China may have secret railgun programs that have caught up with the USA

Popular Science is reporting that China has secret railgun and electromagnetic launcher programs that are competitive with the United States.

Above is the US 32 megajoule railgun undergoing rapid fire testing

Landbased electromagnetic launchers have been photographed undergoing tests in China. There had not been any indication that China had a competitive railgun program.

China’s landbased electromagnetic launcher

The US has been the leader in Railgun testing and has placed an electromagnetic plane and drone launcher onto its most recent supercarrier.

The United States Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division demonstrated an 8 MJ railgun firing 3.2 kg (7.1 lb) projectiles in October 2006 as a prototype of a 64 MJ weapon to be deployed aboard Navy warships. A BGM-109 Tomahawk will deliver 3,000 MJ of destructive energy to a target but railguns shots are a fraction of the cost of a missile and will be much harder to shoot down versus future defensive systems. The Rheinmetall 120mm gun used on main battle tanks generates 9 MJ of muzzle energy. A Mark 8 round fired from the 16-inch guns of an Iowa-class battleship at 2,500 ft/s (762 m/s) has 356 MJ of kinetic energy at the muzzle.

BAE Systems has delivered a 32 MJ prototype (muzzle energy) to the U.S. Navy. The same amount of energy is released by the detonation of 4.8 kg (11 lb) of C4.

In July, 2017, Tom Beutner, head of Naval Air Warfare and Weapons for the Office of Naval Research indicated that within 12 months the railgun program would achieve ten shots per minute at 32 megajoules.

Recently, Rear Admiral Ma Weiming told Chinese experts in electromagnetic research that China has made breakthroughs in key areas of electromagnetic applications, such as railguns and electromagnetic-assisted launch system (EMALS) catapults.

The EMALS catapult is likely to equip the second domestically built 002 aircraft carrier, which will likely be launched sometime after 2020. In November 2017, it was reported that the Chinese Navy had developed a new means of powering electromagnetic catapults with conventional power sources instead of nuclear reactors, and construction of the Type 002 was due to begin imminently.

In 2016, retired Rear Admiral Zhao Dengping discussed plans for a follow-up warship to the Type 055; a “Universal Combatant Ship” that would be equipped with laser, railguns, and, most intriguingly, electromagnetically assisted missile launchers, which could increase missile range.

China has desire, technical and financial resources for solid directed energy and railgun programs

National Interest indicated US experts believe China is likely making substantial progress in directed-energy devices, based on efforts being made and the resources available. China also has effective espionage and can purchase western technology and companies.