Railgun roadmap review

Electromagnetic Rail Gun (EMRG): Providing Greater Flexibility for the 21st Century (17 pages)
Initial operational capability of the EMRG at the full 64-MJ (megajoule) tactical energy level (222 NM) is projected for the 2020 to 2025 timeframe.

The current railgun development program has been firing a 33 megajoule railgun with muzzle velocities up to 7.5 mach.

The EMRG will provide Joint Forces a unique capability for volume fire at long range, enabling rapid engagement of a wide variety of targets including stationary structures, such as buildings and bridges, and relocatable targets, such as surface-to-air missiles for Suppression of Enemy Air Defense (SEAD) (Pifer et al. 2007). Current weapon systems, such as tactical aircraft (TACAIR) or cruise missiles, have comparable or greater ranges than a 64-MJ EMRG projectile at significantly greater costs, but cannot provide an equivalent volume of fires. Other Naval guns can provide volume of fires, but at significantly shorter ranges. The EMRG provides a truly unique capability for volume fire at long range and an ability to engage targets in a high-threat environment. The use of the EMRG enables rapid engagement of a wide range of target sets, while freeing up TACAIR and cruise missiles to concentrate on high-value targets that are not likely to be engaged effectively with first-generation EMRG weapon systems.

The high-altitude flight profile and steep attack angle of EMRG projectiles provide greater flexibility to attack targets effectively in mountainous terrain by using projectiles that are practically invulnerable to enemy counterattack. It is impractical for the enemy to engage EMRG projectiles as they descend into the target area. The projectile’s small size and extremely high velocity present a very difficult target and an unfavorable geometry to enemy defensive systems. In addition, the large number of EMRG projectiles will likely overcome any enemy defensive system. Future EMRG system development could enable an unprecedented capability to place rounds in a pre-determined pattern to dramatically increase target lethality over a wide range of potential threats.

Railgun Logistics Advantanges

The EMRG enables lean maneuver forces to move quickly to their objectives unburdened by the logistical tail associated with organic artillery. It will also dramatically reduce the quantity and associated cost of fuel required for aircraft and support vehicles ashore. Additionally, transport aircraft may be allowed to focus more on moving maneuver forces around the battlefield and less on transporting and resupplying their field artillery, particularly early in a conflict.

The cost of fuel and energy efficiency is taking on an increasing level of importance in the current fiscally burdened and resource-constrained environment. The importance will continue to grow during the “post-peak”oil production period that coincides with the projected 64-MJ EMRG initial operational capability (IOC) in the 2020 to 2025 timeframe. Post-peak is the era after global production of petroleum products has peaked and begins an irreversible decline. It is vital that the Department of Defense (DoD) begins to develop systems and build platforms that can put steel on target efficiently in the post-peak period. A brief discussion of the fully burdened cost of fuel (FBCF) and some impact on war fighters is provided.

The delivered cost for fuel has the following price tags:

* $4 per gallon for ships on the open ocean
* $42 per gallon for in-flight refueling
* Several hundred dollars per gallon for combat forces and FOBs deep within a battlespace (DSBTF 2008).

An EMRG launch is extremely fuel efficient. Even at a full tactical energy level of 64 MJ, an EMRG projectile requires the equivalent of only three gallons of fuel per launch. This represents a dramatic reduction as compared to the fuel requirements of TACAIR. In light of the FBCF, the use of an EMRG, where mission conditions allow, can result in a dramatic reduction in the total cost required to neutralize a significant number of mission critical target sets.

Benefits of Non-explosive Munitions

The EMRG will utilize a pure kinetic energy round without the use of any propellants or explosives. By eliminating explosive elements from the logistics tail, the EMRG will provide the following to the future warship:

* Ability to carry nearly 10 times the current number of on-board rounds within the same space as current magazines (i.e., from thousands to tens of thousands of rounds, depending on the platform being considered)

* Ability to store projectiles in a greater number of shipboard spaces, thus extending time on station and enabling at-sea replenishment of projectiles via vertical replenishment (VERTREP) or connected replenishment (CONREP)

* Reduction of the EMRG platform vulnerability by eliminating sympathetic detonations in the event of attack Improvement of the total volume of fires that can be provided from the sea

* Precision strike with minimal collateral damage

* Reduction in weight (typically required for magazine armor), fire fighting systems, thermal insulation, and life-cycle cost

* Significant flexibility provided to the US Navy warship designer, not possible with conventional explosive munitions

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