You may be familiar with the concept of railguns. They play a big part in a number of popular video games, but as far as real world applications, views have been rather limited. Until now. This video shows the latest incarnation of the much-hyped weapon just blowing the holy hell out of all sorts of stuff, and it is pretty awesome, and potentially the future of military weapons technology.
On a conceptual level, railguns sound pretty simple. Powered by electricity, they launch a projectile a at speeds exceeding mach 7, which, believe it or not, is not an easy thing to accomplish. A new article in Foreign Policy details the development. Because of the various hurdles, many in the military industrial complex have doubted that the weapons will ever become practical and widespread, but that view seems to be changing.
Railguns require an enormous amount of energy to fire, and the force of firing wears out the various pieces and moving parts. If you’re firing this regularly, you need to have massive energy reserves, as well as spare parts to replace the ones that degrade and breakdown. One member of the Senate Armed Services Committee said, “the technical challenges to developing and fielding the weapon would be daunting, particularly [related to] the power required and the barrel of the gun having limited life.”
Supporters, however, kept on, and the program remained alive. The Navy ultimately settled on a version of the gun manufactured by BAE Systems. Instead of traditional explosive propellants, like gunpowder, the BAE weapon employs a battery pack.
Another big hurdle, one that hasn’t been adequately addressed at the present time, is repeat fire. The weapon heats up to a point where it can’t safely be fired multiple times in a single minute. Ideally, the Navy would like to be able to shoot their railguns as many as ten times per minute.
While there are still obstacles in the way to the widespread use of railguns, this latest incarnation looks rather effective. The destruction is certainly an impressive sight to behold, especially what it does to that truck. That’s a thorough piece of devastation right there. Though they are a ways off from regular, everyday military use, the Navy still has faith that the technology will get there. One of their most advanced new vessels, the destroyer the USS Zumwalt, is set up so in the future, should this come to pass, it can easily be equipped to carry such a weapon. The first Navy ship to use a fully electric motor, it has the necessary power source to make this feasible.