Railguns the U.S. Navy Way

    Odds are I’m not the only one here who has experimented with a number of (legal) homemade creations. My list runs the gamut from the unique (trebuchet) to the expected (potato gun) but there’s one weapon one should only take on with at least a decent working knowledge of electricity: the railgun. Now, I’m willing to bet there are a few of you out there who have attempted to make your own railgun, large or small, at some point, and others who are heading to Google right now to take a look at how to make one (Disclaimer: no, I’m not encouraging anyone to play with electricity a la Ben Franklin and a kite). Railguns are pretty cool both from a scientific standpoint and from a destructive one, but they can absolutely be dangerous, and I’m not just talking about the speeds at which they deploy projectiles. The science behind them is actually fairly simple at its basest level: an electromagnetic current runs down the length of one of two parallel rails, hops a ride across on an armature, and zips back up the other rail to complete the circuit. The kinetic energy generated launches projectiles at incredible velocities; best of all, said projectile doesn’t need to have explosive capabilities to annihilate targets. There are a lot of possibilities from the most basic railgun, and now the U.S. Navy is taking steps to turn railguns into truly impressive weapons.

    The Navy has been working on their railgun for awhile and there have been periodic updates here and there, but now a working model has finally been put on display. At the Future Force Science and Technology Expo over the first weekend of February, the Navy gave a demonstration of their railgun – or, at least, the one they’re willing to show the public. Their electromagnetic railgun is capable of firing projectiles at speeds up to mach 7 at distances of up to 110 miles away. Some of the best coverage of the event came from Foxtrot Alpha, who had the following to say about the impressively destructive display:

    “Even though the EM Railgun looks massive to spectators, the truth is that it is finally in a size that will make it applicable to the Navy’s inventory of surface combatants. With this in mind, the Railgun is set for sea trials aboard the Joint High-Speed Vessel USNS Millinocket in 2016, although this will not be a permanent installation. There is some serious talk about integrating the weapon onto the third DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class Destroyer, DDG-1002 USS Lyndon B. Johnson.”

    There are quite a few implications of these advances but perhaps the most important for myriad reasons is the fact that using a railgun in this manner would do away with the need to create, transport, and handle explosive payloads. Of course, the electricity involved isn’t exactly harmless, but the Navy’s railgun display gives us a fascinating and flat-out cool peek at the future of combat. If you want to see for yourself, take a look at the video below.

    Author’s note: Playing with electricity can be more than a little dangerous, so please don’t take this as encouragement to create your own railgun.

    TFB Staffer

    TFB Staff, bringing you the latest gun news from around the world for a decade.