Coming soon: photon torpodoes
Golly. The Navy has a working railgun.
From the Fredericksburg Free Lance - Star:
Normally, new weaponry tends to make defense more expensive. But the Navy likes to say its new railgun delivers the punch of a missile at bullet prices.
A demonstration of the futuristic and comparatively inexpensive weapon yesterday at the Naval Surface Warfare Center at Dahlgren had Navy brass smiling.
The weapon, which was successfully tested in October at the King George County base, fires nonexplosive projectiles at incredible speeds, using electricity rather than gun powder.
The technology could increase the striking range of U.S. Navy ships more than tenfold by the year 2020.
The railgun works by sending electric current along parallel rails, creating an electromagnetic force so powerful it can fire a projectile at tremendous speed.
Because the gun uses electricity and not gunpowder to fire projectiles, it's safer, eliminating the possibility of explosions on ships and vehicles equipped with it.
The railgun's 200 to 250 nautical-mile range will allow Navy ships to strike deep in enemy territory while staying out of reach of hostile forces.
The projectile fired yesterday weighed only 3.2 kilograms and had no warhead. Future railgun ordnance won't be large and heavy, either, but will deliver the punch of a Tomahawk cruise missile because of the immense speed of the projectile at impact.
Garnett compared that force to hitting a target with a Ford Taurus at 380 mph. "It will take out a building," he said. Warheads aren't needed because of the massive force of impact.
The range for 5-inch guns now on Navy ships is less than 15 nautical miles, Garnett said.
He said the railgun will extend that range to more than 200 nautical miles and strike a target that far away in six minutes. A Tomahawk missile covers that same distance in eight minutes.
"A Tomahawk is about a million dollars a shot," McGettigan said. "One of these things is pretty inexpensive compared to that."
He said estimates today are that railgun projectiles will cost less than $1,000 each, "but it's going to depend on the electronics."