BAE’s EM Railgun goes to Sea, Test Firing at Mach 7.5…

The invisible forces of electromagnetic power are slowly being tamed by the US Navy. In the labs for nearly a century the Electromagnetic Railgun is nearing completion and preparing to head to sea.

BAE is expecting to begin testing their latest high power EM Railgun aboard the US Navy’s JHSV class of battleship by 2016, just two years away. A test that will mark the first time an EM Railgun has been fired at sea. The technology isn’t due to go into service till after 2020 but the tactical EM Railgun is drawing near.

Presented for your viewing pleasure are the videos that demonstrate the destructive force of a projectile traveling at incredible speed. Sit back, relax and please select your target carefully.

The US Navy has set some tough targets for this new electric destroyer of things. The final weapon due between 2020 and 2025 needs to be able to fire 6 rounds a minute with enough accuracy to hit a five meter target from 370km’s away. The ability to fire over those distances will require some special eyes to target with; this is well over the horizon. BAE are rumored to be testing UAV aircraft as the Railguns extra pair of eyes.

The BAE Railgun
The BAE Railgun

As always the US Navy hasn’t put all of their eggs into one basket, BAE are not the only company in the race to perfect EM Railgun technology for the US Navy. General Atomics has been testing its latest Blitzer Railgun over the last 12 months, firing projectiles at Mach 7 with incredible impact.

Whichever Railgun is selected it will be firing a solid tungsten spear; no explosives are carried by the projectile at all. The weapon instead relies on kinetic energy to destroy any target it strikes, any target land sea or air. Imagine 23 lbs/ 10 kg of material heading for you at Mach 7.5 (5,600mph / 9,000 kph).

This simplicity makes the rail guns and their ammunition very safe and comparatively cheap. Each of the spears costing 10’s of thousands of dollars instead of many hundreds of thousands for a cruise missile. Truth be told you could probably chuck any old slab of scrap metal in there, as long as it fits,  and it would work.

The US Navy still has a long way to go and many decisions to make before EM Railguns are a reality on battleships, they haven’t even decided on which class of battleship will use the Railgun. With each round requiring Gigawatts of power this will be a weapon for nuclear warships only, it will need plenty of juice.

Don’t underestimate the power of electricity and magnetism combined, if the US Navy can make it a reality this will be a total game changer. Is gunpowder about to become obsolete, are its days numbered?

Reference: BAE Systems
Reference: DailyTech
Reference: Wikipedia

BAE EM Railgun images…


General Atomics Blitzer Railgun images…


Electromagnetic Railgun Firing Results…