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The Military Technology

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

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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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • Re:Wow (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Baloroth ( 2370816 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:07PM (#38968465)
    Well, TFA says the projectile travels at around 5,000mph leaving the barrel, and has ~32 megajoules of energy, so using KE=1/2mv^2 and some conversion, you get about 13kg (5000mph=2235m/s, [32e6]*2/[2235^2]=m=12.8)
  • Re:Wow (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:27PM (#38968719)

    You're assuming 33mJ is the energy making it to the projectile, while it could be the raw power dumped into the system which needs heat losses removed ;-)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:42PM (#38968943)

    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 of damage; it'll punch a nice clean hole through your ship, but won't damage much outside its own movement corridor unless it hits something like an ammunition locker. You can mitigate that kind of damage the same way you would on an aircraft; fly-by-wire design and massive redundancies.

    It'd obsolete most current designs if used as a ship to ship weapon, but that's the point. Not many nations could handle the redesign and development of their ships needed, which reduces your opposition to a handful of relatively rich nations.

    That said, this is all predicated on it being used as a ship to ship weapon; it strikes me as being more useful to shoot down incoming artillery and missiles.

  • Re:Comments at TFA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Mysticalfruit ( 533341 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @02:44PM (#38970105) Homepage Journal
    How many miles long? Consider the fact that run way for the shuttle land on is actually 15,000 feet long (4572m)
  • Re:Wow (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Captain Hook ( 923766 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @03:50PM (#38971065)

    I'm still unclear on how the rail gun is supposed to take accurate aim on a mobile target (another ship).

    Assuming you are shooting at 80 miles, the projectile is moving at 5000 mph. Flight time is about 58 seconds. Not many large ships can radically alter course in that time to avoid the shot.

    Also, bear in mind that line of sight at sea level +30 meters is about 13 miles. So a target ship without the ability to see beyond the horizon (either Airborne Radar or Satellite) only has 9 seconds from when the slugs appears above the horizon to impact, and thats assuming the radar picks it up the moment it's above the horizon.

    The US already has missile technology which does a very good job.

    Missiles can be shot down or guidance interfered with.

    There is also an issue with missiles and shells being filled with explosives which if detonated within your ship at the very least significantly damages if not out right sinks it.

    Railguns are shooting a solid slug of metal. There is no propellant to be ignited, it's intrinsically safe for the firing ship to handle. The slugs are also far more compact than the missiles or shells because of the lack of propellant so a warship can leave port carrying far more ammo which means less resupply at sea is needed.

Mathemeticians stand on each other's shoulders while computer scientists stand on each other's toes. -- Richard Hamming