The EM Railgun launcher is a long-range naval weapon that fires projectiles using electricity instead of traditional gun propellants such as explosive chemicals. Magnetic fields created by high electrical currents accelerate a sliding metal conductor, or armature, between two rails to launch projectiles at 4,500-5,600 mph.
The Navy is pursuing development of the launcher system through two industry teams—General Atomics and BAE Systems—to reduce risk in the program and to foster innovation in next-generation shipboard weapons.
“It’s exciting to see how two different teams are both delivering very relevant but unique launcher solutions,” said Roger Ellis, EM Railgun program manager.
Both General Atomics and BAE Systems are commencing work on concept designs for a next-generation prototype EM Railgun capable of increased firing rates. This includes continued development of automatic projectile loading systems and thermal management systems for the barrel. Officials plan to evaluate the concept designs at the end of the year.
The current prototypes operate at 33 megajoules.