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.

        • Dfens

          Just because your tax dollars are going to support this program doesn’t mean you get to question how that money is being spent. No, the Navy has top people working on this. Top people.

    • 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.

      • mule

        Yes, this is an application of a linear induction motor, but it is quite a bit different in practice from EMALS or a thrill ride. Your “Facts” are akin to comparing a toy RC plane to an F-15. Same principals of flight, very different execution.

        • Dfens

          Oh yeah, this is so much harder. It will take 50 more years of defense contractors making money off of every day they drag this “research” out before this technology shows up on an actual ship. Maybe more than 50 years.

          • melcyna

            One look at how many country actually have working railgun with output measured in megajoules at a size that can reasonably fit into a ship (and not a warehouse) and one starts realizing where the problem is.

            Like it or not, just because it’s based on the same principle as many other electromagnetic propulsion or levitation application.. doesn’t actually mean the application in weapon system is straightforward and simple…

            For a long time now, we had problems in actually first generating enough power to realistically operate the gun in a ship platform (that doesn’t require you to stick a nuclear reactor in it),

            then somehow store enough of the output into one burst (battery tech took a while to get into the kind of density needed to store the kind of energy we need for the railgun and FIT into a ship)

            then release the entire burst of energy through the weapon system in one flash, without melting the barrel or the projectile…

            The current railgun project is essentially tackling the last part of the 3 main problem the concept had.

          • g2-7726684def195fd0f100053b920d9c7c

            More ships should be nuclear anyway. And you don’t do rapid energy discharge with batteries, you do it with capacitors.

          • melcyna

            True, it’s more accurately capacitor bank…

            My point there though was that it took us quite a while to reach the current point where the technology to store energy finally reached the point where we have sufficient density that can hold all the energy within sufficiently compact size to actually make the concept feasible weapon.

            We technically can store the necessary power since quite a while ago if the space and weight is unlimited, but ships are limited in both… and needing a nuclear power before it becomes viable is a substantial limitation for the weapon which will drastically hamper it’s practical usage.

          • MikeA

            Most people don’t have a clue what a capacitor is. Saying battery is much easier and understandable.

          • Riceball

            You have to start somewhere though, if you dismiss an idea out of hand simply because of the hurdles that have to be overcome then you’ll never get anywhere. If we thought like that we’d still be living in the Stone Age because metals are hard to come by, hard to work with, and unless made into an alloy most are too soft to use as tools.

          • melcyna

            Which is why the railgun project has reached the last obstacle to be cleared,

            my comment was directed towards Dfens rather inaccurate throw that seems to think that because the basic principle behind electromagnetic propulsion and levitation been around for a long time, that weaponizing it would be straightforward….

            Which it is not… that virtually no one has a viable military grade weapon based on it that is practical with the navy’s railgun being the closest to reach practicality is a simple testament to the difficulty faced.

  • 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.

      • bran

        Thanks Snowden :)

      • Ross

        where do you think America got jet technology, among other things?

        Wasn’t homegrown innovation, chap.

        all through history you have people taking/adopting other civilization’s technologies. Just in the new age of patents and stuff people get this misplaced sense of ownership. China simply dont recognise such things.

      • melcyna

        Wouldn’t matter even if they could,

        much like they still could not develop proper engine for their 5th gen fighter due to the limitation of their metallurgy handling despite technically knowing the tech (in part thanks to Russia).

        the tech is only one part of it, how to construct them is yet another.

    • 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.

      • melcyna

        You are forgetting that the railgun doesn’t have the traditional shell’s range limitation imposed by the limit of the practical gunpowder barrel.

        their first target is for a 100mi gun, this in itself while not terribly impressive given the range of missiles, but it means naval bombardment can be made at a fraction of the cost of missile bombardment….

        which is part of the POINT OF THE PROJECT….

        the next part is then extending that… since technically u can keep adding the range with more power at less weight penalty compared to ordinary gunpowder…

        we’re not talking guns firing in typical artillery range scale here…. we’re talking guns firing shells into lower atmosphere before dropping back towards the earth….

    • GCUch

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

      • mrlee

        The way that they did on the Eldridge.

      • gest

        Capacitors, or a flywheel– there are multiple ways to store up and rapidly release a large amount of energy.

    • 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.

    • Gregory Savage

      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.

          • STemplar

            At about mach 11 a projectile of a given weight releases an amount of kinetic energy from striking a target as if it was an equivalent mass of TNT. So fairly comparable actually.

          • Riceball

            I don’t think that cooling is so much an issue as barrel wear, as I understand it as things currently stand the barrels being used aren’t good for very many rounds before needing replacement.

          • melcyna

            Which is in itself somewhat tied with the heat issue…

            the friction between the barrel and the projectile when they travel at the speed the gun accelerates them towards combined with the MASSIVE current flowing through the armature generates colossal amount of heat…

            materials don’t just melt… they VAPORIZE at the kind of heat we’re talking here… (which should be a hint as to why mere seawater isn’t going to help cooling the system, this is not the kind of temperature one can just drench to cool off…)

        • 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.

        • Paul Blase

          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.

    • Charles James Haas

      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.

    • Guest

      They didn’t say it’s cheap. They said it’s cheaper than others. And wait till the final price tag becomes available. I suspect it will be 6 digits.

      • Ben

        “The result is an inexpensive, high-impact and long-range offensive weapon…”

        Sounds like they’re touting it as cheap to me, but whatever. And unfortunately you’re probably right about the 6 figure estimate. My question is: How accurate are solid, unguided slugs compared to the smart rounds?

      • Guest

        That maybe the R&D cost per prototype round. The per-copy cost of a finished, tested production round ready for the warfighter should drop as economies of scale always do.

        But even still, while using a $25,000 round to destroy a $3000 Toyota truck carrying a .50 cal is a waste, using it do destroy a $5 – $11 million dollar Chinese DF-21D on the ground is a wise use of resources.

        • Guest

          LOL. I suspect the only thing it can and will destroy is your pipe dream. But don’t stop inhaling.

    • AFMissilier

      The railguns’ kinetic round will eventually be maneuverable to increase accuracy. It does not contain gunpowder; however, it can be augmented with a small rocket to over come initial friction.

      • Dfens

        Yeah, use a rocket instead of a spring. Sounds like typical military R&D to me.

      • d. kellogg

        The problem with creating guided railgun rounds is going to be the same problem as we experienced in multiple failed attempts at fielding guided naval gun rounds: EXPENSIVE.

        The USN has conducted no less than half a dozen failed attempts at creating guided shells to give its ships more edge in precision fire support.
        Even with the DDG-1000’s 155mm LRLAPs, which are effectively gun-fired missiles, the expense involved in pushing the technology envelope to build extreme-launch-hardened guided projectiles has so far proven unsuccessful because of the sheer end-price the rounds will cost. Don’t expect what few Zumwalt destroyers we’ll see will ever have the opportunity to fire off a complete magazine’s worth of shells over their entire lifetime….Even the considerably-smaller Excalibur 155mm guided round still costs upwards of $100K. These LRLAPs are twice the length or more, and considerably heavier.

        Years ago, the USN should’ve adopted the POLAR variant of the MLRS rocket. It could quad-pack into any Mk41 VLS cell like a Sea Sparrow, and we wouldn’t have this nonsense of designing an entire ship around these AGS guns.

        Guided railgun shells? Mach 8? Mach 10? More? Prohibitively much more expensive.

        • melcyna

          Not quite, the difference is that in the guided naval rounds u described so far they are partly an attempt to also extend the rounds range… ie: they are powered on top of being guided (which makes them extra expensive)

          this creates lots of problems… the rocket booster on regular HE shells will cut on the warhead’s destructiveness unless if even bigger booster or bigger charge is used to propel the shell.

          the booster naturally makes the shell more expensive, not to mention that the more range you need from the shell, the bigger the booster needed which then cuts further into the shell’s available HE mass and volume.

          then add the guidance cost on top of all that, and it’s easy to see why the guided naval gun rounds encountered lots of problems and were expensive.

          Railgun on the other hand avoid most of the issue…

          it for start already had a long range, it doesn’t need range extension booster either since extending the range in railgun is much simpler to be tackled on the gun output itself.

          the round also do not rely on high explosive for destructiveness and relied on kinetic energy instead… as such the round doesn’t lose much from the mass and volume lost for guidance as long as the round remains fast…

    • Charles James Haas

      I think the rounds must have a guidance system and fuze of some sort, so it is unlikely that they are just slugs. Just the guidance system and fuze would jack the price up that much, knowing that they have to survive the high G forces.

      • David

        Why would they need a fuse? Its a slug that relies on kinetic energy. As for the high g forces they have, for the most part, overcome that issue with guided artillery.

      • Riceball

        No, it’s just a solid slug that relies on pure kinetic energy for its destructive force. I know that it sounds counterproductive but a kinetic energy energy round can cause quite a bit of damage, just look at what a conventional bullet can do at a fraction of the speed a rail gun round can/will travel. For a better understanding what a high kinetic energy impact can do just do a little reading on asteroid/meteor strikes, even the impact from a relatively small meteor that’s about the size of a Smart car can probably wipe out at least an entire large city if not an entire large state like Texas or California.

    • Rog

      Right, the future of video games.

  • 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.

      • P.J. Busche

        When I was still on active duty in the Marine Corps I read in Naval Proceedings in 1983 that rail gun research had already been in progress. There seems to be no end in sight with the DoD budget cutters doing everything they can to prevent development of the rail gun. A lot of money is being spent on lip-service for a program that will become outdated before it becomes a reality. If you have confidence in the rail gun program, then you must be an avid Star Trek fan.

    • 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?

        • Dfens

          They aren’t developing it. They are contracting out the development. Hell, that’s like saying Wright Patterson Air Force base is “developing” the F-35.

        • blight_

          Government doesn’t pay overtime for its own workers.

          It happily pays overtime-cost-plus for Lockheed (and others), as you happily note.

          And as soldiers are learning, the “pension” they promise you is always up for grabs. Congress takes no prisoners.

        • g2-7726684def195fd0f100053b920d9c7c

          BAE Systems is the primary contractor developing this. They just so happen to be working with the USN at Dahlgren.

    • 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

    • Charles James Haas

      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?

      • Dfens

        Don’t worry, no program gets cancelled these days as long as there are development funds to plunder. Typically they get cancelled either right before or just after they enter production. Not as much profit in production, so the defense contractors stop lobbying for programs then. Sometimes they even lobby for cancellation as they did in the case of the F-22 whose production line was threatening the continued development of the F-35.

        • SlothLuvsChunk

          They should look into a new weapon that just launches huge amounts of hard currency at near light-speed velocity. The MoneyGun would probably be terrifying… and expensive so the Pentagon would love it. After all, it’s not even their money.

      • Rog

        Tell us what China has that we need to be ahead of and we’ll tell you.

    • Rog

      Too true, P.J.

    • Julia

      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?

    • Ben

      Likely, but not until our rival nations start equipping themselves with them. You can shoot down missiles, but a hypersonic slug the size of brick? Good luck, lol.

    • Hunter76

      Actually, with a super hi velocity kinetic round, you’d probably be better off unarmored. Let the shot pass right through you.

    • TonyS

      Proper armour would cause more damage.
      Look at what happened in the Falklands war – some bombs and missiles went straight through the ships’ light aluminium sides and out into the open unless they hit something solid like an engine.

  • octopusmagnificens

    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 :(

    • d. kellogg

      Is it really “stealing” when there have been, over the years, more than enough disgruntled employees in the US willing to sell out their own country’s safety for the sake of personal profit? The people who stole anything were the disgruntled employees. The foreign influence they sold out to was just the highest bidder.

      Yes, there is industrial espionage wherein the Chinese, Russian, and even our own allies (ahem, Israel) have accessed US corporations’ databases and gleaned usable information, thanks in no small part to insufficient, even complacent, information security practices at said corporations.
      But as long as the human element that can be bribed is still part of the cycle, this espionage will never end.
      Maybe as a deterrent, instead of cushy prison time, we in the US go back to executing traitors for their treason to country…it is the one crime intentionally written in our Constitution for that reason. Deter treason thru punishment of death.

      But then again, lawyers get rich having a field day arguing the difference between treason, and necessary whistleblowing on a country whose checks and balances are no longer effective at policing itself.

      • Dfens

        If you’re a contractor making a profit on design and development of weapons, and making more of a profit on design and development than on the actual production of those weapons, what is the down side to having a few computer “vulnerabilities” that leak out critical data just as the weapon is going into production? Oh no, critical data leaked about our weapon. I guess we’ll have to terminate this program and start another design cycle. You need to learn to think like a defense contractor.

        • blight_

          You mean…naval-aerospace monetizer?

      • Hunter76

        The death penalty hasn’t deterred anyone. People don’t think they’ll get caught.

        • d. kellogg

          When’s the last time the US put to death anyone for treason?
          WW2? 1950s?
          There IS no longer effective death penalty administration in the US, moreso when some scrub human rights group tries to make it look like the perpetrator of the crime was the REAL victim, “Our failed society and a bad childhood made them that way,…blah blah blah.”

          Shucks, it took the US military courts system almost 4 years to even convict that waste of skin Hasan in the murder of those people at Ft Hood, despite how many surviving witnesses. He should’ve been executed within a week of the event, a month at the longest. But almost 4 years, and all he’s getting is a life sentence at taxpayer expense?
          So no, I don’t expect the US government as a whole will ever again effectively have a deterrent against crimes like espionage. Even moreso when they don’t even have a backbone to properly label cyber terrorists and financial terrorists for what they are.

    • Bill Babbitt

      They are probably making these things already and selling them at Harbor Freight.

      • Dfens

        Oh, you mean the electric nail gun? No need for .22 cartridges anymore.

    • mrlee

      Please. We get so many of our spare parts from the Chinese right now that it is crazy. And so may of them are defective, 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.

    • Hunter76

      Why is a generator going down any worse than any other failure to fire?

  • 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.

    • Rog

      Yup and nothin’ to use it for.

      • navyET

        didnt you watch that horrible movie Battleship? lol

  • 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.

    • Stan

      Here’s someone with whom I agree, and at a time when directed energy research is getting the short shrift:

      • Ben

        Directed energy weapons are by no means getting the “short shrift.” If anything, they’ve been given more attention than railguns (i.e. YAL-1 among other things).

        Railguns and lasers shouldn’t be seen as competing technologies, if anything they compliment each other. Lasers are great because they’re incredibly accurate, however their effectiveness heavily depends on atmospheric conditions and line-of-sight. Railguns may not be quite as accurate but can reach targets much much farther away and do it regardless of weather.

        • Stan

          Every single piece of hardware developed by our military competes with all the others. The money pit, she isn’t bottomless.

        • Stan
          • Ben

            I’m fully aware that the project’s been canceled. My point was that it was explored.

    • Michael-1098231

      You’ve obviously never been in a firefight in dire need of support to supress enemy fire to prevent getting your a$$ handed to you. Artillery may be “quaint”, but the rounds will probably be on target before air support gets there and at least two plus years before a round from one of these things!

      • Stan

        I should have said naval artillery.

    • g2-7726684def195fd0f100053b920d9c7c

      Missiles are vulnerable to ECM, among other things. Projectiles are going to go where they are fired, no matter what, and the only hope of the target is being stronger than the resulting impact.

      Sure, projectile weapons are never going to have thousands of miles of range, but for conventional warfare they’re still valuable.

    • Rog

      And also tell him why we need to do it. Oh, I know so we can have another war and further inflate the bloated military budget.

  • 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.

    • Rog

      Right and nothing to shoot it at.

  • 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.

        • navyET

          the round does not need to be conductive if you use a conductive sabot, which i believe some designs have/do. not sure about this one.

  • 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.

  • Bill Babbitt

    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?

    • @Beomoose

      Power generators we already have, those turbines which push the ship through the water. Instead of running a mechanical driveshaft from the turbines to the screws, you hook them to electrical generators and send the power where its needed at any given time. We will need lots of energy storage, big banks of capacitors would become the gunpowder magazines of the new age.

    • Saratoga

      Yes. They need massive currents and energy. The challenge is to not fry the wiring and to field banks of low inductance capacitors that can dump charge at the nanosecond speed required. Generating that amount of stored energy is not easy or we would have gotten there by now.

    • Bill

      Nuclear navy. Nuke plants in carriers and subs why not cruisers.

  • 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.

        • Dfens

          That kind of porn belongs on another website, preferably one I never have to see.

          • Hunter76

            You’d rather write about porn than defense?

      • 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.

    • tron

      those are so fuel unefficient they can´t be brought back, refitting their engines is non-economical as well as almost imposible, not to speak about the whole reaming stuff, from lavatories to electronics, like refitting a 64 Chevy with a hybrid engine airbags and cruise control…

    • tiger

      Sadly we have.

  • Mojavegreen Nln

    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)

    • blight_

      You’re probably right in that a railgun wouldn’t stop a shoe bomber…though we should probably recognize in the US that our greatest killer is poor health and gangs, well ahead of terrorism. Though in the UK, for some reason immigrant communities are far more radicalized than ours. Here in Minnesota a small trickle of Somalis born here in the Cedar Riverside Somali community go and fight in Somalia against Kenya and for Islamic radicals…but they don’t go out and kill people with a knife in a community center, or shoot people up in mass attacks.

      We should probably acknowledge that these weapons are the US hedging its bets that the next conflict is nation-state instead of terrorists.

  • 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

    • Annon

      wtf???? Do you have any idea what you are talking about?

  • 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……………..