Video: Navy railgun in action

Posted by Shane McGlaun

The United States Navy has been working to design a railgun that can be easily fitted to battleships and other surface craft to bolster the military's current arsenal.

The rather impressive railgun you see in the video below may seem like something out of science fiction movie or novel, but the Navy has made it real. Indeed, the Pentagon has already test fired a smaller laboratory scale railgun as many as 1,000 times.

However, the first of a pair of larger prototype demonstrator railguns has now been test fired six times in a single week.

The weapon is described as a 32-megajoule prototype demonstrator designed by BAE. A second prototype demonstrator built by General Atomics will be delivered this year.

For the prototype shots, the Navy is using non-aerodynamic projectiles that slow quickly during testing.

"[Test shots used] non-aerodynamic slugs intended to slow down quickly," explained Tom Boucher, the Navy’s railgun test director at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren, Va. "But eventually the program intends to fire a very low-drag, high-speed projectile" to emulate a combat scenario.

The Navy is hoping the railgun will initially be capable of achieving a range of 50 to 100 nautical miles, and eventually expand to a radius of 220 nautical miles.

The railgun uses electricity to fire its projectiles rather than gunpowder. It can shoot projectiles at thousands of miles per hour with deadly accuracy, as kinetic energy delivers the force needed to destroy targets. This particular prototype weapon was delivered on February 6, and the second prototype weapon will be delivered in April. The Navy estimates the weapon is likely to go into service sometime between 2020 and 2025.

"The new guns are a significant step beyond the laboratory-style launchers, which are big, bulky, not anything you would put on a Navy ship," said Roger Ellis, program manager of EM Railgun.

"The new industry prototypes are a step beyond and much closer to the fit and form that we might want to put on a ship someday - lighter weight, able to train and elevate."