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United States Technology

U.S. Navy to Deploy Rail Guns by 2011 1172

Walter Francis writes "The U.S. Navy has apparently been busy. They have been focusing heavily on the next generation of weapons and propulsion systems, including Microwave, Laser, and Electromagnetic-Kinetic weapons, more commonly known as railguns. What specifically surprised me was the fact that the Navy plans to deploy these systems as early as 2011, on their DD(X) frigates. The range of these rail guns is estimated to be over 250 miles."
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U.S. Navy to Deploy Rail Guns by 2011

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  • by SIGALRM ( 784769 ) * on Tuesday June 22, 2004 @04:07PM (#9498849) Journal
    name USS Abraham Lincoln
    set cl_maxpackets 120
    set rate 20000
    set snaps 40
    set cg_fov 80
  • by andyrut ( 300890 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2004 @04:08PM (#9498857) Homepage Journal
    I just know my archnemesis NoobFragger69 will be camping it the moment it's deployed.
  • by American AC in Paris ( 230456 ) * on Tuesday June 22, 2004 @04:08PM (#9498860) Homepage
    What specifically surprised me was the fact that the Navy plans to deploy these systems as early as 2011, on their DD(X) Frigates.

    Forget the railguns--I wanna hear more about these Dance Dance Xtreme frigates--sounds like a great way for swabbies to get in shape and destroy the enemy at the same time!

    P.S. Linking to PDFs in article summaries makes baby Mozilla cry.

  • by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2004 @04:08PM (#9498866) Homepage Journal
    Great. The next big American stereotype will be that we're all 'faggot campers'.
  • by The I Shing ( 700142 ) * on Tuesday June 22, 2004 @04:09PM (#9498868) Journal
    Don't forget the Wave Motion Gun!
    It's our only hope against Desslok and the Gamalons!
    Sing it with me now... "We're off to outer space..."
  • by tcopeland ( 32225 ) * <> on Tuesday June 22, 2004 @04:09PM (#9498869) Homepage
    ...and the server already seems to be having problems, it's mirrored here [].
  • Two things . . . (Score:5, Informative)

    by Maradine ( 194191 ) * on Tuesday June 22, 2004 @04:09PM (#9498876) Homepage
    1. Further useful information here [].

    2. Nitpick: the term 'DD' generally denotes a Destroyer, not a Frigate ('FF').

  • Arnie.. (Score:4, Funny)

    by cOdEgUru ( 181536 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2004 @04:10PM (#9498888) Homepage Journal
    In other news, Arnold will take a break from being the Governor of CA and will be test driving this beauty..

    Seriously, what better character to fire this weapon than our very own Governator?

    Alright you Illegal Aliens..line up.. preferably in a straight line..Hold...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 22, 2004 @04:11PM (#9498908)
    "Our bottom line is that if we can put millions of joules of energy onto a target, something will happen."

  • by fluke_finder ( 708045 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2004 @04:13PM (#9498925) Homepage
    I want ships...ships with freakin lasers!
  • by richardbowers ( 143034 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2004 @04:13PM (#9498945)
    Other sites [] are also covering this -- without needing to use acrobat reader.

    I can't read the original, but according to the link I'm including, they're not just talking railguns - they're also talking free electron lasers and masers. Now, if only they'd provision a banana-fana-fo-faser, we'd be set.
  • Why wait till 2011! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by darth_MALL ( 657218 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2004 @04:14PM (#9498947)
    Build your own railgun Today! [] Kids love this one!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 22, 2004 @04:14PM (#9498960)
    check out [] on how to build your own railgun
  • by Botunda ( 621804 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2004 @04:15PM (#9498967)
    "Our bottom line is that if we can put millions of joules of energy onto a target, something will happen."

    Well no shit. Really?

    I love my country. I hate what we have let it become
  • Respawn (Score:5, Funny)

    by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2004 @04:15PM (#9498968) Homepage Journal
    Well that's neat but I'm still not joining the army until they invent the respawn point.
  • by spidergoat2 ( 715962 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2004 @04:18PM (#9499002) Journal
    Interesting, yet so Cold War oriented. This will stop terrorists, how?
    • Similar to the way the scram jet that was tested will, in that we get a UAV spotting a "high value target" enter a building somewhere and we fire something that can reach him in under 30 minutes, as opposed to the current six hours plus with a Tomahawk cruise missile. Would have been very useful in getting Bin Ladin during the Clinton administration.
    • Interesting, yet so Cold War oriented.

      I think the purpose here is fighting a war without risking your own solders' lives. You could shell a bunker 250 miles inland at more than 6 rounds per minute, and the projectiles would impact at mach 4.

      Furthermore, their main incentive is that it costs less than conventional weapons. (RTFA)

    • by John Murdoch ( 102085 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2004 @09:49PM (#9502324) Homepage Journal
      Interesting, yet so Cold War oriented. This will stop terrorists, how?

      Terrorism, state-sponsored or otherwise, isn't the only military issue in the world. The Cold War is long over--but in its place have appeared a number of smaller-scale regional conflicts. Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq are three that spring to mind. North Korea is certainly another potential threat that any responsible military commander will consider.

      Do you have a world atlas handy? No? Click this link [], it will take you to a small map showing North Korea--with a handy map scale in the lower left hand corner. You'll note that the entire Korean peninsula is less than 200 miles wide--meaning that a small handful of U.S. Navy destroyers armed with these railguns could effectively put incredible firepower onto practically any spot in either country. In practice (because there is a range of high mountains running like a spine down the eastern side of the peninsula) you'd have to position 2-3 destroyers on either side, and you'd have 100% fire cover.

      That changes all sorts of equations. It lessens aviation requirements in the Korean theater, it lessens troop requirements in theater, and it is a technology that is easy to demonstrate--but well beyond the technological reach of the North Koreans (first because they have limited metalurgical assets to develop the guns, and second because they have very limited ability to find and thus target a ship far out at sea).

      The effect may indeed impact anti-terrorism
      The ability to inexpensively drop heavy-duty firepower onto the Korean peninsula raises the very real prospect that the U.S. would not need to keep 35,000 combat troops, and thousands of Air Force troops, not to mention planes, ships, and other equipment, focused on North Korea. Some of those forces could be put to better use--such as tracking, identifying, and killing terrorists.

  • by johnpaul191 ( 240105 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2004 @04:19PM (#9499010) Homepage
    there was something on some show on Discovery (i think?) about how there is interest in basically dropping large steel rods from really really really high up and use some minimal navigation..... the idea is that they would fly like a "smartbomb" and when going at their terminal velocity (or however fast they can get) they don't even need explosives to cause massive destruction apon impact.....

    did i dream this? i don't think so but i guess it's possible. then again i didn't think rail guns or private space flights were coming anytime soon either.
    • by kiick ( 102190 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2004 @04:28PM (#9499134)
      You are talking about a theoretical system called "thor". Basically the idea is that you drop a large crowbar from orbit. The crowbar has just enough brains to wiggle some vanes around to stay on target. The kinetic energy it gains from falling from orbit obliterates the target. No explosives, no radiation, no duds.

      For a fictional view of how devastating this could be, see Niven & Pournelles 'Footfall'.

      The scary part is that we could do this with current technology. It would just be horribly expensive. But once launched, the owner would have the ability to destroy any selected square meter of the Earth's surface, and there's nothing anyone could do about it (aside from shooting down the satellite).

    • Last month's Popular Science. Supposedly you've got two satellites working in conjunction, a targeting bird that handles communication and targeting and a payload bird that handles the 'darts', 10 or 12 to a pack.. The impression I got from the article was that when the satellites were over the target the payload bird drops a dart, which accelerates through the atmosphere until it reaches the target. [BOOM] The thing they didn't adequately explain is how come the darts start accelerating. They made no menti
    • by ElektroHolunder ( 514550 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2004 @05:12PM (#9499745)
      Rumor has it that the first draft proposed the use of giant anvils labelled with "ACME"
  • by LesPaul75 ( 571752 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2004 @04:21PM (#9499044) Journal
    The range of these rail guns is estimated to be over 250 miles.

    Yeah, but at that distance, the enemy will be smaller than a single pixel... you won't even be able to see him behind your little aiming dot.
  • by Shivetya ( 243324 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2004 @04:22PM (#9499048) Homepage Journal
    I was created a few years ago, but it seems to apply more and more. America is leaving the classification of "superpower" behind and moving towards what can be defined as a "hyperpower".

    Many new weapon systems currently deployed or being staged for deployment are many years advanced, even decades, compared to other nations that it begs to question.

    Will the US be perceived more as a threat to the world or will the world be perceived as less of a threat to the US. There is a distiction there that might escape people.

    The NAVY is moving their big obvious targets further out of range of land based weaponary while also developing non-interceptable technologies (as in very fast projectiles ala a RG). The Air Force is set to deploy the F22 which is literally can fight a squadron of previous generation fighters on its own. With GPS guided everything it puts a big stand off range.

    The only wrench in the scenarios, is how do you protect your populace versus terrorist who don't play by normal rules? Will it come down to holding "terrorist" countries hostage to the actions of a few of their people or the groups they support?

    Scary times.
    • Wrong on all counts (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      What's happening by and large is that most countries are spending less and less on the military.

      America spends more than say Europe, but has declined quite a bit from the Cold War peak of the late 80's. Most notable is that the absolute size and war fighting capability of the Army has declined dramatically from the Gulf War 1 era, particularly sea lift. The US isn't capable of something like Gulf War 1 anymore. All we have left is strategic bombing or Nukes which is a poor choice.

      Current defense spending
    • by presarioD ( 771260 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2004 @05:32PM (#9499980)
      There is no such thing as an unlimited power expansion for a nation. Any nation.

      The Roman Empire was defeated although it reached disproportionate economic and military expansion for its era. Same thing for every single Empire (including Dr.Evil's) through history.

      So I'm sorry to break this to my american fellow geeks but the greatest nation of the world can produce as many railguns as it can/wants, the second law of thermodynamics has predicted its downfall upon its conception 300 years ago.

      That is alright though, that is quite alright! See how the Germans, French, British have progressed since they abandoned their nationalistic bubble of delusion about Grandieur and Fanifested Destinies and such... (well I don't know about the British, it appears sometimes they haven't gone passed WWII)

      The world will be a much safer place, and international peace and cooperation well founded, once USA realizes that there is nothing special about USA after all. It's just a passing moment of history that led to this economic and military growth, that's all.

    • by brunes69 ( 86786 ) <slashdot.keirstead@org> on Tuesday June 22, 2004 @05:52PM (#9500202) Homepage
      The US is no more of a "hyperpower" now than it was 30 years ago. The only difference between then and now is that there is no one to currently oppose them, but that will change quickly

      Give it 50 years and the US will have competition on two fronts - China and the EU. The EU becomes more and more unified every year, and as it does so, the economic and military power of the area comes closer and closer to that of the US (the EU as a whole already surpasses the US in terms of GDP). So on one hand, you have the "friendly" EU competition. On the other hand, you have China - growing incredibly rapidly both technologically and militarily. Plus, they have the population to back up the technology on the ground if it ever came to that.

      If you project out, by 2050 you have three huge global superpowers. All nuclear, all space-capable. And who knows what the global political scene will be like - tensions between the US and Europe have never been higher in recent memory, and the true goals of China in areas like Space are yet to be seen.

      It's going to be an interesting 50 years for all of us, and rest assured, the US will not remain the "sole superpower" for very long in a historical sense. I mean, just 150 years ago ( a small blip on the global timeline ) the UK was the worlds superpower. 100 years ago the US was in such a depression people wondered if the whole nation was going to collapse. 50 years ago half the western world was under the control of Hitler.

      The point is that in historical terms, the length of time the US has been dominant is miniscule. Let me know when the US has been the dominant global superpower for a thousand years ( see: Rome ) then we can start talking about "hyperpower".

      • by Shivetya ( 243324 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2004 @08:31PM (#9501703) Homepage Journal
        At least not in its present form. Too many countries making exceptions to the rules for themselves. Hell their idea of a Constitution is the worst abomination seen yet. They are trying to form a government of unequals which will never work.

        China will become less of a threat the freerer its people become. Capitalism will lead them that way. The Chinese government knows this but is smart enough to NOT follow Russia's footsteps.
  • by Zygote-IC- ( 512412 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2004 @04:26PM (#9499108) Homepage
    The range of these rail guns is estimated to be over 250 miles.

    That is damn impressive! The railgun I used back in the mid 1990s could barely fire all the way across 2fort4!
  • Cold war thinking (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CdBee ( 742846 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2004 @04:35PM (#9499247)
    Obviously, we can't predict the future of conflict, but I can't help but think that the biggest danger that is faced by the United States comes from small groups of individuals using terrorist tactics in protest at US Foreign Policy

    The attack on the USS Cole in Aden, on 12th October 2000, is a typical example. A small speedboat loaded with explosives was navigated to a position against the destroyer's hull and exploded, 17 sailors were killed. A friend of mine was a medical orderly on a Royal Navy anti-submarine cruiser which rendered assistance and described it as a scene of devastation.

    A rail-gun is a formidable weapon, but its only really of use for attacking a rival navy, or a military establishment on a coastal shore. No nation nowadays has that sort of power. The USSR's navy is largely laid up in shipyards and few ships are still serviceable. China has a warm-water navy and has shown little interest in Ocean-going ships for over a millennium. N.Korea, Libya, Iran aren't naval powers in any real sense at all.

    Which leads me to the conclusion that the USA sees Britain or France as the biggest threat to its current security! A rail-gun won't defend against a zodiac full of nitrate explosive, or a saboteur with a limpet mine.
    It seems to be thinking grounded in the 1980s when the *enemy* had Aircraft-carriers, destroyers, cruisers and subs. That just doesn't seem to be the case now

    Bet someone's said this in shorter form now and I get modded redundant ;-p
  • by GreyPoopon ( 411036 ) <gpoopon@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Tuesday June 22, 2004 @05:28PM (#9499933)
    A friend and I started building an EM rail gun for a high school science project in 1985. We didn't even know about any military projects. We just thought it was cool to accelerate a nail using solenoids. It was years later that I found out our idea was being pursued by the military, and I looked up what I could find on the projects to see how it differed from ours. Besides bigger magnets and more power, it functions very much like what we built. In our case, the inside of the gun barrel had a "railroad track" of wires that used the metal projectile to complete a circuit and conduct electricity (through the projectile) to the correct solenoid (the one that would continue to accelerate the projectile). The only problem we had was that part of the momentum of the projectile would be thwarted by the fact that the iron in the nail would stick to the wire when current was passed through. The military solved this problem by using a tungsten rod positioned above a wad of metal foil (iron or steel). The metal foil completes the circuit and also, due to the extreme amounts of electricity, vaporizes. The foil plasma vapors are then pulled along the magnetic field just like the nail in our experiment, but without the sticking problem. The accelerating (and expanding) vapors push the projectile through the barrel, causing it to exit with astounding velocity. This kind of weapon goes through armor plating like a knife through butter.
  • by peacefinder ( 469349 ) * <> on Tuesday June 22, 2004 @05:40PM (#9500067) Journal
    Range of 250 miles? That's impressive.

    The era of the big gun pretty much ended with the battle of Midway. After that, it became obvious that aircraft carriers could both defend themselves and attack enemy shipping without need for battleships and their guns. (Or, more to the point, without big guns and the battleships needed to haul 'em around.)

    But I wonder what this development means? The railgun projectile is better in several respects than a missle: cheaper, higher rate of fire, harder to spoof or shoot down, apparently more hitting power. It seems to me that this railgun is closer to carrier based aircraft in relative performance than any guns have been since before WW2.

    It's almost enough to make one think that the big gun could be effective again. Envision the "bad guys" having a submarine with railguns sneaking up to within 200 miles of a carrier battle group. It could surface to rapidly launch a few dozen hypersonic projectiles at the carrier. If it could launch a big salvo rapidly enough, the carrier would be in a world of hurt. The sub probably wouldn't survive the counterattack, but to disable a carrier that's probably a good trade.

    Can an effective ASW umbrella be extended to beyond the range of these guns?

  • GPS Guidance? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by feed_those_kitties ( 606289 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2004 @06:07PM (#9500344)
    Holy smokes - how many g forces would that GPS instrument package have to be able to withstand to go from 0 to mach 7.5 in a few dozen feet?

    Methinks "a lot"...

  • Facts not supported (Score:5, Informative)

    by ryantate ( 97606 ) <> on Tuesday June 22, 2004 @06:32PM (#9500570) Homepage
    Well I know the story is already two hours old (gasp), but it appears to be ill-supported. The linked article [] plainly states ...

    1. That this warship class will enter service in 2011:
    "When the U.S. Navy's first integrated power system (IPS)/electric drive warship arrives in 2011 as the DD(X), the service will mark a technological breakthrough ..."

    2. That this warship class will debut without a rail gun or any other advanced weapon system:
    " When the new ship arrives in service it will be armed with very advanced, but conventional weaponry, including two United Defense 155mm Advanced Gun System cannons and an 80-cell vertical launch system for various guided missiles. But these systems are stepping stones to greater capabilities ..."

    3. The Navy won't even decide whether to fund a rail gun for years:
    "Whatever investment decisions are made for weapons the next several years, the Navy already is engineering the potential these technologies require, according to Collins and his IPS/electric drive team for DD(X)."

    The speculative linked white paper goes no further, advocating that a rail gun *proof of concept test* *could* happen by 2008:

    "A focused technology development program that leads to a series of experiments that culminate in a full-scale extended-range naval rail gun proof-of-concept demonstration in fiscal year 2008
    is a sensible approach."

    For a sense of how little this means, consider there was a successful "proof of concept" demonstartion for airborne anti-laser systems -- "Star Wars" SDI technology -- in 1984 [].
  • by MikShapi ( 681808 ) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @03:30AM (#9504267) Journal
    Is it just me or is the US on some utterly bizarre wild goose chase, spending (read: WASTING) trillions developing military and weapon technology to outdistance itself technologically from other world armies by a factor of 100 instead of (the supposedly insufficient) factor of 50? Just WHO are they going to fight with their Seawolf subs, Aircraft Carriers, railguns, and that entire quadgizillion-consuming army? Terrorists? North Korea? Europe?

    Take a look at the UK for an example. They opted for a small fleet of SMALL aircraft carriers that are designed to rush in and handle local skirmishes and cost a helluvalot cheaper than their American leviathan counterparts and their trailing battlegroups (which are there just in case the Soviet Block comes back together and stops being poor all of a sudden, Marxism is revived, all western culture as we know it is abolished there and the Japanese decide to attack Pearl Harbor. Again.)

    Yes, I know (;-)), A real live railgun will give any fps gamer who can pronounce "quake" a hard-on, but guys (I'm talking to the americans among us /.'ers), wouldn't it be nicer if your government was using YOUR taxmoney to do YOU some good?
    Get you more IT jobs? Encourage tech-oriented businesses with tax levys? Hell, give it to NASA and have them build a space elevator before China does, that'll be a sure way of giving all us geeks an even bigger erection...

    All you have to do is look at [modern, developed, not-dirt-poor] self-oriented countries such as Australia or Germany to see how useful a taxdollar can be when put on the right track.

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