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.

    • Mark

      For the current salvo ~128 megajoules.

    • Thomas L. Nielsen

      Well, that depends on your definition of “small” :-)

      The projectile needs to travel up through the atmosphere (loosing speed all the way due to friction) and arrive 200km above the surface of the Earth with a residual velocity of some 8.000 m/s in order to stay up there.

      Regards & all,

      Thomas L. Nielsen
      Luxembourg

    • Splitpi

      Very rough calculation without air resistance and assumption of equal velocity as it leaves the barrel, then the projectile would take about 25 seconds to reach 200Km @ 8000 m/s. And if I assume 23lbs (10.53 Kg)is the small package, then Joules = (kg * m^2)/s^2 = 673,920,000 J = 673.9 MJ.

    • Cthel

      It’s not actually possible to “fire” a projectile into orbit; you need a payload with a rocket motor that can be fired to circularise the trajectory into a stable orbit.

      With an unpowered projectile, you end up with an orbit whose perigee (point of closest approach to earth) is equivalent to the altitude of the gun that fired it; since this is inside the atmosphere the projectile will lose energy to air resistance, causing the perigee to move to a point inside the earth’s crust.

      Simply putting a projectile into space (beyond the Kaman line) for a limited period is much simpler matter

  • 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?

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Vitor

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

    • CoCowboy692000

      WOW – EPIC FAIL DUDE… You’ve failed completely to grasp this weapon – all the way around… geeze! I’m not even going to bother trying to es’plain…

    • blight_

      Wow. This landship crosses a field and fails half the time. Big whoop. Everyone knows the gallantry of cavalry always carries through a hail of machinegun fire, barbed wire and land mines.

      Waste of money. Let’s get more horses.

    • Guidz

      Vitor, either this was a failed attempt at humor or angry ranting from an ignorant boob. that is like saying that the SR-17 does the same thing as a sopwith camel. (do you think they are the same? if so, please fall down a staircase for the world)
      classic cannons which were outmoded by artillery by the 1900’s couldn’t very far, even in WWII, the 16-inch guns on battleships could only fire 60+ miles, these things can go 150+ miles. you, sir, failed.

  • 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 ?

    • Stormcharger

      The simple answer is: None.

      The only advantage that a rail gun has over a chemically propelled weapon is velocity. An explosive or burning compound cannot push a projectile faster than its own expanding gas which is of limited speed, somewhere about 2000 meters per second. A rail gun does not have this upper limit on speed, and since the basic ballistic formula for energy is E=mc2, the energy of the projectile is its weight times its velocity times its velocity.

      On the other side, chemical propellants are much more efficient than electricity right now. As an example, to store the 32 megajules needed to fire the BAE railgun would require more than 21,000 car batteries. The volume of propellant needed to fire a 16 inch projectile 45 miles is about 1200 megajules and is only 0.004% on that volume of car batteries.

      It’s really a high tech apples and oranges kind of question. Can other systems do the job? Yes. Can it do things other conventional guns cannot? Again, yes.

      • Cthel

        That’s E= 1/2 m v^2

        Not E = m c^2

  • 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?

    • Thomas L. Nielsen

      The same way porcupines mate: With difficulty!

      Jokes aside, once the extent and power level of an operational weapon’s EMP pulse is known, I do not doubt that appropriate mitigation (shielding etc.) can be implemented.

      Regards & all,

      Thomas L. Nielsen
      Luxembourg

  • 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.)