A demonstration of the futuristic and comparatively inexpensive weapon yesterday at the Naval Surface Warfare Center at Dahlgren had Navy brass smiling.
The weapon, which was successfully tested in October at the King George County base, fires nonexplosive projectiles at incredible speeds, using electricity rather than gun powder.
The technology could increase the striking range of U.S. Navy ships more than tenfold by the year 2020.
“It’s pretty amazing capability, and it went off without a hitch,” said Capt. Joseph McGettigan, commander of NSWC Dahlgren Division.
“The biggest thing is it’s real–not just something on the drawing board,” he said. “It could go to the field right now. We just want to improve it, to make it better.”
The prototype is an 8-megajoule device, and a 32 megajoule prototype is to be delivered this summer. The proposed 150mm production gun will have a barrel energy of 64 megajoules and a range of 200 to 250 miles. It will be cover that distance in about six minutes, and the warheads will not be explosive. The kinetic energy delivered to the target will be plenty.
Recoil on these weapons will be less than that of current 5″ naval rifles, which means that the rail guns could conceivably be mounted on a very large variety of platforms. As long as the juice is available.
The article says that specifications call for the weapon to be able to fire four to six times per day but that the developer expects to be able to reach ten shots per day. I thought that everything I’ve read previously indicated a rather high firing rate, along the lines of ten shots per minute of sustained fire. (This DoD .pdf from 2003 seems to claim 6-12 shots per minute.) I have trouble buying this “ten shots per day” claim, as the use of such a weapon would be fairly limited. Is it possible that the writer mixed up “per day” and “per minute”?
I can see it now: Marines ashore are under fire and they call in for support. The first round is off by 50 meters, and they radio in a correction. “No problem,” the DD(X) responds. “Next shot in 144 minutes!”