High-speed camera captures 33-megajoule shot of Navy railgun  (Source: U.S. Navy)
Projectile can travel at least 110nm at many times the speed of sound

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.

"The 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."

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