The Office of Naval Research has tested the first prototype of the weapon, which can fire shells at 5,000mph with a potential range of 100 miles
The basic technology of military and naval artillery has changed little since the introduction of gunpowder in the Middle Ages. Today’s large guns still use explosive chemicals such as gunpowder to fire a projectile down a metal barrel.
But the US Navy is developing a different type of weapon, based on pulses of electrical rather than chemical energy. The “electromagnetic railgun” can blast shells at 5,000mph – seven times the speed of sound – with a potential range of 100 miles.
Last month, the railgun took a big step from research toward production, as the navy started testing the first prototype weapon produced by an industrial contractor. The Office of Naval Research has released a spectacular video of the gun – made by the US subsidiary of Britain’s BAE Systems – firing at its Dahlgren testing centre in Virginia. Evaluation of a second prototype, built by General Atomics of the US, will begin next month.
seven times the speed of sound