If you’re like me, when you read a headline touting promise of a real-life railgun, your brain is immediately flooded with memories of spending countless hours picking people off in Quake 3: Arena with their version of the weapon. Or maybe you remember the Arnold Schwarzenegger classic Eraser where baddies used a similar railgun to explode peoples’ hearts. That’s not exactly what we’re looking at today, but it’s the first step.
After a two year project costing $21 million, BAE Systems have delivered the first-of-its-kind Electromagnetic Railgun (EMR) to the Office of Naval Reseach, who, according to Digital Trends, will start testing the weapon soon. While the unit is a bit larger than the handheld weaponry we’re used to seeing in the sci-fi world, the same principles are there. The EMR uses magnetic energy to launch projectiles rather than relying on the standard contained explosions used to fire bullets and larger munitions, and the projectile rides rails until it leaves the barrel. The details until now seem unimpressive, but this is where things start heating up.
The weapon fires at a much higher velocity than your average pistol, rifle, rocket launcher, tank, etc. You name it and the EMR outdoes it. Standard chemically projected weapons will fire at around 2,700mph max, whereas the EMR nearly doubles that, putting rounds into the air between 4,500 and 5,600mph. Not only that, but the EMR delivers a 32-megajoule payload. Not being a scientist myself, that didn’t mean much to me until Digital Trends put it into perspective, saying that 1 megajoule is about equal to a 1-ton car moving at 100mph. It’ll be hard to quantify that without actually seeing the weapon in action, but suffice it to say that the newly acquired Electromagnetic Railgun will mess shit up.
We’ll be keeping an eye out for and sort of test footage that may crop up, but don’t hold your breath. The military is involved so we’re expecting the trials to be very hush hush. Check back for updates.