U.S. Navy Unveils Railgun at Science and Technology Expo

Posted on February 8, 2015

U.S. Navy Railgun

The U.S. Navy's railgun made its public debut this weekend at the Naval Future Force Science and Technology (S&T) EXPO in Washington, D.C. The railgun can fire a projectile at speeds over Mach 6, or six times the speed of sound. One of the electromagnetic railgun prototypes is pictured above where it is on display abord the USS Millinocket in port at Naval Base San Diego.

The railgun uses electricity to fire projectiles instead of using chemical propellants. Projectiles are launched using magnetic fields created by high electrical currents between two conductive rails. The Navy says the railgun can send projectiles at distances over 100 miles.

In a fact sheet the Navy calls the railgun a "true warfighter game changer." It says the new gun will provide an exceptionally quick response that will "extend the reach and lethality of ships." The Navy also says the railgun reduces the amount of high explosives needed to be carried on ships. They also say it "minimizes the dangers of unexploded ordnance remaining on the battlefield." The railgun has been in production since 2005. Several test videos have been released over the past few years.

Roger Ellis, program manager at the Office of Naval Research (ONR), says in a statement, "The Electromagnetic Railgun brings significant technological advances to our Sailors and Marines. As the system moves forward along its planned schedule from the laboratory launcher, we've achieved breakthroughs in compact power and gun design, and will test the next phase of prototype at both sea- and land-based sites in 2016 and 2017."

The Navy says the projectile launched by a railgun accelerates to Mach 7 in 10 milliseconds. It also says the size of the railgun has been reduced to a manageable size so that it can fit on warships. Take a look:

Photo: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kristopher Kirsop

More from Science Space & Robots