Navy to Fire Electromagnetic Rail Gun at Sea

A high-speed camera captures the first full-energy shots from the Office of Naval Research-funded electromagnetic railgun prototype launcher, Feb. 23, 2012, at a test facility in Dahlgren, Virginia. (Photo by John F. Williams/U.S. Navy)A high-speed camera captures the first full-energy shots from the Office of Naval Research-funded electromagnetic railgun prototype launcher, Feb. 23, 2012, at a test facility in Dahlgren, Virginia. (Photo by John F. Williams/U.S. Navy)

The U.S. Navy plans to test-fire a long-range electromagnetic weapon against a floating target at sea later this year as part of the fast-paced development of its new Electromagnetic Rail Gun.

The rail gun uses an electromagnetic current to fire a kinetic energy warhead up to 100 miles at speeds greater than 5,000 miles per hour — a speed at least three times as fast as existing weapons.

In the upcoming exercise, the kinetic energy projectile will seek to hit, destroy or explode an at sea target from on-board the USNS Trenton, a Joint High Speed Vessel, service officials said.

The test shots, which will be the first of its kind for the developmental, next-generation weapon, will take place sometime later this year at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The date hasn’t yet been specified.

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About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.
  • sw614

    While I can see the utility of kinetic energy rounds against certain hard targets, what about soft targets? Is a HE round in the works? Can an explosive round withstand the G forces present when the round is accelerated to such speeds? How effective will a KE round be against ships given that most warships do not have thick armor? Will a KE round just punch a hole straight through a vessel?

    • Beno

      Yes quite possibly. But ships tend to be full of “stuff”.

      Usually very important or explosive stuff.

      In fact its fairly difficult to shoot a foot wide hole right the way through in a modern warship without restyling something critical.

      Glock you dvd player. Then play Frozen. Let me know how it goes.

      • sw614

        Kinda depends on where on the ship a KE rounds hits, now doesn't it?

        Were there not instances where AP rounds went through smaller unarmored ships causing minimal damage (compared to an HE round) in WWII? Answer is yes BTW. My question was how effective would a KE round be, not if it might hit something important. How many KE rounds would it take to sink a modern warship versus a round that explodes inside of it?

        Also, KE rounds do not do a whole lot for fire support from offshore unless targeting a hard, fixed target. Firing from offshore to support ground forces is a much more likely scenario than shooting at a surface vessel anyway. Use a Harpoon or LRASM (when it enters service).

        Let me know how your games go…..

  • TeXan1111

    The navy's main mission is to attack pickup trucks and fuel trucks (just check what the carriers are fighting nowadays) Will this have enough power to do this?