Words by Wes O'Donnell.
The Navy is now revealing details on a new futuristic weapon that has been under development for the past several years. The electromagnetic rail gun was developed with the purpose of firing low-cost, 23 pound projectiles that can travel at seven times the speed of sound. What once seemed to be science-fiction is now reality.
This particular gun requires no gun power and uses electricity only. It has the capability to fire a projectile over 100 miles at Mach 7. The way the gun works is by using Lorenz Force which is a form of electromagnetic energy launching the projectile between two conductive rails. A very powerful electric pulse creates a magnetic field firing the projectile while producing minimal recoil. This gun has the ability to annihilate anything that it comes in contact with and will give enemies significant pause before attempting attacks against the US.
The U.S. Navy does possess weapons with similar destructive capabilities however the current weapons being used are extremely costly. For example the current missiles being used cost anywhere between $500,000 to $1.5 million per missile whereas the rail gun projectile cost a mere $25,000. This is approximately 1/100 the cost of the current missile systems being used. For this reason along with the fact that the missiles only way 23 pounds and are reasonably compact in size, hundreds of them can be stocked on each warship. This will allow for much more fire power compared to the current ability of ships carrying only dozens of missiles.
Officials hope that even though the military is constricted by tight defense budget cuts, this development will help the US maintain their technological dominance over adversaries such as Russia and China who themselves have been increasing development of missile systems and air defense systems in attempts to gain the upper hand over US air and naval forces. It will not only give the United States a tactical advantage but also an economic advantage when fighting their attackers.
Even though this new gun has been put through extensive ground testing, it will not be tested at sea until 2016. At that time it will be mounted on the USNS Millinocket which is a high-speed cargo vessel to begin sea trials. This ship was chosen because of its vast deck and cargo space to carry the system. It will not be until 2018 that leaders will consider integrating the rail gun on U.S. warships.