Navy Rail Gun Showing Promise

U.S. Navy Demonstrates World’s Most Powerful Electromagnetic RailgunCrystal City, Va. — Navy developers are moving into a second phase of testing for an electromagnetic rail gun that Navy leaders hope to mount to surface ships in the future, service officials said Wednesday at the Navy Surface Warfare Association Annual Symposium.

The rail gun is a long-range, high-energy, multi-mission weapon able to fire high-velocity projectiles three times as far as most existing Navy guns.

“We’ve gone through prototype phase 1 and had two industry gun systems. We’re now on phase two which will give us multiple rounds per minute,” said Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, Chief of Naval Research.

Klunder expressed enthusiasm that the rail gun successfully went 8-for-8 in a recent test firing at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

“It went exactly where we told it to go with good telemetry,” he explained.

The rail gun, which can hit ranges of 100 miles or more, uses electricity stored on the ship to generate a high-speed electromagnetic pulse sufficient to propel a kinetic energy warhead. The result is an inexpensive, high-impact and long-range offensive weapon, service officials said.

The Navy, which has been testing the rail gun at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Va., plans to integrate it aboard a ship by 2016, service officials said.

The 23-pound hyper-velocity projectile can be fired from a rail gun as well as from Navy 5-inch guns and even 155mm artillery weapons, Klunder added. The round currently has what’s called command guidance but may be engineered for self-guidance in the future.

In addition to range and lethality advantages, the rail gun is also much less expensive than other weapons in the Navy arsenal to operate — the rounds cost about $25,000 each, he added.

The gun is high-heat and high-energy so cooling technologies are required, Klunder said.

“There are multiple designs that we are evaluating. Obviously it is not just the gun but a lot of the systems that go behind that,” said Don McCormack, Surface Warfare Center Director.

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.
  • LtKitty

    I can’t even hide my grin. The success of the rail gun so far is just way too exciting!

    • Guest

      Didn’t you say something similar when they were releasing favorable reports of “progress” on the F-35 and the F-22?

      I suggest you wait till the problems start to surface, as they always do.

      When was the last time the US had a smooth sailing in developing a high tech weapon?

      • Nancy

        Do you have a point in there somewhere? Always easy to do something if it’s not you doing it…

        • Jtjamesmobile

          Can you please tell me of ANY cutting edge development project that did not have tons of problems before finally smoothing all the bugs? Not talking about the F-35, we never learn from our own history, as we should have with the F -111, the F-35 is obsolete even now with th Sukohi SU-31, Mig-31, and new Chinese ripoff of the F-22.
          But our F-22 is an increadible fighter, I don’t get your point there. My only problem with the F-22 is own huge stupidity in severe reduction of production and the the destruction of its tooling so we can’t make any more if we wanted to, relying on the obsolete F-35 for the blk of our air defense, I truly hope that we have secretly developed a UCAV or we are looking at loosing all of Asia to the chinese, and that means our position and relevance in the world.

      • Soarman

        Get it together, Jim. Negativity is not required.

    • AFMissilier

      Fact. USS Ford uses the same technology to launch multi-ton aircraft from her decks. Fact. At least, six roller coasters use the technology to launch its train of cars only limited by the stress the riders can comfortably enjoy the thrill. Fact. France has a bullet train that uses the technology to travel in excess of 100mph. So, the Navy adapting the technology to their surface warfare arsenal using electricity makes sense. Remember those WWII films when a 50cal hit an ammo magazine or a torpedo started fires that reached the magazines on a ship. A rail run would trip a circuit breaker instead of destroying a ship.

  • Big-Dean

    If they can actually make this thing operational, it’ll put the Navy back on top again. Right now we starting to lag behind the power curve with our current weapon mix.

    • rtsy

      Navy, Army, Air Force, Marines, and the NRA too. Everyone will want these.

    • Shea

      For about 5 seconds before the Chinese hack the tech an trot out their own version. As with the Russians before them, we do all the heavy R&D work for the world then they just rip it off and field it for a tenth the cost.

    • Stan

      What exactly will this put the NAVY on top of? They only way these guns will get any use is if our planes and missiles clear the way for the ships to approach within a 100 miles of anything.

      The maritime engagements of yore (pre-1950) ain’t coming back. That is unless we nuke each other into the pre-industrial era.

    • GCUch

      I wonder how they will generate enough electrical power to sustain firing? Hopefully it will be less expensive than equivalently powerful missiles.

    • HaffWhitt

      It’s also still in the expirimental phase, but have you by chance ever heard or read about the Free Electron Laser they want to mount on ships? If you haven’t, check it out… super cool “future tech” star wars stuff is almost here already! Here’s some links:

    • Russell Adams

      Im sorry Dean but ill have to disagree with you on that one. I was stationed aboard a US man of war in the late 70,s & early 80,s and we were the ONLY navy in the world who could pull along side a tanker and refuel w/out ever slowing down. We are way ahead of most modern nations and out of sight of 3rd world countries. I was there refueling and resupplying on a regular basis. I was a Boatswains mate 2nd class, i know!!

    • Rog

      Gee, I wonder why the military budget is out of control. Another weapon without a mission.

    • David S. Coston

      On national TV a program “Science All Stars” and taken off the air about some time between 1955-65 showed the possible solution for Rocketry and I may have one of my own that has yet to hit the drawing board. Since birth a child’s dream of flying, but you don’t want know of it

      Also the “Alligator” submarine may very well be an American design, look for a book “Signal Success” by Martha J. Coston, circa 1886, and published by Lippincott publishers of Pennsylvania.

      And yes I’m related and I have the book, also other documents related, plus.

  • wizord

    Please, Navy, you have to call this gun The Unmaker.

    So first of all I’m no expert in electro- or thermodynamics, unless playing Metal Gear: Solid counts, so these ideas are probably garbage, but stick with me…the death of creative thinking is the death of innovation.

    First, following historical tradition, wasn’t water cooling one of the first solutions for overheating machineguns in WWI? It probably wouldn’t be an ideal, efficient, or technically sound solution for a railgun (no idea how hot one gets), but you could pump seawater into an outer sleeve around the barrel, then pump the hot water back into the wake.

    Instead, if practical, run a coolant exchanger between the gun and the engines. Spitfires used a sort-of-similar technique to cool their engines (but not their guns)…coolant lines ran through their wing, and the ram air intake on the wing acted as a high-speed heat exchanger. …okay, that isn’t similar at all, but a common coolant could at least save some money.

    • I think that isn’t a bad idea. Liquid nitrogen. would probably be a better candidate. It is non-explosive of course so somewhat safe to store.

      IMHO opinion they are going to need some sort of technical advance on the barrel in order to pull this off. Otherwise can they devise a quick change barrel? Maybe pre-load all of the slugs like the metal storm electric gun. Discard the barrel and replace it with a new one. The device should look like the old twin missile launchers for early versions of sm1.

      VLS would also be an option if you are replacing missiles. Say you can get 12 or 16 shot per vas. That would be a worthy tomahawk replacement. Point being the barrel life is infinite with current technology. Time to consider risks and trade-offs and decide what is best.

      • TTWCS Op

        There is no way this replaces Tomahawk. The range is only 100 miles…Tomahawk goes MUCH further down range and carries a 1000 pound warhead. The railgun would have to be the size of the ship to put that package that far down range.

        • Hialpha

          A T-LAM can be shot down before it hits it’s target and doesn’t make a great maritime arena weapon. Also, though the specifics aren’t given, the amount of force even a small projectile will unload into a target will most likely be significantly higher than the warhead on a TLAM.

          It’s a great idea, if the power required and cooling problems are solved.

        • melcyna

          Note: the first operational model is planned with that range, the logical progress of course would be to then extend it.

          Incidentally, it doesn’t need to carry 1000 pound warhead like a Tomahawk…

          the hypervelocity projectile slamming to earth at the projected firing path would impart sufficient energy equivalent to a bunker buster using nothing other than kinetic energy…

          in short:
          it never needed a warhead like missiles…. it’ll just obliterate the target from sheer impact.

          and if it SOMEHOW lacks the destructive capacity of the tomahawk in one shot… it has 2 simple solution for it:

          1. fire more, it’ll be pretty dumb to not use the gun’s refire capability and cheap ammunition

          2. design the shell for even FASTER SPEED and pump more power to the gun for that purpose, since the shell’s destructive power is very much speed dependent.

        • It’s not supposed to replace missiles; any warship depends on a mix of weapons to take on opponents: missiles, guns, lasers, electronic-warfare, etc. Each weapons system has a different range and capabilities and may be used under different circumstances.

          The railgun is meant to replace the powder-fired naval gun. The primary advantage of this weapon over a conventional gun is that the ship doesn’t need to store highly volatile propellent – usually what destroys a ship during a fight, when the powder magazines catch fire – and can store more rounds in its place.

    • Tad

      I was thinking of the BFG-9000, but hey, The Unmaker is great, too.

    • wagonmasters2012

      The problem is that both the gun and the engines are generating heat. Where does the cooling occur? I’m thinking more along the lines of the heat from the running a boiler to generate electricity or using the heat from the gun for some other purpose. . . making popcorn? Cooking eggs?

      • Mark

        You can recapture the heat to generate additional electricity. Happens all day and every day at electrical plants.

    • Problems include water possible remaining to affect the elctromagnetic pulse. Water and electricity are rarely good things to mix together, even remotely near each other. Second, salt water as most navy guys know is corrosive. Don’t thing using salt water on high tech EM guns would be a smart idea. That said, the cooling system used would be wise to try to turn the heat back into electrical power.

    • Mr. Fish


      Coolant technology has evolved eons beyond what you have described. We have reason to be encouraged.

    • ronaldo

      Why are you guys reinventing the wheel ? All on board systems that need liquid cooling use the same central chilled water system. for this system I am sure that simply enlarging the existing system will work just fine.

      Spitfires…etc. Pfffft ! Please. Have you never been onboard ?

    • TC3

      Heat exchangers are not a big deal. There are many systems available on any sizable ship that could be adapted. By the way, The Spitfire had radiators (two I believe) although the technology was a little different than in your car (needed to SLOW the air down to transfer the heat). The P51, P40, P39 & P38 also had radiators. Good installations actually added thrust to the aircraft.

    • Anonymous

      It’s a great idea in theory(just like the railgun itself) but it’s a lot more difficult to put into practice. These railguns accelerate their projectile up to incredible speeds(I would guess mach3+) in fractions of a second. That creates incredible friction and the heat would be crazy. I’m definitely not shooting down you’re idea because using a coolant is probably what they are doing to keep the weapon and projectile cool. Without it the barrel and the projectile would just melt. There’s a lot of energy being changed states every time the gun is fired.

      This on top of the heat caused by the huge amounts of electricity conducting through the gun makes the heat produced even greater. I’ve played with electronics and those suckers get hot when they have too much power running through them..I can’t imagine MegaJoules of power..

      Just a comment and my twocents ^^

  • Ben

    Now when he says “… the rounds cost about $25,000 each” is he talking about the railgun slugs or conventional cartridges? Because in my mind, $25,000 per shot still isn’t what I would call cheap.

    In either case, this is good news. Railguns are the future.

  • P.J. Busche

    The Navy has been working on the rail-gun weapon system for over 30 years, and they still haven’t got the bugs worked out. The Navy needs to pull the plug on this program… that would be an appropriate budget cut, and frankly I personally do not like ANY military budget cuts – but the rail-gun project is worth abandoning.

    • red2429

      30 years?? Where is the proof on that one. Even if the Navy has been working on it for 30 years, what makes time necessarily a problem? The program seems to be going well. Development of new technology sometimes takes decades to get abilities or capabilities to catch up with ideas.

    • Dfens

      I don’t think they need to “pull the plug” on every new technology just because some damn defense contractor has decided to make their research project their attachment point to suck the US tax coffers dry. You wouldn’t cut off your hand because a leach was stuck to it. You’d pull the leach off it and throw it in the fire. If the Navy is going to continue to do research on rail guns, and I think they should, they need to bring that research in house. They’ll get better quality work, and they will get it to the ships faster. Right now it is just another corporate welfare program that will drag on for as long as the US taxpayer is stupid enough to keep paying.

      • Nancy

        Huh??? The US gov’t (NSWC in Dahlgren) is developing it..why else would it take so long! You think they work nights ansd weekends like engineers at Lockheed (and others) are basiclaly forced to do for no extra pay?

    • AFMissilier

      The railgun requires rare earth magnets, high-speed computers, and a lot of electrical power. Basic technology has taken decades to catch up with the concept. That basic technology has been used in the civilian and military sectors to a lesser degree. The linear accelerator in Switzerland uses identical technology. But, it takes up a tremendous area below ground and the magnets are as big as a 2-story. Much of the Navy’s budget is developing the basic technology. That’s technology that spills over into the civilian market. Remember the “transistor”? It started out as big as a small TV. Now you have thousands in a printed circuit in your computer. Teflon was created in the late 20s; but, we use it in many forms to this day. Military research creates businesses and markets. For every dollar spent billions of dollars are made in the civilian market.
      So, while you are reading this; you are using a machine that was first developed by military research and development.

      • Dfens

        Hello, this isn’t 1964 it’s 2014 and today Research and Development contracts are used as corporate welfare, and wishing it were otherwise won’t make it so. I’ve worked on these f’ing R&D boondoggles and have seen first hand what they are about. Every year they show just enough progress to be optimistic about the future of “fill-in-the-blank” technology, but there remain significant technological hurdles still to be overcome. How stupid do you think we are? The contractors doing this research are making a profit off of every single day they can drag this thing out. They know that, and now a lot of American taxpayers are finding that out too.

        • navyET

          do you like ANYTHING? you might be the most cynical person on earth.

      • navyET

        excellent point

    • Yeah, like most brain dead people, they suggest killing things just as the technology gets perfected. Also, just because the Navy has been working on something for a long time, doesn’t mean they have been spending hordes of oney on it. Some things just need time and patients to work out the issues with the technolotgy. It is completely appropriate to methodically work on problems that are complicated. I would have loved to had rail gun technology years ago, but it wasn’t ready then. Now it is nearing readiness and guys like you want to kill it. Now, if you suggest the technology will never work, then you are the one that needs to show the proof of that.

      • Dfens

        Funny, no one had to show proof that it was supposedly “impossible” to shoot down a missile with a missile. In fact, everyone that testified to that effect in front of congress got one research earmark right after another. Seems like such a double standard.

    • Max L.

      Current US Navy research dates to about 2005 when the Navy initiated procurement of a laboratory test bed rail gun from a UK defense lab and started building the current test facility at NSWC Dahlgren in Virginia. The initial test bed gun was more of a lab experiment. I am told the UK got it from the US Army which shut down their Phase I railgun development program in 2005. I don’t think the Army ever proceeded with Phase II. Despite what people think a lot of weapons research programs do get killed in the R&D or prototype phases such as the Air Force airborn laser. If everything you tried worked the first time out it wouldn’t be called “research”.

      • Dfens

        Right, this doesn’t have any thing to do with the fact that defense contractors are making a profit on every single day they drag this “research” out. It’s all about the fact that rail guns are just so damn difficult, and even more difficult if you hire stupid people to do the research because you know that you’re going to make more profit from every single day you can drag this research out. And if anyone has a problem with that you can hire some idiot to go on the internet and do a little white wash job, just speaking as an average citizen, naturally.

    • acks

      REALLY!!! Now you want then to walk away when there already in second stage testing and planning on deploying it on ships in two year. Really? Ok So what new technology would you have them work on next to keep us ahead of China?

    • Rog

      Too true, P.J.

    • I never, ever want to shoot another human being again if I can get out of it, but I might very well need to do so at any time. If you’ve never had to pull that tiggrer and see the bleeding I hope you never go there.

  • Auyong Ah Meng

    I wonder how it will look like mounted on a tank…

    and how feasible it is on a tank / land-based chassis system…

    or even on a large air frame in the sky…maybe smaller rail guns? Or even in space killer sats…


    • Mort

      Neat idea to have this on a tank. The main problem I see is the energy storage. That would more than double the physical size of the tank, and then you need something to generate the energy to be stored.

    • Chuck Mock

      Great comment, they are already working on it! Again on a tank based unit an efficient colling system would need to be developed.!

    • brian inskeep

      who ever controls space controls the earth.

  • LPF

    I assume with this , we will go back to requiring ships to have proper armour once again?

  • Rail guns coming soon in a warship near you.

  • wagonmasters2012

    Seriously, if this thing were to take out Un, while he was stuffing his face at the weekly execution party, would anyone in N. Korea be sad about it?

  • Lance

    I see some progress one major flaw they just said its too darn hot to operate in combat conditions need several industrial freezers to run in. Years away but worth the research.

  • Les

    Let’s just pray the Chinese haven’t stolen this technology too :(

  • Reginald Arford
  • Neoconvet

    Should be interesting to hear of the energy sources, regeneration speed for the next round and reliability of the energy source. A generator going down is a heck of a way for a miss-fire at a bad time.

  • citanon


    Ok, I’ll calm down. =)

    Don’t overlook the significance of what they said about the round guys. Previously there were real problems making guidance electronics that could survive the stresses of extremely rapid acceleration required to move a round from zero to >mach 5 in the distance of a gun barrel. Now it seems like the Navy has figured out how.

    This is almost as big a breakthrough as the rail gun itself and greatly increases the utility of rail guns. Great job to the Navy and who ever helped them figure this one out.

  • Stan

    I am sorry, do we still get excited by artillery? How quaintly turn of the century. The 20th century. Wake me when this thing can fire several rounds in a minute from a distance of 800-1000 miles to destroy a Chinese ASBM installation.

    There is a reason why DARPA is hard at work on hypersonic missiles. And they are at least as phallic as cannons.

  • Hunter76

    This gun sounds like it has an enormous electromagnetic signature. It’s going to draw a lot of counterfire.

    • Stan

      It’s not a directed signature, unlike a radar.

  • mareo2

    I think that some people stil don’t get why the US Navy want railguns.

    1 – COST: Shrinking defense budgets and how less cost per shot weapons give more bang for your bucks as a taxpeyer. For example: If the chinese fire ballistic misssiles missiles to a US navy carrier strike group. You know how much money cost defend it with an SM-3 local defense anti-ballistic missile? $10 millions each. A SM-6 point defense anti-ballistic missile? $4.3 millions each. I don’t know how much cost a ballistic chinese DF-21 but I know that an supersonic Indo-Russian BrahMos cost $2.73 million each. Railgun ammunition may cost 0.1~0.5 million each.

    2 – FIREPOWER: in the age of sail the firepower of a warship was meassured by how many guns it can fire to an enemy, this was called broadside. In the age of missiles the firepoer is measured by counting how many VLS cells it can carry. An AEGIS Ticonderoga Class cruiser carry 122 cell VLS, an AEGIS Arleigh Burke Class destroyer carry 96 cell VLS, an AEGIS Alvaro de Bazan Class frigate carry 48 cell VLS. If you have a gun that can fire ammunition faster, higher and farther and the ammunition is smart guided ammunition, then instead of defensive SM-3 or SM-6 missiles you can load more offensive Tomahawks missiles in the ship’s magazines. From my point of view land attack is a secondary role.

    I think that ss they are envisioned right now, Railguns are not a replacement for cruise missiles, they are a complement.

  • crollbie

    Can’t wait to eventually see this railgun tech send the Chinese navy down to the bottom of the ocean where it belongs!

    • Bill

      Um no you don’t. the Chinese have a very large boomer fleet.

    • Rog

      Yeah, fight a war that doesn’t exist. We need more ray guns!

    • durrem

      Chinese hackers will probably have this tech in weeks.

  • steve sumner

    With the rail gun, there is no need to have gun powder to fire the projectile, nor explosive rounds. Magnets push (or pull) the round to mach 6 or 7. At that velocity, kinetic energy can be lethal to shipping or land targets.Our ships would not be quite as likely to have the powder magazines explode (like what the Arizona suffered at Pearl Dec 7 1941). Plus the rail gun is accurate at least 2 or 3 times the distance of standard naval guns.

  • TonyC.

    The rail gun when perfected, will give the US Navy incredible offensive capability. The shells are moving at speeds that can’t be intercepted and it can’t be easily jammed. The only other weapon system that has this capability is the Tomahawk, at a much greater cost per shot.

  • shipfixr

    Interesting that this “very cost effective’ weapon fires rounds that cost $25k apiece…..

    • Stan

      It is cost effective if the alternative is over 100k. Also, in assymmentric warfare where this cannon might actually see some use you would get a better stand-off range and more firepower due to (hopefully) lower costs involved.

    • Riceball

      I think that’s just for now, sort of like the XM-25 where all of the rounds were hand built because it’s still a prototype. I’m sure that when/if a railgun goes into full scale production the rounds will become much cheaper, they are, after all, nothing more than just a solid slug of metal. Thing is, the rounds don’t even need to be metal, they just need to be something strong enough to withstand the heat and pressure of being fired at such a high velocity and then remain intact enough on impact to deliver enough kinetic energy to destroy its target.

      • SniperW

        I think some folks are behind the curve on what a railgun really is. It’s actually a greatly extended commutator, that operates in the exact same fashion of a commutator in a D. C. motor. Envision a long, vee-shaped channel in which the projectile (which by the way must be made of some magnetic or conductive material) lies in. Now envision this channel being constructed, also, of conductive sections, lets say for argument’s sake, 24 inches in length, connected end to end, with a I-inch non-conductive separator in between each 24-inch sector. Now envision a system that can electrically change the polarity of all these 24-inch segments from positive to negative at the speed of electricity (somewhere near the speed of light). This vee rail could be in the shape of a tube, just as easily. The slug that lies in this vee—or tube, if you prefer, is the “field” in our linear “motor” we have just constructed. It only takes a small capacitor to start the magnetic slug on its way up the vee the first few inches to where magnetic shunting takes over——the forward velocity is limited only by the length of the vee rail or tube. Many years back, this technology was used to accelerate a slug to ‘WAY past what could be done by any type of internal controlled explosion, such as a normal gunpowder “shell”. They easily exceeded 7,500 feet per second, and only were limited by however rapidly they could shunt each segment from positive to negative, and vice-versa. Internal-controlled-explosion projectiles such as artillery shells or even your .22 plinker rifle, are limited to speeds of slightly less than the speed of the expanding gas produced by the explosion—-normal gunpowders expand at not much over 5,000 f.p.s.
        All that being said, on a basic metal slug, some means of spinning the slug must be extant, to stabilize the slug itself in its flight, to fight air currents, lessen pressure on the front of the projectile, fight gravity to an extent, compensate for Coriolis effect, etc., just like the rifling grooves in your .22 plinker. Be it known, also, that early testbed rail guns sometimes reached lengths of several hundred yards.

  • shipfixr

    Interesting that this “very cost effective’ weapon fires rounds that cost $25k apiece…..

    • goose

      in military terms…

      thats super cheap

  • Larry0555

    The rail gun uses electricity stored on the ship.Where and how is this electricity produced ? What happens IF this electricity is interrupted in some way?

    • blight_

      It’ll probably use supercapacitors or flywheels, which have to be charged with potential energy, presumably from the ship’s generators. Turbines will put out electricity for electric motors (or azipods, or whatever the Navy wants to use someday), and some will go to charging capacitor banks, batteries or flywheels.

      If you lose power to the railguns, you obviously won’t be able to fire. How is this different from battle damage any other way? And presumably, losing power means losing radar, CIWS, RAM and jamming systems.

  • I have to wonder just how much current this thing needs to send a 23 pound round 100 miles at hypersonic speeds. Will we be trading off gunpowder for gigantic (and heavy) power generators?

  • Dfens

    It seems to me that if they were really interested in fielding this technology, they’d use conventional gunpowder to accelerate the projectiles up to Mach 2 and then let the electromagnets go from there. Plus, if they were actually interested on putting these rail guns on ships, the main objective of the research would be inert projectiles with the guided versions being studied after ships were being outfitted with these weapons. As it is, this is nothing but a perpetual money machine to ensure defense contractors continue to receive plenty of corporate welfare.

    • Thomas L. Nielsen

      “It seems to me that if they were really interested in fielding this technology, they’d use conventional gunpowder to accelerate the projectiles up to Mach 2 and then let the electromagnets go from there” – I might be decidedly obtuse here, but what would the advantage be to that?

      Regards & all,

      Thomas L. Nielsen

      • Hunter76

        Good question. I thought of replying to Dfens, but then decided he had too meager an understanding of the rail gun, and too much concern for this addition of a little energy.

        You write good posts, Tom.

      • navyET

        The advantage of pre-accelerating the projectile is that you can then use extremely high currents on your rails without worrying about the projectile/sabot instantly fusing to them and jamming your gun, possibly ruining it for some time. the extremely high currents allow you to get lots of range and/or speed out of your gun without making it significantly longer.

        The disadvantage is that you then have powder and debris from each shot coating your rails and reducing their conductivity. again, possibly jamming your gun or just causing general maintenance issues.

        some of these issues may have been solved by other means or are about to be solved. after all they say they want to install these on ships in two years.

  • Valen

    For a moment I got confused and thought this weapon system was already being used in the Zumwalt class destroyers. I guess this one’s different.

  • walter

    Do you people have any idea what an interceptor missile capable of hitting a hyper-velocity incoming missile costs? $25K per round is cheap, even if multiple rounds are required.

  • walt

    low earth orbit for 25K….

  • intenseMike

    The old battleships could launch a projectile 40 miles. How far can this new technology go? Doesn’t really matter anyway. China is going to build a Helium 3 fusion powered laser on the moon and zap us all.

    • Ben

      The Navy plans to end up with a range of 100+ miles. More than double the range while being infinitely more accurate.

  • jeff harris

    It was a long time ago during the Korean War. I served on a heavy cruiser that had 8″ guns (outdated even then!). I was told that each shell fired matched the cost of a new VW Beetle. We were impressed. Allowing for inflation over the years I think $25,000 bucks is dirt cheap and as the technology improves should be even cheaper.

  • Saratoga

    I am more interested in the new electro-mechanical catapult system on aircraft carriers. How are they working compared to the steam catapults?

  • sharkey

    First, the rail gun is not new technology. It has been under development by Nazis, Russians and the Free World since the 1950’s. What is new is this. The new Nuke reactors we are building can generate so much excess power continuously for 35-50 years and that is why the rail gun is finally coming into the realm of feasibility. Someone above mentioned they need rare earth metals but that is only for smaller accelerators trying to bring protons up the almost light speed. A rail gun brings a “shell” up to several thousand feet per second and sends it in a straight line. I don’t buy the $25000 per shell statement either. That shell might be some sophisticated shell that does everything from taking out the trash to doing your taxes for you. Putting a shell on the ground with high explosives is not going to cost that much.

  • Dennis

    What is interesting is what type of hull they would mount this on. They would mount more than one gun and it would require the present reactors in the Ford CVN-78.
    Maybe the Navy is turning full circle and will bring back the Battleship era. As this technology spreads next they will look at a defense which will require armoring ships like the good old days of the Battleship. I doubt they will bring back the Iowa’s probably to costly but it looks like they might build some new Battleships in the future.
    The hole reason for this weapon is to give the Navy a shore bombardment capability. In the early 2000 the Navy got into a argument with Congress because Congress wanted to keep at least one Battleship but the Navy did not. I could see though the Navy could bring back one Iowa class as a test bed for the rail gun to design a newer ship. Unless they discover to rebuild the Iowa Class is cheaper then building a new Battleship.

  • tron

    rail guns work on the same principle as your fridge magnet for holding the shopping list, the magentic force “pulls” the magnet against the fridge walls.
    Reverse the sizes, BIG magnet and very small piece of iron and you have the basic idea for the rail gun, the electromagnets (magnets which start working when submitted to an electrical current) are set up in a line, each one just switches on to “pull” the round, then switches off when the round has passed it and the next magnet takes over, put enough magnets in a line and you get a huge acelleration.
    Put them in several concentric lines around the path of the round and you will also have the round “floating” as the upper, the lower the right and the left magnetic forces are identical and trying to “pull” the round from all sides at once.

    So there is NO BARREL ! The round just travels suspended & pulled by the magnetic forces!
    The problem is cooling all those magnets (imagine cooling a huge line of transformators like the ones of your home areas power supply in a tight space) and doing so quickly because you do want to fire the gun again.
    Cooling electromagnets is trickier than cooling barrels, they are made of a lot of coils of cabling and highly sensitive electronics, they don´t cool like a piece of Steel, some units stay hotter, others cool quicklier… It´s more an electrical engineers problem than a gunsmiths….

  • Chook

    It would be easier to bring back the old Heavy Cruisers, than the Iowas. and those cruisers are big enough that they could possibly carry a power source enough for the ship and the weapon. and it already has the armored hull.
    well… that is if they haven’t scrapped them all.

  • Can it be used for deer hunting :)

    • scott

      LMFAO god I hope so.

    • Nexi

      I think it could, if you want a pre-cooked deer :P
      Although i’d worry a bit more about what’s left of the deer.. considering the size of this thing, I don’t think even a deer’s leg would be left.

  • jim

    One application I could see is nuclear waste disposal – into space.

    • anonymous

      Is nuclear waste even magnetic?

  • mike harding

    Can someone please explain to me why on earth you are getting so excited about all this. – – You (USA) might have the head start on all this technology but you can bet your shiny military boots on the simple fact that the Soviets and Chinese will very very rapidly copy and maybe even develop in a superior way that technology as a counter defence/aggressive military weapon. – – –

    Unless the USA feels the need to win a 3rd World War pretty soon and take over everywhere – – then Id say this technology can only make the world a less pleasant place – – and so my powerful and good friends – – – I cannot see why you should rejoice so openly. – – – Terrorists can do one Hell of a lot more damage using a parcel knife and a mad Muslim than any one of these clever but generally impotent weapons.

    Yes All us in the UK would love to see what you all hope for – – but a flying projectile isn’t going to achieve it. Sorry to burst your party balloon. The Barnman. (UK)

  • a teenager

    The rail guns does have a serious weakness, (in the possible future) they will be the most affected by EMP Shockwave technology, as the emps block out anything related to electricity, so conventional manual aimed gunpowder guns would have an advantage there

  • Anonymous

    Why not perfect nuclear fusion and then use that as the power? Fusion reactors can be small, the reason fusion hasn’t been perfected yet is because the government has so much money already invested in current infrastructure. It would be nice to have these babies on a smaller scale

  • D. Williams

    The Navy ships have close range automatic lead spitting guns that create a “lead curtain” and very high tech multi-million dollar missles that are fire-and-forget. This looks to be a nice middle weapon. A lot of boom for the buck.
    I would investigate a simple robust ammonia cooling unit that also incorporates sodium metal, a very efficient heat transfer medium. The sodium draws the bulk of the heat to a cooling unit, heating seawater during the transfer to generate steam to provide the electrics needed to keep the system at the ready. If generates a LOT of heat, it is creating a viable product to produce energy.


    Russians have missiles that travelfadter than the US’ best search radar.. The US is developing a weapon that can potentially not be tracked by any radar. Just hope for the US’ sake they dont have any whiteknighting spies that sell this info to the Russians. If that happens the US has lost its place as a super power and preemptively lost WW3

  • Anonymous

    What if they could scale this down into a rifle or a pistol? Just think about the advantages!

    • Annon

      You might as well say if they could invent the star trek phaser……………..