US plans at sea railgun tests in summer of 2016 and will explore installation on the third Zumwalt Destroyer

In 2016, Naval Sea Systems Command will conduct the first at sea test of its electromagnetic railgun, hurling a guided 44 pound projectile and hypersonic speeds off the coast of Florida, NAVSEA officials said on Tuesday.

The BAE Systems designed test weapon will be mounted on the newly delivered Joint High Speed Vessel USNS Trenton (JHSV-5) and taken to Eglin Air Force Base’s maritime test range off the Florida panhandle late in the summer of 2016. The Navy originally planned to use the JHSV USNS Millinocket (JHSV- 3) for the test.

“It’s a naval surface fire support demonstration, the Navy’s first to engage an over the horizon target [with a railgun],” Capt. Mike Ziv, NAVSEA’s program manager directed energy and electronic warfare program office told attendees at the Navy’ League’s Sea-Air-Space 2015 Exposition.

An artist rendering shows the Office of Naval Research-funded electromagnetic railgun installed aboard the joint high-speed vessel USNS Millinocket (JHSV- 3). US Navy Image

Officials expect to fire 20 shots from the EMRG on board Trenton ; the last five are expected to be aimed to hit targets anchored off the coast.

With the EMRG launcher on the flight deck, the rest of the system comprising the control van and pulsed power – housed in four 20-ft ISO shipping containers – will be placed below deck in Trenton ‘s mission bay. Cables will be routed from the pulsed power up to the gun via an existing flight deck access point. The containers are those used on the test range at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren in Virginia, Capt Ziv noted.

The Florida test will place a static floating target at a range of 25 to 50 nautical miles from the test ship and fire five GPS guided hyper velocity projectiles (HVP) at the target as the final part of 20 planned firings for the railgun at the Eglin range.

“It’s an over the horizon engagement. We’re firing on a ballistic trajectory and guiding into intercepting that target,” he said to reporters following the briefing.

“Eventually when we have a little bit more advancement in the projectile there will be some ability to communicate with [the round].”

As the program develops, the Navy is zeroing in on about 10,000-ton sized guided missile cruisers and destroyers as the anticipated platforms to field the weapons.
NAVSEA is currently conducting an in-depth study of including the railgun on the Zumwalt-class (DDG-1000) guided missile destroyers for the first platform for the weapon.

SOURCES- US Naval Institute, Janes