CNO: Railguns and Hellfires Make Ships More Lethal


The Pentagon may not escape the crippling budget cuts on the horizon, but that isn’t stopping the Navy’s top admiral from talking up the sea service’s future weapon programs.

“We have got to better match our mission and tailor our platforms to the missions as to what they carry,” Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert said recently at the Navy League 2014 Sea, Air and Space Exposition. “Our platforms have to be adaptable.”

Greenert showed a video of the electromagnetic railgun the Navy is testing. The service plans to fire the hyper-velocity weapon from a joint high speed vessel in 2016 as part of a broader effort to develop the long-range, high-energy weapon.

“We are beyond lab coats; we are into engineering now,” Greenert said. “We’ve got the power level figured out, we know what the projectile looks like and we are testing it.”

The railgun uses electrical energy to create a magnetic field and propel a 23-pound kinetic energy projectile at speeds up to 5,600 miles per hour, Navy officials maintain. The hyper-velocity projectile is engineered as a kinetic energy warhead, meaning no explosives are necessary.

“It’s not only going at a tremendous high-speed; it will break up and deliver a pretty decent effect,” Greenert said. “It’s a lot of power.”

Navy vessels are “evolving in other ways,” Greenert said.

“We’ve got a missile going on board the Littoral Combat Ship,” he said. “It’s the Longbow Hellfire. It’s an interim fix; we are going to get a long-range missile eventually. We are making the Littoral Combat Ship more lethal.”

The Navy is also in the process of arming the patrol boats it has in the Arabian Gulf with a new missile system, Greenert said, adding that testing is going well.

““It works,” Greenert said. “They need to be more lethal. We need to put a missile on it.”

14 Comments on "CNO: Railguns and Hellfires Make Ships More Lethal"

  1. This is a great news, we need to add 2 of this this weapon to every single Destroyers

  2. 8213 feet per second. Now that’s moving down the road.

  3. And just 6 months ago we weren't going to see these on actual ships for a couple more decades. Obviously no politics at work here. 6 months ago our ships had more than enough weapons too. It's so hard to keep up with the latest lie.

  4. The "Aerial Overmatch" module will attach an armed aerostat to every LCS. From a tether several thousand feet up, the Hellfire missiles with have decent range compared to weapons fired from sea level. The aerostat will also facilitate long-range target acquisition and mount a laser to blind prospective terrorists, who are going to Gitmo and have no rights to begin with.


  5. Rail guns… FUCK YEAH!!!!

  6. Marc Winger | April 9, 2014 at 8:41 pm |

    Don't vote for Democrats if you want a continually weakened Navy.
    The new rail gun is nice & fine, but…

  7. I hope all of you will consider an unconventional thought enough to pass on the Idea. In the future we will need to keep our edge.. I propose placing on to two of these on the new carriers. No matter what we have as a screen our carriers will face a massive first wave attack. Using a rail gun on a carrier as a last layer of a defensive shield. Carriers have the best unlimited and robust power supplies. Rail guns small footprint and munitions that are basically inert.

  8. Brian B. Mulholland | April 10, 2014 at 10:08 pm |

    The capacitors used by EMALS might be useful in connection with railgun technology, but you'd probably need some time to charge them fully. A reactor on a ship with electric main-propulsion systems is one way, but multiturbine destroyer designs with the space for a couple of those capacitors might be another. Turbines can be fired up pretty quickly; if you detect an incoming cruise missile, the most likely initial use of this kind of system, a bridge crew might be able to hit a few buttons, bring a second turbine on line, and dump the building surge of current straight into a capacitor; depending on projectile weight, you might have a heck of a point defense system.

  9. Utilization as a ABM defense against the DF-21 could be a major byproduct of the new weapons system. Look at the Aegis Ballistic Missile defense system in case adaptation two new needs. We have to think in ways that provide not only defense but deterrence in their efforts in area denial. I am convinced that a point defense system that consists of carrier escorts but also as I stated carriers with two rail guns on each of the new carrier class. Practical and sends a strong message. Having defensive weapons that can be basically ready for loading all the time but a essentially inert is a huge safety and time advantage.

  10. Forget for a moment installation on ships. Imagine these rail guns on static land installations.

    The strategic calculus for the Pacific, I think, just changed.

  11. Ok. Railgun. Cool and all. I'm all for it.

    But can someone please explain what it's going to be used for? Shore bombardement, point defense? And what trajectory do these rounds use? I'd think shooting things in line of sight is pretty much covered already.

    If used as artillery. Since it relies on speed as it's destructive component, won't it bleed speed at longer ranges? I also guess it won't be shooting guided rounds, it'll fry all electronics. And what if I want to shoot something close by? (Like the bastard at the other side of town who's burning tires up wind) I can't shoot it slower because it'll do less damage doesn't it?

  12. In the future longer barrel more capacitors and a system to run it you can fire a larger shells or a shell farther. Think of the Iraq war with the old battleship firing 16" shells and solders surrendering to a uav from the ship. This is a game changer for the pacific theater. This is that big stick. Use it wisely and don't let interservice disputes or thinking it can only be placed on specific ships.

  13. Simple application. Artillery. 5-7 round in different angles for the rounds to hit an area at the same time. The main reason rail gun are being pushed to basically to have a cheaper per round option than using missiles. WW2 showed that battleship guns are good artillery support and since taking them out the “replacements” are all missiles and bombs. It would be good if they could put these in destroyers to give troops a “call for fire” in short notice compared to planes or missiles that cost half a million per shot. So it would complement the existing weapon. Maybe later on smart rail gun munition can be developed but I think the basic kinetic artillery is already a good step.

  14. D Militello | July 30, 2014 at 5:04 pm |

    During WW2 in the pacific, specifically the Battle of Lete Gulf, the Japanese large caliber guns completely passed through some of our thin walled destroyers and our light transport carriers before they could explode. At the speeds the rail gun munitions are traveling, is there any possibility that our shells will penetrate all the way through a ship without doing extensive damage. Making a small hole in a ship above the water line does not sink or disable a ship. The proof of the pudding is in the digestion, not the making of it. Can the extreme acceleration of the rail gun, be a problem to the explosive package or fuse? Let us make sure before we mount this on a ship.

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