Video: BAE’s New Railgun Firing for First Time

Well, the Office of Naval Research has begun test firing BAE’s new 32-megajoule railgun and we’ve got the video to prove it. Remember, the Navy wants a 20 to 32 megajoule railgun that can fire a projectile at speeds of up to 5,600 miles per hour over distances of 50 to 100 nautical miles. The Navy’s standard five-inch gun has a range of about 13 miles and can fire 20-rounds per minute, according to ONR officials.

Railguns use a ton of electromagnetic energy to push a projectile out of a barrel made of two long rails at hypersonic speeds. The energy contained in one megajoule is equivalent to a 1-ton car traveling at more than 100 miles per hour, the Navy likes to remind us.

The guns will eventually fire sleek projectiles (that may be guided) using pure kinetic energy to destroy targets. For now, the service is firing 40-pound bricks designed to test out the guns’ barrel strength and their ability to stay cool while firing up to ten rounds per minute. These tests are set to run through 2017, ONR’s Roger Ellis told a group of reporters during a phone call today.

As we’ve said before, their speed and range give these guns enormous potential for use in everything from shooting down enemy planes and missiles to blasting enemy ships and even targets well inland.

The Navy hopes to move this from a science project to an actual acquisition program in time to field the weapons by the early to mid 2020s at the latest.

Click through the jump to watch the Navy’s newest railgun in action.

Afterwards, click here to watch a great DT exclusive on General Atomics’ railgun, a bigger version of which the Navy will also start testing soon.

  • Musson1

    How many megajoules would it take to put a small projectile into orbit?

    Maybe I should ask H.G. Wells.

  • Morty

    Through 2017. At least it can do more than one thing

  • JOhn Moore

    Seems like a crazy long time for testing.

  • STemplar

    It’s interesting tech to be sure but it seems to me for this system to be worth the cost it has got to deliver some capability other than just shore bombardment. The extended range ammo for the AGS is going to give similar ranges for bombardment. If this could actually deliver an ABM, anti cruise missile air defense capability then it would be worth it for sure, if not l can’t imagine its going to be cost effective as an alternative for shore bombardment.

  • ShivaOption

    The testing time may have something to do with using untried amounts of energy in a system only conceived of in science fiction. Along with more ammo capacity the speed allows a new range of anti -air anti-missile technologies. I’ve often wondered about ground based versions for anti missile defense but that may just be my imagination. A shell that could fill an area of space with hyper velocity “buckshot” could be fun…

  • Prodozul

    At 0:48 why did it start spin out of control? Or look like it was spinning out of control?

    • Skyepapa

      because they’re shooting test bricks that are destined to tumble. videos of the previous test bed showed it using aerodynamic projectiles that flew straight at arrows (even farther than they intended at one point, as noted in a previous post on this blog — that might be why they’re using tumble-prone bricks now).

  • Splitpi

    So basically lob a 23lb projectile 13 miles at Mach 5 is 32 MJ

  • citanon

    Ha, love it. They have a Navy guy loading the thing for firing. It’s even starting to look like an operational gun.

  • TLAM Strike

    I love the sound @ 0:22. What do you bet that sound effect will be in the next Star Trek move when they fire the Enterprise’s phasers?

  • matheusdiasuk

    Any chance to see this on Royal Navy’s Type 26 frigate?

    • moose

      If they opt for an Integrated Power System when designing the frigate, the Type 26 will absolutely be able to handle a rail. Up to the RN to decide they want it.

    • blight_

      Assumes the military shares this with the UK. Maybe at minimum they will get advanced gun system, which might live on as an economy or export/foreign partner option.

      • matheusdiasuk

        I though it would be able to UK access to it too.

        This Railgun isn’t BAE Systems technology? The Company could sell it to UK too, couldn’t it?

        Just a doubt. You guys know much more than me :)

    • passingby

      Mark my word: NO, there is absolutely no chance for that … nor on any US frigates or destroyers.

  • AlC

    It’s great to see the technology moving forward, but as a weapon it’s a non-starter.

    Simply put, how do you assure it gets close to a target at 50NM ?

    Would need some kind of guidance system as well as control mechanisms. Not many of these can survive being shot out of this monster.

    • DaniOcean

      This thing can fire at 200nmi and hit 5meter target. They are scaling it down for the tests. This thing is better and cheaper then missiles.

  • Jason

    I’m not seeing any shock fronts. I know the Navy wants a hypersonic projectile: is this one even supersonic?

    • Guest

      Notice the fire? That’s from the friction cause by the projectile moving through the air at very high velocity so at least high supersonic, if not hyper…

    • Stormcharger

      Sure, 32megajules of energy pushing a 23 pound projectile should have a muzzle velocity of about 8300 feet per second, or about 5650mph, which is about Mach 7.4.

      However, by comparison the 120mm gun mounted on the M1 and Leopard tanks currently in service fire with 12megajules of muzzle energy. So basically it’s an over-sized tank gun that will never be as flexible as a conventional cannon as the projectile weight is so low. Direct fire engagement of hard targets only and no fire support capability, and the entire size of the system is still too large for mounting on a ship smaller than a cruiser as the electricity needed for just one shot is the equivalent to about 21760 car batteries.

      • aaron

        The problem of not developing enough wattage for a weapon will soon be a thing of the past.

  • Vitor

    So this super expensive technology to do what cannons could a 100 hundred years ago? I’m not impressed.

  • Twixter

    At last emerging technology eventually would be capable to shot down starting ICBM, SLBM.

    Time aprroaches to pull out old and rusty nuclear teeths from mineral rich territory :)

  • QtrsR

    As an innocent bystander , could someone please identify for me specific targets that the BAE gun will hit that are outside of the range of our present weapons inventory ?

  • george

    Most people would agree that any country that tells its neighbors to get used to the sound of canons if they disagree with their policy is a threat. China posted exactly this comment warning its maritime neighbors about the South China seas. Source the China government controlled ‘Global Times’ . Get prepared for the high tech arms race.

  • Jack

    Usefulness on a naval craft? Moderate. Capabilities from an orbital platform? Immense

    • Brad

      capable from orbit? – you’re joking. it has no capability. the recoil makes it useless. that’s why you need directed energy weapons.

  • QtrsR

    Oops , USPS currently receives no taxpayer funds , declining federal subsidies in fact ; pls excuse foot in mouth . Going back to CSS Alabama v USS Kearsarge , however , Alabama’s big gun , usually a ” game over ” cannon, went right over the Kearsarge due to the rolling motion of the ship ……

  • Ryan

    Has anyone thought of the possibility of a space platform???? no need for oxygen anymore for a fuel propellant. 50-100nm = 57.5-115 regular miles. now what is 50miles up??? nothing that anyone but we can reach.

  • Richard

    How do you protect a ship against the EMP produced by it?

  • Speedy

    Is there any reason they could not scale down the weapon for “small” vehicles, or missile defence?

    I think a small projectile moving at mach 7 would be pretty effective at taking out a missile. How about being used on something like a tank or even jeep in place of their other weapons.

    (Think each round with two parts, “mass” and capacitor, no need for on vehicle power generation.)