US Navy buying $81 million in heat resistant batteries for hypersonic railguns

The U.S. Navy placed an $81.4 million order with K2 Energy Solutions Inc. for a battery system to power an electromagnetic railgun. K2 will design and build the lithium-ion storage system.

The U.S. Navy plans to install and test a prototype electromagnetic railgun aboard a joint high speed vessel in fiscal year 2016. The final operational system will be capable of launching guided, multi-mission projectiles to a range of 110 nautical miles against a wide range of threats.

The electromagnetic rail gun is designed to fire 10 rounds a minute without the use of propellants. General Atomics and BAE Systems Plc have built prototypes, and muzzle velocities may exceed Mach 6, the speed the projectiles leave the weapon.

K2 Energy designs a variety of energy storage systems based on its lithium iron phosphate cathode technology. The company’s proprietary batteries have undergone extensive testing and analysis, and results suggest a level of safety that is significantly better than other lithium ion battery chemistries.

The operating life of a battery, with HT (high temperature) technology, improves by as much as six times when compared to conventional lithium ion technology measured at 60 degrees C (140 degrees F).

The Electromagnetic Systems Group of General Atomics (GA-EMS) is actively working to bring electromagnetic railgun technology to the Department of Defense for multiple missions: integrated air and missile defense, surface fire support and anti-surface warfare.

GA-EMS has developed, built and successfully tested two railguns, the internally funded the Blitzer™ 3 MJ system and a 32 MJ launcher for the Office of Naval Research (ONR). GA-EMS also designed and built the pulse power supply for both guns and is developing projectiles for air and missile defense and precision strike.

GA-EMS is continuing the Blitzer family of railguns with a 10 MJ system designed for mobile and fixed land-based applications.

Railguns deliver muzzle velocities up to twice those of conventional guns, resulting in shorter time to target and higher lethality at greater range with no propellant required onboard the platform. Railguns offer much deeper magazines and lower cost per engagement compared with missiles of comparable range.

The scalability of the GA-EMS launcher and the modularity of the pulse power system enables deployment on a variety of platforms and delivers multi-mission capability from a single weapons system.

Three key factors make the K2 batteries more robust:

* Lithium iron phosphate batteries do not experience thermal runaway (the condition currently under examination in the aerospace industry)
* Battery packs built with K2 Energy’s cells prevent the spread of thermal or venting events.
* K2 Energy batteries have a more robust design than typical pouch cell batteries

Pouch cells (batteries packaged in polymer coated aluminum sheets) are used commonly in a variety of industries. However, when they are in close proximity to each other, pouch batteries can be susceptible to damage by thermal events originating in nearby batteries. As a result, a failure in one cell can easily spread, causing neighboring cells to experience thermal runaway, or release chemicals that can contribute to a fire.

K2 Energy has designed a solution where each battery is packaged in robust steel enclosures, preventing it from being affected by thermal damage from nearby batteries or external sources.