Railgun for the Navy

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The Navy is testing an electromagnetic rail gun that can hurl a 23lb projectile over Mach 7.

More information can be found here.

Here is a test video of the gun and what the projectile can do.



Nicholas C

Co-Founder of KRISSTALK forums, an owner’s support group and all things KRISS Vector related. Nick found his passion through competitive shooting while living in NY. He participates in USPSA and 3Gun. He loves all things that shoots and flashlights. Really really bright flashlights.

Any questions please email him at nicholas.c@staff.thefirearmblog.com


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  • Michael

    US Navy Test Rail Gun made in USA by British firm, BAE. So which country owns the rights to this weapon, serious question , not trying to promote a Brit vs Yank war. We are on the same side now.

    • Geodkyt

      Made under contract FOR the Navy — the US Government has rights to the gun, but BAE retains certain rights as well.

      • aerodawg

        Yep. Also of note is that it’s the US subsidiary of BAE, which is on the other side of a “firewall” from the main BAE due to ITAR/classified information controls.

        • M.M.D.C.

          ii

    • dude

      Who had the original R&D contract that BAE swallowed up? They already own Armor Holdings (uparmored HMMWVs), FMC (113’s and Bradleys), Point Blank, SDS (GI MOLLE gear developer/producer), and had HK from 1991 to 2002.

      • Michael

        A “British company” that has more factories, more employees in America than the UK. Sells more to The US than The UK. Probably has more US investors than UK. Maybe just UK based for tax purposes. Similar to BP. I believe their official names are just initials and have dropped the word “British”.
        We all need to make sure there is limited foreign control of our military industry.

  • vitor roma

    What I find more impressive is how there are cameras that can capture something so fast at so high level of details.

    • Marc

      They use a fast-tilting mirror in front of a stationary camera to track the projectile.

  • guest

    Judging from the relative high quality of the color footage that projectile was nowhere near mach 7

    • Mouldy Squid

      A Phantom camera could easily do that.

      http://www.visionresearch.com/Products/High-Speed-Cameras/v121/

      1 million frames per second cameras have been around for a while, although this is probably the best of the lot. I would be surprised if the DoD didn’t have equivalent or better image capture systems.

      • guest

        1 million fps at 128 x 8 resolution!

        Hence my comments about that shot being nowhere near M7. Filming anything at that speed requires incredibly fast cameras, and most that can film in good (ie: 720p or at least 480p) at 1m fps are simply not available.

        • They may not be using a full charge for these test.

          • guest

            I hate to blow out all the enthusiasm some people have here, but I have been critical to these “railgun” claims from day one and still am.
            1) It requires extreme amounts of power, and storing that power requires capacitors of extreme size. We are probably talking whole ship to serve 1 gun. And remember all doubling in speed is a QUADRUPLING in energy, capacitor size, wire dimensions, etc etc.
            2) The theory is sound, and there are ways of shooting that fast, but that results in some extreme demands for the gun like withstanding extreme rates of current and heat. You see that projectile has a kind of reverse horseshoe on the rear end? That means this gun relies on a plasma “bubble” being pouched by the magnetic field to acceleate the projectile. We are talking millions if not billions of joules of energy – being transferred by a very light and very hot bubble of plasma over to a steel projectile. This means extreme loads and temperatures, and I honestly don’t believe a conventional railgun can withstand that.
            3) Speeds close to that claim have been demonstrated on so-called “light gas guns” which function relatively similar to regular guns, but the same speeds have yet to be demonstrated in electric guns.

      • Sadler

        MIT developed a camera that can capture at 1 trillion frames per second, though it only captures a few thousand frames at a time, and in only one spatial dimension.

      • gunslinger

        or at least contracted out to have one at testing

    • Adam

      They most likely just set up a bunch of cameras along the flight path and set them to go off in sequence. That’s what they did for the bullet time sequences in The Matrix.

    • There is a special camera setup at Dahlgren, installed (and in part, designed) specifically to capture high quality color footage of THIS gun in full power shots.

  • dp

    What you put in, you get out. Lots of energy!

  • Wondering

    If the projectile is being launched by electromagnetic force, then why is there so much flame at the muzzle end of the launcher? Is there a combination of traditional explosive charge to get the projectile moving, and then the electomagnets super accelerate the projectile?

    • commonsense23

      That projectile is moving so fast its igniting the air around it.

    • Mouldy Squid

      When aluminium oxidizes it releases a massive amount of heat (e.g.: thermite). The friction the projectile experiences from the air will most certainly be hot enough to start an aluminium oxidation reaction and cause the flame effect shown in the video.

    • Stipo

      If i remember correctly its plasma caused by the electric discharge

    • It’s traveling at mach 7 which probably causes a lot of heat and friction in the plasma stream.

      • noob

        also, don’t the rails erode with each firing? I heard that was a big problem limiting the life of the guns.

    • gunslinger

      I was wondering the same thing. Thanks below for the answers. it makes sense that in the long barrel, there is quite a bit of metal to metal contact. at that speed, it makes sense the heat generated would ignite any shavings (akin to the grain elevator explosions?)

  • Masoo2

    bae

    • noob

      this could be us but you playin

  • kev

    One step closer to matt damons chemrail!!!!!

    • avconsumer2

      Dat Chemrail!! Schmexy!

      • kev

        for all your android killing, Elysium smashing bald head and exosuit wearing needs.

  • The Hun

    How much? That’s okay the Fed will print more funny $ to pay for it but don’t forget Tax Day is April 15th.

    • Eric S

      Well seeing as they’re suppose to fill the same role as cruise missiles, the end result is cost savings.

      Still waiting for our rail gun to launch space shuttles.

      • dan citizen

        If we would just stick to defense we would need a whole lot less cruise missiles and/or rail guns.

        • Billy___Bob

          Nothing says defense like putting a hole in an enemy ship from 200 miles away for 1$ worth of electricity

          • dan citizen

            agreed!

  • Dan Siefert

    Will the military also surplus these to our local PD?

  • Lance

    It would be great if they can make it smaller than a 2 storied building like the picture shows. Hope they can shrink it.

    • insertjjs

      Yeah, I think the Navy Helo Pilots would appreciate it if someone moved the pyramid off of their flightdeck

      • LCON

        Well The “Metronome” configuration if just for the test unit. if it were to be placed in a actual combat ship most of the gun would be under the deck.

        • insertjjs

          I know, its just too funny looking to not comment on.

        • noob

          There are some benefits for having a “bolt on” configuration that doesn’t penetrate the deck too. You can retrofit these above deck bolt-ons to older ship classes with less cutting and welding.

          • LCON

            The down side being the added top weight.

          • Um, you really don’t want to do that for a permanent installation. You really, really, don’t want to do that.
            .
            This isn’t a 30mm autocannon, and the long term structural issues will add up with every firing, every exposure to salt spray, every seasonal cycle.
            .
            Long term installation, you’ll want full deck penetration, just like the 57mm, 76mm, and 5″ guns currently in inventory.

  • Madcap_Magician

    Seems like another thing would be indirect fire capabilities for such a small solid fin-stabilized discarding sabot solid round. A round going Mach 7 would have a pretty flat trajectory pretty far out and be most effective as a direct-fire weapon. Seems terrain features would produce a lot of dead zones in the standoff role.

    • Kevin Harron

      I would think they could put whatever velocity they wanted on the projectile by varying the power input?

      Feed projectile arc into a ballistic computer advance enough, and boom. Optimum engagement power for the shell being used. Probably not alot more complicated than current ballistic computers, just a bigger data set.

      • Madcap_Magician

        I’m sure you’re right about the ability to change projectile velocity, but then wouldn’t that correspondingly reduce the damage from the round? We’re talking about a ship main gun that will drop a round that is only about two-thirds the weight of a 105mm howitzer shell and is nonexplosive, to boot.
        If you fired at an angle and velocity that would allow any indirect fire, seems you’d lose most of the advantages of a rail gun.

        • Kevin Harron

          I’m sure once they get the kinks worked out, the payload will be variable. Get maximum velocity first, and then work on variable payload. 🙂

          • Madcap_Magician

            That’s a good point… since the projectile was an APFSDS round, I am guessing the gun is a smoothbore. So there’s really no reason you couldn’t load and fire various different rounds, including explosive or guided missile (Like the old Sheridan light tank and the Shillelagh missile) at varying velocities and trajectories.

          • Kevin Harron

            Or a pinpoint trajectory calculated FAE round. 🙂

          • Stijn Vandamme

            It’s a rail gun not a smooth bore or a rifled bore.
            It’s an electromagnetic gun.. hence why the projectile is sent on it’s way in a square sabot.

          • Owl

            You do know you can bore a railgun too? The propulsion system can be independent of barrel type. I suspect that it may be bored due to the spin on the round. Or that could be due to the fins. Can’t really tell.

          • Stijn Vandamme

            You see the square round going in the back
            you see the square round coming out the muzzle and then the sabot discards.
            Square = not rifled.
            Res Ipsa loquitur.

            And either way , if the projectile has fins, t would not make sense to do that.
            you don’t need fins on a spinning round… and you don’t need spin on a finned projectile.

          • Owl

            So tell me again why is the round spinning then?

          • Stijn Vandamme

            it doesn’t spin coming out of the barrel, it only starts to spin as the sabot discards when the fins start to work.

            When i said you don’t need spin on a finned projectile, i implied spin from rifling.. not aerodynamic spin.

            just look at the bloody video man.. it’s a Square round going int, and it comes out square and the square object does not spin. Nothing spins till the sabot is discarded.

            1+1 =2

          • Owl

            Well, I did say the fins might have been what caused the spin and you shot THAT down offhand, and now you say that it was from the fins. Make up your mind.

          • Stijn Vandamme

            I never said the fins didn’t cause the spin you muppet.
            I only said that fins are proof that the barrel is not rifled something you did try to argue. Make up your mind, are you still arguing that this rail gun could have a rifled bore or not?

          • Owl

            Muppet yourself. My point was that the propulsion system is independent of the barrel type. You can have an electromagnetic propelled gun with a rifled barrel OR a smooth barrel, same as you can have a conventional chemical propelled round using a smooth bore OR rifled bore, so references to the propulsion type means nuts.

            Which means your original assertion of “It’s a rail gun not a smooth bore or a rifled bore.” is meaningless.

            This case though, you are probably right in that it is a smoothbore. But that does not mean all railguns or coilguns are smoothbore.

          • Stijn Vandamme

            It does not make sense one way or another to make a high powered rail gun and then rely on rifling to spin the projectile.

            If you say it “can be” show me 1 example of a working rail gun with a rifled bore or even a smooth bore.

          • Owl

            Like madcap and I already mentioned, this one is a smoothbore.

            You confused your propulsion type with your rifling type.

          • Stijn Vandamme

            it is not a smoothbore. a bore implies a round barrel, “bored”
            This thing shoots Square Sabots.

            you can’t drill a square hole with a round drill.

          • Owl

            /facepalm.

            Total fail. I give up, no point talking to an idiot who doesn’t know anything about the subject and is pretending knowledge.

            Just a hint. In firearms, smoothbore is not talking about hole shape, which is obvious when you consider that the opposite of “smoothbore” is “rifled” which is not a shape unless you are implying that the gun has a bore shaped like a rifle (which begs the joke question then of rifle shape “barrel first” or “profile”). It refers to the LINING of the barrel and if the projectile is imparted with gyroscopic stabilization from grooves in the barrel. It was NEVER about barrel shape. And if someone can make a mistake of this magnitude, he obviously does not know much of the subject matter.

            That’s the last I’m going to say about this subject, there is no point talking to someone not willing to listen or think.

          • Stijn Vandamme

            Show me 1 single example of a square gun barrel on a real life, working, production series gun.

            If you can show me that, i’ll be wrong
            If you can’t YOU are wrong.

            Guns barrels are round, because that’s the only thing that works when you got a physical projectile being propelled through a physical barrel. Hell Barrel itself implies roundness. It means “tube” and tubes are round.

            Again… Show me 1 example.

          • gunslinger
          • Stijn Vandamme

            Fair enough, in English it might work, in my language the word for tube menas it’s round.

            Either way, find me 1 example of a square gun barrel….

          • Owl
          • Stijn Vandamme

            lol.

            I said to you : “Show me 1 single example of a square gun barrel on a real life, working, production series gun.”

            You show me an antique one of a kind musket?
            That piece of shit probably never got fired let alone fired in anger.. cause if they did, it wouldn’t hit anything further then the tip of that bayonet.

            Is that all you can find? Is that a production series gun?

  • PatrickPJM

    I’ve always been puzzled by these projects. correct me if im wrong but it is still a dumb projectile right? Doesn’t that seem a bit counter intuitive to what the direction of the military over the past 40 years?

  • Stijn Vandamme

    So they are going to put Daleks on the helideck of a ship??

  • AnointedSword

    I bet the .45 only crowd will say, “need a bigger bullet!” Oo lol /peace Just kidding!

  • Jamie Clemons

    When do we see the hand held version?

  • Owl

    I’m rather sceptical of all these new-fangled railguns actually. You may call me old fashioned, but the reality as I see it is that these cost so much over what we currently can use that it is not likely to validate a replacement.
    By my (admittedly rough) maths, you would have a range of approximately 140km, similar to a Harpoon in land attack, but with a round that is so small and compact that ammo is not likely to be a problem, which is a good thing, but what about the under deck support needed for it? Not only weight, but also power generation. What do you need to power that gun? Nuclear? Or can Diesel powered generators do the trick? And at what cost?
    And why the JHSV? Wasn’t the original plan to use the Zumwalts as tech testbeds? Or too expensive again?

    • JHSV wasn’t projected to be doing anything more important, honestly. It’s just sea trials of the gun — not sea trials of the gun for operational service in an approved location after full ITD (Integrated Topside Design) process.
      .
      Why bother with limited sea trials instead of going straight to permanent installation? Simple:
      .
      A. The best scale for a test is 12″ to the foot.
      .
      B. You can do things at VACAPES range in the Atlantic you can’t do along the Potomac River (where the gun is currently installed).
      .
      C. Having to deal with it at sea, even in an NPC (Non-Permanent Change) test arrangement as illustrated, often yields significant data that laboratory EQT (Environmental Qualifications Testing) doesn’t pick up.

  • lenny46

    I am happy to see this invention leap from Science Fiction to New Super Weapon. Okay, you hit Mach 7, and use a sabot round. What kind of range does it have? Can you shoot a satellite out in space?