Navy gets the World’s Most Powerful Rail Gun

by Dhiram Shah

Instead of relying on chemical propellants like gunpowder, a rail gun uses magnetic “rails” to launch a solid, nonexplosive projectile at incredible speed. In theory, rail guns would be able to precisely strike targets at extreme ranges, and would negate the risks associated with carrying around tons of explosive ammo. Apparently BAE Systems has delivered a functional, 32-megajoule Electro-Magnetic Laboratory Rail Gun (32-MJ LRG) to the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Va. Installation of the laboratory launcher is currently going on and according to BAE, the Navy’ plans on developing a tactical 64-megajoule ship-mounted weapon. The Marines are interested in the potential for rail guns to deliver supporting fire from up to 220 miles away (around 10 times further than standard ship-mounted cannons) with rounds landing more quickly and with less advance warning than a volley of Tomahawk cruise missiles.

The lab version of the Rail Gun looks like a long, belt-fed airport screening device however the system will fire rounds at up to Mach 8, drawing on great amounts of electricity to generate the current for each test shot. “Eight and 9-megajoule rail guns have been fired before, but providing 3 million amps of power per shot has been a limitation. At 32-megajoules, this new system appears to be the most powerful rail gun ever built, and the x is installing additional capacitors at the Dahlgren facility to support it. The planned 64-megajoule weapons, if it’s ever built, could require even more power — a staggering 6 million amps.” While the 32-MJ LRG should start firing soon, it could take another 13 years for a 64-megajoule system to be built and deployed on a ship.

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