From research to railgun: Revolutionary weapon to debut at Future Force EXPO

January 13, 2015, Office of Naval Research
One of the two electromagnetic railgun prototypes on display aboard the joint high speed vessel USS Millinocket (JHSV 3) in port at Naval Base San Diego. The railguns are being displayed in San Diego as part of the Electromagnetic Launch Symposium, which brought together representatives from the US and allied navies, industry and academia to discuss directed energy technologies. Credit: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kristopher Kirsop/Released

The Electromagnetic Railgun—a weapon that will play a significant role in the future of the U.S. Navy—will be on display to the public for the first time on the East Coast Feb. 4-5 at the Naval Future Force Science and Technology (S&T) EXPO in Washington, D.C., officials at the Office of Naval Research (ONR) announced Jan. 13.

With Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Jonathan Greenert set as the event's keynote speaker on Feb. 4, the EXPO promises to be a window into the future of the U.S. Navy, showcasing the latest advances in power projection and force protection.

"This year's Expo will showcase the naval portfolio of innovative breakthrough technologies that are shaping our warfighting tactics today and changing the way our Sailors and Marines will operate in the future," said Chief of Naval Research (CNR) Rear Adm. Mat Winter. "The Electromagnetic Railgun is among several disruptive capabilities that the Naval Research Enterprise is championing to ensure a dominant, capable and relevant naval force for the future."

Experts from ONR, Naval Sea Systems Command and BAE Systems, Inc., will be on hand at the display and in breakout sessions to address the technical developments of the weapon.

The Railgun program continues to move swiftly toward scheduled at-sea testing in 2016. Its revolutionary technology relies on electricity instead of traditional chemical propellants, with magnetic fields created by high electrical currents launching projectiles at distances over 100 nautical miles—and at speeds that exceed Mach 6, or six times the speed of sound.

That velocity allows the weapon's projectiles to rely on kinetic energy for maximum effect, and reduces the amount of high explosives needed to be carried on ships. It also minimizes the dangers of unexploded ordnance remaining on the battlefield.

"The Electromagnetic Railgun brings significant technological advances to our Sailors and Marines," said Roger Ellis, program manager at ONR. "As the system moves forward along its planned schedule from the laboratory launcher, we've achieved breakthroughs in compact power and gun design, and will test the next phase of prototype at both sea- and land-based sites in 2016 and 2017."

The Naval Future Force S&T EXPO is the Navy's premier event to share information, discuss research opportunities and build science and technology partnerships between the Navy and Marine Corps, industry and academia. Formerly titled the Science and Technology Partnership Conference, the biennial event draws thousands of attendees from around the world.

In addition to the CNO and CNR, speakers will include Dr. Robert Ballard, acclaimed discoverer of the Titanic; Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development and Acquisition) the Honorable Sean Stackley; Nobel Prize winners; leaders from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Air Force, Army and many more.

Explore further: Historic leap: Navy shipboard laser operates in Persian Gulf

More information: www.onr.navy.mil/en/Conference … ture-Force-Expo.aspx

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TheGhostofOtto1923
2.6 / 5 (5) Jan 13, 2015
If ever this could be fitted on a plane it would make an effective bunker buster weapon. Perhaps even an installation protected to the extent of cheyenne mountain could be at risk.
gkam
3.5 / 5 (6) Jan 13, 2015
We could have used that money for mag-lev trains, like the civilized nations do, instead of wasting it on more killing devices.
big_hairy_jimbo
5 / 5 (1) Jan 13, 2015
@Ghost, what about the recoil from such a weapon when fired from a plane?
Surely this couldn't beat mass and high explosives dropped from altitude using cavitation to reduce drag??
gkam
3 / 5 (4) Jan 13, 2015
Does otto not understand F = M A, . . . in both directions???
cdt
5 / 5 (2) Jan 14, 2015
Does otto not understand F = M A, . . . in both directions???


A 300,000 kg plane traveling at 700 km/hour, firing a 1000kg projectile off at 7000 km/hour would experience a net change in speed of about 23 km/hour. Abruptly, to be sure. Lower the weight of the projectile to 100kg and the change would be a mere 2.3 km/h. The only question is whether an airplane can be designed to handle such a jolt. I'm betting the answer will ultimately be "yes", at least for the lighter projectiles. And while I agree that's not the best use of public funds, I have a feeling we will find out one way or another in time.
MrVibrating
5 / 5 (4) Jan 14, 2015
100Kg still seems pretty hefty for a projectile. My only objection to Otto's suggestion would be that bunker busters rely on actively ploughing their way through defenses - getting through with residual KE alone would be the difficutly.

As for recoil, railguns offer the opportunity to control the acceleration curve, which could be shaped to mitigate recoil effects.

The other benefit that comes to mind would be the potential for much higher rates of fire thanks to the absence of spent casings to dispense with.

Gotta admit though, the future of naval warfare seems every bit as hellish as its past for those caught up in it...
alfie_null
5 / 5 (3) Jan 14, 2015
We could have used that money for mag-lev trains, like the civilized nations do, instead of wasting it on more killing devices.

How much money have we spent? For comparison, how much money have we spent on watching hobbits? Or watching groups of guys chasing a ball and banging into each other.

Can we be assured none of the other uncivilized nations will develop this technology. A conundrum, to be sure, but burying one's head in the sand isn't a solution.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.2 / 5 (5) Jan 14, 2015
@Ghost, what about the recoil from such a weapon when fired from a plane?
Surely this couldn't beat mass and high explosives dropped from altitude using cavitation to reduce drag??
C130 gunships are already fitted with howitzers which accomodate recoil. You fail to appreciate the amazing powers of real engineers.
gkam
1 / 5 (2) Jan 14, 2015
How many 660,000 pound fighter planes are there?

I used to watch the XB-70 take off at over 300,000 pounds and it was huge. It was also fast.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 14, 2015
How many 660,000 pound fighter planes are there?

I used to watch the XB-70 take off at over 300,000 pounds and it was huge. It was also fast.
I know I know. And you also insulted chuck yeager to his face. And these things qualify you as an aeronautical engineer... because you say so.

The AC130 has a max. takeoff weight of 155,000 lb. Whered you get the 660.000# and what does it have to do with youre knowing anything about weapons or aircraft design? And why would a fighter plane need to be this heavy?
gkam
1 / 5 (2) Jan 14, 2015
Mach six? Pete Knight flew that fast in an airplane, then brought it down, and deadsticked it down on the lakebed. In1967.
jwozniak
not rated yet Jan 17, 2015
Given the velocity at which a railgun hurls a projectile, you don't need the kind of heavy shells conventional naval guns fire. Lightweight ammo made of composites would be capable of inflecting max damage. Ships could carry more. And I must say, the weapon in question is a science fiction geeks dream toy, lol.
kulashaker
not rated yet Jan 17, 2015
My understanding is that railguns accelerate a projectile as long as the projectile remains within the machine. That is - the longer the rail, the faster the projectile. So it seems unlikely this is something that will find itself on a plane. Its just too big.
scidog
5 / 5 (2) Jan 18, 2015
if we are showing this to the world what do we have in the back room that will make the rail gun look like a toy when we unleash it.
gkam
2 / 5 (4) Jan 18, 2015
Railguns are not a new idea, it is just that they are now more formalized. They have been seen as potential boosters for spacecraft launches, and used field coils which were exploded and compressed at activation to increase the field density.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (4) Jan 18, 2015
Railguns are not a new idea, it is just that they are now more formalized. They have been seen as potential boosters for spacecraft launches, and used field coils which were exploded and compressed at activation to increase the field density.
You should read the entire wiki article before commenting.
rgw
1 / 5 (2) Feb 10, 2015
We could have used that money for mag-lev trains, like the civilized nations do, instead of wasting it on more killing devices.


Oh my god! and what about the children!? The only 'civilized' nations on this Earth owe their existence to the US.

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