Much of the buzz in the defense community tends to focus on the Air
Force with major aircraft programs like the F-35 and the ongoing tanker debacle. Other
branches of the military are also working in some very interesting projects for
new weapon systems.
The Navy announced last week that it hit a milestone with its railgun project. The
railgun fires a very fast projectile that is accelerated with electricity
rather than gunpowder or explosives. The weapon payload uses kinetic energy to
destroy targets rather than a high-explosive warhead.
The Navy milestone hit last week was the world-record 33-megajoul shot
from the electromagnetic Railgun aboard the Navy Surface Center Dahlgren
Division. A megajoule is a measurement of energy associated with a mass
traveling at a certain velocity. A one-ton vehicle moving at 100mph is a single
megajoule of energy.
"Today's railgun test demonstrates the tactical relevance of this
technology, which could one day complement traditional surface ship combat
systems," said Rear Adm. Nevin Carr, chief of naval research.
The 33-megajole shot is capable of reaching targets at extended ranges
with a velocity in the area of mach five. The Navy says that the rail gun has
many benefits other than the ability to shoot projectiles over one hundred
miles with accuracy. The electromagnetic weapon improves safety on the ship because
there are no traditional propellants needed and the projectiles need no
high-energy explosive warheads.
33-megajoule shot means the Navy can fire projectiles at least 110 nautical
miles, placing Sailors and Marines at a safe standoff distance and out of
harm's way, and the high velocities achievable are tactically relevant for air
and missile defense," Rear Admiral Carr said. "This demonstration
moves us one day closer to getting this advanced capability to sea."