Register UK- The US Navy, continuing its quest for a hypervelocity cannon which might restore the big-gun dreadnought to its lost dominion over the seas, has carried out a new and record-breaking railgun test.
This latest trial firing pushed muzzle energy to a blistering 33 megajoules (MJ). The muzzle velocity, as in the previous 10 MJ test in 2008, was still approximately Mach 7.5, but the heavier projectile used this time carried much more kinetic energy: approximately enough to strike targets 100 miles away in an operational weapon, according to the Office of Naval Research (ONR). The ONR wants to achieve lab trials at 64 MJ, potentially offering 200 mile range with projectiles striking at Mach 5, before trying to build an actual weapon.
A railgun works by passing vast amounts of electricity from one rail to the other via an armature linking the two: this generates a huge force driving the armature down the rails and out of the end of the gun
A 64 MJ railgun permit a warship to pound targets far away below the horizon with unstoppable Mach 5 hypersonic hammerblows, lesser hypersonic cannon might also sweep the skies of pesky, merely-supersonic aircraft and missiles.
Another major advantage would be on offer for navy logistics. Rather than troublesome missiles or shells crammed with explosive warheads and propellants, the supply chain would only need to handle inert projectiles and some extra supplies of fuel for the ships’ engines. Railgun warships would be less prone to blowing up when hit in combat, too.
The new Royal Navy Type 45 destroyers, the first warship class to use electric transmission for main full-speed propulsion, can supply a bit more than 40 megawatts of ‘leccy. If fitted with one of the US ONR’s desired 64-MJ railguns, they could recharge it for another shot in a little over a second and a half, though this rate of firing would leave little juice left for propulsion.
At the other end of the spectrum, a US Navy Nimitz-class supercarrier has twin 550-megawatt nuclear reactors (though it doesn’t use electric transmission and so can’t deliver this in the form of ‘leccy). A railgun dreadnought built to the same outrageous scale would be able to ripple off 15 irresistible Mach-7 thunderbolts every second and still maintain steerage way.
Requirement in the current railgun project –
* 64 megajoules
* materials and ruggedization for 1000 shot lifetime
The US navy is also working on high energy lasers in the 100 kilowatt to megawatt power ranges, which would also help provide offensive capability as long as the nuclear reactors and systems were operating.
The full vision of railgun and high energy laser dominance would require railgun systems to last about 100,000+ shots.
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Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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