll grant that the hydrogen bomb was aimed towards a missile. More bang for the buck meant more bang per launcher really.
    • With this technology we can send some FREEDOM to/from the orbit easily, and cover wide areas with devastating LOVE flechette rounds and COOPERATION bunker busters.

      Here, have some peace coming at you at supersonic speed!

      Seriously, though, it could be awesome for delivering supplies to space with minimal dead weight for casing, control systems and a bit of fuel for maneuvering engines at final stage.

      Time to shot some scrap metal to the moon and start building a colony?

    • Advancements in battery and magnetic technologies, particularly as they try to miniaturize these things to a soldier held weapon (though giving each infantryman ten times the firepower of an Abrams tank creates a whole new dimension of problems). But energy storage and release mechanisms will be improved by this research, just as interchangeable parts - originally developed by Eli Whitney ( cotton gin's inventor, remember him? ) - spread from guns to all manner of mass production through the industrial age.
  • by dpilot (134227) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @12:14PM (#38967749) Homepage Journal

    Sounds like another government rail subsidy to me. Or is it really "TSA meets Amtrak"?

    (I'm preparing to get strafed.)

  • light gas gun (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vlm (69642) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @12:16PM (#38967763)

    I always thought a nuclear steam powered light gas gun filled with electrolyzed hydrogen would be cool. light gas guns never get the love they deserve.

    • Maybe they need a sexier name than "nuclear steam powered light gas gun filled with electrolyzed hydrogen".

    • Re:light gas gun (Score:5, Informative)

      by rahvin112 (446269) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:46PM (#38969043)

      The beauty of the railgun and why the Navy is so aggressively pursing them is that explosive based weapons are very dangerous at sea under counter attack. The most secure portion of the ship is often the munitions storage area for this reason as a properly placed round can blow the bottom out of the ship by igniting the munitions stored.

      The railgun does away with the whole bit, the munitions are rods of metal and the propellant is electricity. Without all the powder storage you can either dramatically reduce the size of ship and crew or dramatically increase the number of rounds deliverable before restocking. Finally the restocking ships aren't going to be carrying combustible munitions. A round 1/4 the size of the largest battleship guns fired from a railgun will do nearly 100 times the damage.

      The goal of the Navy DDX program is ships with 1/4 the crew size, 10 times the firepower and a significant reduction in profile (stealth). Imagine being able to field twice the number of ships for half the cost and a single ship has more firepower than 10 current models.

      • by MobyDisk (75490)

        Do not forget that the powder is replaced with capacitors which are similarly volatile.

      • by jgtg32a (1173373)
        Don't capacitors and flywheels get angry if they are disturbed?
      • Yeah, but they really need to move the DDX to nuke powered. At least half of them. Cheaper over the long haul, and easier to make electricity with.
      • Range is also a huge aspect. If they get it to work they will may get a range that is an order of magnitude greater than conventional artillery (~hundreds of miles rather than tens of miles). Which means you can cover two order of magnitudes greater area with a gun and stay rather safe from potential counterattacks. Difficult to underestimate the strategic signficance of this.

        It is true that you can get same range with cruise missiles but they are two orders of magnitudes as costly per pop... And can get
    • You need a cooler name. "Light gas gun" sounds like something that shoots out wisps of smoke. Railgun, now, *that* sounds like something that's gonna hurt.

  • Just put mottos in English already. This is getting embarrassing.
    • "velocitas eradico" translates to "get rid of speed" (according to Google). Get rid of speed? How about "victoria ad velox" instead? ("For a swift victory" or "Victory through Speed")
  • by Shivetya (243324) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @12:50PM (#38968213) Homepage Journal

    Truly, if nothing makes a carrier more obsolete is a weapon that can hit one where there will likely be no practical defense. Is any surface ship safe from such a weapon? Yes I know you can definitely pilot an evasive course but you have to know your being attacked before you can do that.

    So how many years before a surface fleet is rendered obsolete? All the quotes in the article about giving sailors more options and precision are too easily reversed.

    • by mdsolar (1045926)
      Good point. But why would you need a surface fleet if a submarine fleet would do a better job. The carrier group projects force, but a rail gun equipped sub group projects more. TFA mentions using the rail guns for carrier protection against missiles too.
    • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:07PM (#38968471)

      Truly, if nothing makes a carrier more obsolete is a weapon that can hit one where there will likely be no practical defense. Is any surface ship safe from such a weapon? Yes I know you can definitely pilot an evasive course but you have to know your being attacked before you can do that.

      Not sure I see how this will make a carrier obsolete, really.

      It's not like a carrier is really worried about 5" shellfire, even at extended ranges - the big missiles with 450+ kg warheads are much more of a problem, really.

      However, as to evading fire from such a weapon. At 200 km, and 2500 m/s muzzle speeds, we're talking pretty near two minutes (yes, it loses speed the whole way, so it won't be anywhere near as quick as 200/2.5 travel time) between shot and landing. And our radars can detect a shell-sized object now (that's what counterbattery radar is for, after all), so you have a minute or more to change your projected position by 200 meters - you can manage that without even turning, just speed up/down as needed.

      This ignoring the detail that you won't even be able to see the carrier at 200 km without aerial surveillance, and the carrier air group will be doing its best to make sure your aerial surveillance quickly becomes sub-surface surveillance....

      • And our radars can detect a shell-sized object now (that's what counterbattery radar is for, after all), so you have a minute or more to change your projected position by 200 meters - you can manage that without even turning, just speed up/down as needed

        The key would be the rep rate. If the rail gun can only launch every minute or so, it's not much better than current gunpower big guns.
        On the other hand, if the rep rate is multiple rounds per second, a ship would have a hard time evading a swarm of projectiles. Even a big ship would have trouble with dozens of 5" slugs hitting the engine room.

        Anyway, you'd first send in your jets to pulverize the rail gun before you got into its range.

      • by dmgxmichael (1219692) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @03:00PM (#38970365) Homepage

        Not sure I see how this will make a carrier obsolete, really.

        It's not like a carrier is really worried about 5" shellfire, even at extended ranges - the big missiles with 450+ kg warheads are much more of a problem, really.

        However, as to evading fire from such a weapon. At 200 km, and 2500 m/s muzzle speeds, we're talking pretty near two minutes (yes, it loses speed the whole way, so it won't be anywhere near as quick as 200/2.5 travel time) between shot and landing. And our radars can detect a shell-sized object now (that's what counterbattery radar is for, after all), so you have a minute or more to change your projected position by 200 meters - you can manage that without even turning, just speed up/down as needed.

        This ignoring the detail that you won't even be able to see the carrier at 200 km without aerial surveillance, and the carrier air group will be doing its best to make sure your aerial surveillance quickly becomes sub-surface surveillance....

        The obsolescence threat to the carrier does not come in the form of a direct threat to the ship's survivability. That is part of it, but not the whole or even the largest of it, and you are ignoring that largest part. What is the carrier's role?

        Projection of Force.

        Carrier aircraft allow it to hit targets up 600 to 1000 km away, or more with refueling tankers. Rail guns however can also hit targets at these ranges, or even further, and even harder.

        And don't kid yourself about being able to dodge the shot either. Not even 2 weeks ago another slashdot article was going on about a steerable bullet that could be fired from a sniper rifle. There is no reason to believe the shells of a rail gun might not also one day be likewise steerable. If we can build a steering system in a 30 gram bullet we can build one in a 5Kg shell. It doesn't take much steering to hit a moving carrier, which can only move 200 meters at most during the entire flight of your bullet.

        And you don't need an explosive in the warhead at all if you have a 2,500 m/s velocity. The kinetic energy from a 5kg slug travelling at that velocity will punch through the hull of a carrier like butter and the impact will be quite explosive without any actual explosive chemicals. After all, F = MV. 2,500 m/s is a LOT of velocity, and you don't need much mass to impart a lot of force on a very small area of the armor to punch through. That's what makes hyper-velocity projectiles so appealing. Their threat is entirely from their velocity - not a dangerous explosive that might go off in storage.

        Anyone who thinks the carrier can survive the appearance of the rail gun on the scene of naval warfare is still fighting the last war, not the next war. The carrier is a big relatively easy to hit target for guns. WWI Battleships can't get close enough to them to sink them because of the planes. A railgun equipped battleship however will be able to not only get in range of the carrier, but outrange the carrier. The shell makes the trip in 2 minutes. That's a long lag time, but nowhere near as much as the hour it takes to launch a plane out to and bomb the attacker. Even if the planes are in the air at the start its still 20 minutes before they can be on site. And yeah, you might shoot down or dodge a rail gun projectile, but what about one every minute? Every 15 seconds? A gun may only have a 1 / 15 minutes firing rate, but multiple ships with these can mass their fire on the large target.

        Carriers are awesome, but so where battleships, so where Ships of the Line. Their days are numbered, and this gun is writing on the wall for them just as surely as the USS Monitor was the writing on the wall for the whole British fleet that fateful day 150 years ago next month at Hampton Roads [wikipedia.org].

    • by chainsaw1 (89967)

      When you consider supercavitating torpedoes that are approaching or surpassing the speed of sound in water (and have active homing), things like this, and actual DE weapons (closure rate close to c) in development there are a lot of hazards out there.

      Yes, each new technology can be use against you. Science is science, the will to use (and how to use) is an invention of man. However, by knowing about and having these items first, you have time to develop defenses. You also have the means to test those def

      • by demonbug (309515)

        When you consider supercavitating torpedoes that are approaching or surpassing the speed of sound in water (and have active homing)...

        Interesting, I wasn't aware of any torpedoes moving at close to 3,500 mph (speed of sound in seawater is ~1560 m/s). Or did you mean the torpedoes exceed the speed of sound in air at sea level? Even that I find hard to believe, as everything I have seen indicates top speeds in the realm of 200-350 mph.

        Great, got sidetracked thinking about detecting supersonic jets acoustically - if an F-22 is headed straight at you over the ocean flat out, assuming you have a sensitive enough microphone in the water, you sh

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Worth considering that Mortar teams based in Kandahar airport during the Afghanistan campaign were able to detect incoming mortars on radar, calculate where they'd been launched from based on their arc, and return fire at the launch site before the mortars had landed.

      With a railgun you've got much less time to react, but if you can detect them you should be able to either evade or at the very least return fire. There's also the consideration that a projectile moving at Mach 5 isn't going to do a huge amount

    • The Fleet won't be obsolete if you can use some other weapon system to knock out their rail gun before you get in range. Then your fleet brings in the troops and other heavy equipment.

      Or, you make sure your floating rail guns are the biggest on the planet.
  • by gentryx (759438) * on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @12:59PM (#38968351) Homepage Journal
    Or am I the only one remembering this from the good old BattleTech times? BTW: I want my Warhammer equipped with dual Gauss cannons, please. ^^
  • Huh? (Score:5, Funny)

    by assertation (1255714) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:00PM (#38968361)

    What does it do, shoot Ruby developers off of ships?

  • by assertation (1255714) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:03PM (#38968415)

    Ray guns on ships, putty that can heal broken bones in days, robotic military planes, hand held computers.

    I have to say these are interesting times. The "future" ( a sci-fi like world ) is happening right now

  • We're not banging rocks together here people, this is science!

    Now all we need is some sort of AI to aim the thing and we'll be all set!

  • Out into orbit in less than a minute. Cripes that's fast.

  • This IS news, even with 4 year old Youtube clips.

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1q_rRicAwI

    "Uploaded by noahmax6000 on Jan 31, 2008. Check out the Navy's record-breaking blast of an electromagnetic railgun...
    Category: Science & Technology."

    The thing is it was in testing phase four years ago. :)

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