Navy wants railguns for missile defense

The electromagnetic rail gun could offer the Navy both additional range for land strikes as well as added capabilities in ballistic and cruise missile defense. In a perfect world, the Navy would like to invest in both particular technologies.

However, in this era of sequestration and shrinking budgets, the Navy likely has to choose. U.S. Navy Under Secretary Robert Work said he’d lean towards investing more heavily on ballistic and cruise missile defense versus land strike.

“We are over capitalized in strike, land strike. We’ve got a lot of land strike. I would put all of my money into the electromagnetic rail gun for ballistic and cruise missile defense,” Work said Thursday at the Surface Naval Association conference in Crystal City, Va.

The Navy has spent the past eight years testing railguns, most notably rolling out the first weaponized railgun in January 2012. Navy leaders will have to make further investment decisions as the technology continues to mature.

However, Work said the Navy should delay the decision as they continue to decide how railguns might fit into their fleet designs. The under secretary doesn’t expect the railgun to be used in surface or submarine naval battles. He expects the railgun to fall in line with the Navy’s priority to provide power projection from the sea.

“Naval to naval exchanges just aren’t our thing right now. What it is is about projecting power in theaters where these land based anti-access aerial denial networks with guided weapons that can be thrown at range in salvos is a very, very difficult problem and the Navy is very focused on,” Work said.

Missile defense is a priority throughout the Pentagon as the rest of the world’s militaries advance their guided missile technology.

“We’re in a time of enormous technological flux and our enemies are now at a point where they have parity in guided missiles. I don’t think they are with us as far as their networks but they are doing everything they can,” Work said.

Navy leaders have read the research into missile defense and Work said it’s left the admirals excited. Right now, he said it makes the most sense in terms of the new defense strategy and selling it to Congress.

“There is an awful lot of exciting analysis that says you can do ballistic missile defense and you can do cruise missile defense with it,” Work said.

He insisted that the Navy must continue to invest in directed energy weapons research to include electromagnetic railguns.

“Woe to us if we lose … the race to directed energy weapons and electromagnetic railguns,” Work said. “That’s not going to be a future that we want.”

25 Comments on "Navy wants railguns for missile defense"

  1. JamalTheBanker | January 18, 2013 at 3:36 pm | Reply

    In response to the Manti Te'o report and the epidemic of people lying about themselves on the internet, I have to admit to you guys… I'm not a banker :_(

    But rail guns are sweet.

  2. Rail guns are great and all, but could they possibly drag out the R&D on those things for any longer? It is nothing but R&D for the sake of more funding. All promise, no results! Yet again, this is what happens when you pay a for-profit defense contractor to do government funded research. They make a profit off of every single hour they can drag out the research, so why ever produce anything? If it were their money they were spending, they'd have put an end to this long ago and we'd have ships with these rail guns now. As it is, this research will drag out for as long as there is one taxpayer left to milk to pay for it.

  3. exciting stuff. Will be interesting to see how they track and target with the thing

  4. So let me get this straight. These land force projection ships will have no naval combat capabilities?

  5. stephen russell | January 18, 2013 at 9:16 pm | Reply

    Mount this on some AEGIS class cruiser for tests & then produce for AEGIS class & some for shore use.
    Or adapt some to carriers for use or amphibs IE LHDs.

  6. One trillion for national defense. The Sandy relief bill had about $40 bllion of pork, there is more than enough money to develop all these new technologies.

  7. Finally. This what I've been waiting to hear. Tough we might need something big to happen if we really want the fire under this thing to get going. Still, railguns are the future.

  8. So the railguns will be used to fire against ballistic missiles in terminal phase?

  9. Railguns are not going to be feasible for missile defense, at least for the foreseeable future. The interceptor on an ABM has to have terminal guidance and maneuverability…especially if it is Hit-to-Kill intercept. There is no way that a hyper-mach railgun round is going to have the sophisticated target aquisition seeker as well as precision maneuvering capability, in a package that has to withstand 60,000 plus g's, intense heating, as well as the E-M flux.

  10. a reasonable decission.
    But I ask myself – how to align a railgun to a fast moving target?

    This type of defensive application seems not to fit the concept well, because it needs a constant alignment to the incoming thread (which is typically moving fast and near to the surface).

    After all the electromagnetic Railgun seems to me as an verry flexible und cheap way to air anything, and is in this way a verry interessting addition to artillery (because it needs no propellant charge, and has an different accelleration-curve).

    But – for sure – one can be excited what the Navy comes up with :-)

  11. I keep hearing that the biggest threat to our Navy are mines and submarines. Shouldn't we be pouring money into countering those threats instead? A railgun or laser CIWS is no good if a handful of subs force your surface ships to completely keep out of a particular area.

  12. again Mr. Work proves how ignorant he is-I'm glad he's leaving

  13. And I want a wife that doesn't nag me but that ain't goin happen.

  14. for this to work they also need to have a very high rate of fire, in addition to projectile speed. they are probably hoping that both a)speed and b)rate of fire will give them a substantial number of opportunities at hitting a supersonic target. Even then, It would be pretty amazing feat to hit a missile in the atmosphere with a dumb-bullet at range.

  15. I think the choice was wrong. Lasers work better for missile interception because they have faster time of flight to target. Rail guns are clearly more suited for bombardment because of the elevated kinetic energy delivered on the target. Rail guns also suffer from rail erosion issues so it is probably better to choose an application where you want more projectlie mass and less fire rate than the other way around.

  16. I think its conceivable to use them for AB Defense, but it sounds like politics to allow it happen. Anti-Ballistics is all the main focus for the Aegis equipped ships. Ticos are being retained because its felt there not enough tubes out there deploy SM-3s.

    Problem with Railguns is not Aegis couldn't handle it guidence of the shots. Its power source. You need huge power grid onboard a ship to power a railgun. Right now aside from a Nuclear carrier, there aren't many all-electric ships out there right now with enough power generators to do it. DDG-1000 is closest combatant that could employ this weapon.

  17. If we are seriously going to give Karzai a drone force, then we better get busy with this type of weapon that can shoot down the drones that will be launched against our border cities within a year. That will wake up America…..Hopefully we won't be that stupid. Just leave and don't look back, or, if we are going to have a drone force there, it should be operated by us.

  18. Tribulationtime | January 21, 2013 at 9:01 am | Reply

    I think they plan use the rail gun as inicial boster of a manouvering terminal hit-to-kill warhead. You would save a lot space inside of the ship, reduce hazards of solids propelants and realibility in launch, maybe high rate of fire. At least same ship will have 2 systems. One hand, The cannon itself looks to have a lot of problems to be resolve. Other hand, missile defense is more than "very difficult" by nature.

  19. Lots of arm-chair flag officers here to comment on the feasibility of a weapons system. Why can't we summon enough sane people to put forth a system which allows humanity to live peacefully with itself? We could have many more moments to sit in the sun as a result of such an effort.
    Of course, blowing the crap out of each other is definitely a lot of fun, unless or until our make-believe enemies develop the same toys, then it's way too late to stock up on sun lotion or plan a Kona vacation.

  20. Railgun can kill a missile but your going to need a very very accurate targeting system to tell the railgun where to shoot.

  21. I agree with the Navy's reasoning, but not its conclusion. The navy is overcapitalized in surface strike capabilities because that is A LOT EASIER than missile defense. I believe that they should work on rail guns for surface strike, and iron out the problems, THEN adapt for missile defense. Do you really believe that the Navy would have developed awesome Phalanx and rolling frame missiles for defense if they had not been using guns and missiles for decades for offense? Of course not.

    Where possible, always go for incremental improvements. Trying to do it all at once, and you get the F35.

  22. Is the need for a nuclear surface warfare fleet upon us? (versus the carrier arm).

    I suppose a CGN with a nuke would meet present and projected power requirements as they come up.

  23. Gentlemen/Ladies, I think we all know from past experience, that if our Military branch' tell us they would LIKE something, they ALREADY HAVE IT and are just trying to get the funds for more of what they have. In this case, the Navy ( I am ex-Navy by the way ) wants both uses of this rail gun – missile defense and land support —

  24. Hell YES!!!!!!!!!!!

  25. no more cartrages or primers needed ? for shooting projectiles! What will they think of next ? un sinkable boats.

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