US Navy on track for operationally capable railgun by 2019

The US Navy has been testing railguns at 20 megajoules and at 5 shots per minute. They will be increasing to 20 megajoules and 10 shots per minutes by the end of this year and then at 32 megajoules next year. These will be 35 pound metal projectiles moving at Mach 5.8.

In May 2017, they expect by 2019 they will be able to fire ten shots per minute with barrels lasting 1,000 shots before the barrel wears out under the enormous pressures. The Navy will then be integrating the railguns onto the few ships that have the power systems to power them.

The US Navy has mostly addressed several of the needed technological developments for railguns.

Initial rep-rate fires (repetition rate of fires) of multi-shot salvos already have been successfully conducted at low muzzle energy. The next test sequence calls for safely increasing launch energy, firing rates and salvo size. Railgun rep-rate testing will be at 20 megajoules by the end of the summer and at 32 megajoules by next year. To put this in perspective, one megajoule is the equivalent of a one-ton vehicle moving at 160 miles per hour.

This will enable railguns with 100 miles of range and projectiles that cost $25000 and use kinetic energy instead of explosives. This will allow for a thousand shots to be carried at a cost of $25 million (and then the replacement of the barrel) compared to about 25 missiles that each cost a million dollars.

By the end of 2017 they expect to reach the goal of 10
shots per minute.
Once they’ve reached the 10-round a minute rate, Dahlgren will switch focus to barrel life. A decade ago, experimental railguns often wore out their barrel with a single shot. With new materials better able to endure the intense stresses, the barrels on the current test weapons can last for hundreds of shots before requiring replacement —roughly how long a battleship’s 16′′ barrels lasted back in World War II. The goal is a barrel that lasts 1,000 rounds.

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