“We were launching hypersonic bricks at Mach 5, Mach 6”

Here’s an exclusive Defense Tech video giving you an update on General Atomics’ high-speed railgun project. Last summer, General Atomics and Boeing tested a high-speed sabot round to replace the “hypersonic bricks” (which tended to tumble out of control) that the company had been firing from the gun, says General Atomics’ Tom Hurn. The sabot round went seven kilometers downrange after punching through a 1/8-inch thick steel plate. General Atomics officials estimate that they could install the weapon on a DDG-51 class destroyer by the end of the decade, according to Hurn.

  • marcase

    Make it smaller and lighter, and put it on an Abrams…

    • Bill

      or an AC-130

    • Bill

      Then it won’t be as versatile and powerful as the Rheinmetall 120mm

  • juan234

    Can a DDG-51 even power this thing? Wasn’t the DDG-1000 gonna replace the DDG-51 because the DDG-1000 would have the spare power for lasers and railguns?

    • EJ257

      The weapon itself fires from energy stored on a bank of capacitors. It not running off a direct tap from the turbine generators. How long to recharge the capacitors between shots…that’s the question.

      • juan234

        But the DDG-1000 has the whole integrated power systems where electricity can be shunted around at will to whatever systems need it. That’s not true of the DDG-51. Most of the DDG-51 power generation is hard-wired for propulsion and can’t be used for other systems. That’s why the integrated power system of the DDG-1000 was supposed to be such a big deal.

        • brian

          Not really the problem, the energy reserves on a diesel or gas turbine destroyer are very shallow when compared to the needs of rail guns, lasers and new kinds of radars capable of detecting stealth aircraft.

          High energy weapons just won’t be practical until the DoD goes nuclear at the destroyer level, otherwise a couple of shots and you need to refuel.

        • sp8ce

          Since the DDG-1000 doesnt quite exist yet it makes sense to aim your first test at a platform that you can get your hands on.

          • dennisb

            They might cheat a bit. Instead of storing energy in capacitors they could store energy in a large rotating motor/generator.
            The electromagnetic catapults are going this way. Three motor/generators are spun up to six thousand RPM (they are huge), one at a time they turn the harnessed rotating force into electricity, launching aircraft.
            After one fires it is spun back up (ob a carrier they are going to use electricity to do this, on a destroyer they could use a aircraft engine coupled mechanically) while the other two fire.

    • RunningBear

      The DDG-51 has 4 LM-2500 gas turbines with 25MW each/ 100MW. The “new” DDG-51 Flight Three were to have a revised power scheme to allow alternate use of the gas turbines to generate electrical power as required for electrical/ electronics systems.

  • Jeff M

    Alright lets see what this thing can do to an outboard engine, put it side by side with the laser weapon…

  • Zach MB

    Not really that impressive compared to current KE weapons. The M829A2 Penetrator fired from the M1 does 1680m/s, or the General Dynamics KEW-A1 (APFSDS-T), does 1740m/s.

    Except for the increased ammo capacity, and safety, rail guns don’t make much sense as they stand now. Shrink the system, and double the KE, and maybe it makes it justifiable.

  • Tim

    Beautiful! Would be great if they could make it fire like a machine gun: Multiple rounds at a time on targets that move at high speed at least 70 km downrange.

  • Hale

    By the end of the decade they might have a prototype that they can aim and fire for effect accurately, but I doubt that they’ll have anything mount it on at that point, the power consumption is just enormous and they really need to shrink those capacitors down to size.

  • Prodozul

    I have a question about the ammunition. When the projectile hits its inteded target does it explode or just go through it?

  • Blight

    hypersonic artillery might compete with rockets for range in ground combat…

  • Blorch Headblownov

    Even if you can ignore the power issues, good luck on keeping it combat ready. The electrical and structural launch components are going to oxidize and lose all ductility after a few cycles.

  • STemplar

    How about one of these and a defensive laser with some kind of retractable/shroud, on a nuclear sub? Plenty of electricity and how fun would it be to surface 100 miles off a coast, fire off a few minutes of hypersonic rounds at a target area? Incoming anti-ship missiles? Blast em with the laser or just submerge? Hmmmm, decisions decisions……

  • Dan M

    Rate of Fire?

    • zaph

      Nowadays?

      A shot every couple of weeks.

    • moose

      By the time they’re ready to mount this on a ship, several shots a minute.

      • SJE

        Perhaps. Its not only the heat, but the wear from the contact points that lets loose a cloud of fine particles.

  • blight

    In principle, what the interim future may bring about is a launch system coupled to a gliding mechanism: which means larger rounds that would be capable of performing glide missions. Fire the round at high trajectory, deploy wings, glide and guide to target, versus simply opting for ballistic trajectories.

    However, using 5″ guns for these kinds of things wouldn’t work out…

  • Dfens

    “We were launching hypersonic bricks at Mach 5, Mach 6″

    Mexican food does that to me too.

    • SJE

      Need some fiber

      • blight

        Or better sterilization.

  • Ringo

    Scaled up has anyone thought about pointing it straight up and putting things in to space? Maybe the g-force would scrap that idea?

    • Maxtrue

      Yes, but not straight up and no, but people would survive the trip. better idea is to use lower velocity rail to kick start scram engines. NASA’s on it, but Elon Musk has a more economical model for heavy lifting.

      • Maxtrue

        people wouldn’t survive the trip….I meant to say….

  • SJE

    There are technical difficulties in making the projectile anything other than a dumb round. The EM pulse running through the gun would play havoc with electronics and maybe a problem with explosives.

    Of course, if you have a 5kg round doing Mach 6, the KE is going to obliterate pretty much anything it hits.

  • blight

    EMP’s efficacy drops when electronics are offline. They need only be active after the launching stage, after all.

    • SJE

      True, but sufficiently strong EMPs can fry even when offline, and the projectile is in the middle of the EMP wave. Also, how do you trigger it to activate after launch?

      • blight

        Either a mechanical timer, or a ignition circuit made from gallium arsenide, or perhaps an RC system for timing.

        The other technical hurdle is electronics that can survive stupendous accelerations. I look at Copperhead as an example of how it was achieved at great cost, cost great enough to deter their use.

  • coolhand77

    Too bad they got rid of the nuclear powered Cruisers. Those would be a perfect test platform for this puppy. Plenty of power.

  • SJE

    Subs already launch tomahawks, which are conceptually similar to a UAV just with a warhead.

  • foo

    This brightcove crap doesn’t work. Grow up and put it on youtube.

  • Max

    Not trying to belittle the weapon, but 1/8″ of steel isn’t much. I’ve no doubt it is powerful, but they might have used 1″ or more as a more worthy obstacle.

  • mkf

    What video? I can’t see crap, even after enabling all javascript. Win7 x64, Firefox Nightly x86…

  • Bill in Tennessee

    Looking for a platform to mount it on, eh? How about my RAV-4? I’ll drive to your proving grounds this weekend.

  • They’ve had this for years. It’s old news. When they say we’ll have it in 10 years that’s saying we’ll tell you “we’ve already had it for years” in ten year. I’ve seen one made in someones back yard that will fire ball bearing fast enough to light a hay bail on fire. He use a labtop to turn magnits on one after another pulling the balls. Not the same way a tipical rail gun works but neat just the same. You just drop a hand full of bearing in and rata tat tat great balls of fire! If he can, DARPA can.

  • Billy

    Better start installing solar panels then.

  • RunningBear

    32 MJ (sufficient to support a 110 nmi mission) with muzzle velocities of 2.5 km/sec.

  • Guest

    Looks like the Stars Wars battle cruiser main guns….

    Going further….

    If made big enough, could be use against doomsday meteors…

    If made small enough, will replace handguns, rifles.. hypersonic bullets can punch through anything… snipers can shoot from 10 miles away with shock fronts clearing away the wind (calculations) and aims straight as laser. If smaller still – laser bullets maybe? Power to push then power to pull also- powerful lasers made to shape – light saber? A handgun that could take out a tank? Where there’s offense, there’s defense – would use the push away force around an object to protect against incoming threats – force fields…metal and non-metal rounds to counter….

    The start of anti-gravity – this tech small and controlled and maybe with maglev tech – no tyres needed – bad news for tyre companies

    Star Wars tech for real…

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