The US Navy’s railgun may never make it out of development as the weapon’s problems have seen it fall out of favour with the Pentagon.
The electromagnetic railgun has been in development for over a decade and has costed an estimated $500m, but according to recent reports from military veteran news outlet Task & Purpose, it could finally have the plug pulled on development.
The Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO), tasked with accelerating military technology’s development and deployment to the battlefield, appears to have fallen behind other priorities. While interest still remains in the hypervelocity projectile (HVP) being developed as the railgun’s ammunition, the project could be terminated as early as 2019. The HVP’s ability to be fired from conventional powder guns has won it preferred status in the SCO, as it would be more quickly transferable to current frontline operations.
BAE Systems and General Atomics were the main contractors to the US Navy to develop the railgun. Railguns are being researched as weapons that would use neither explosives nor propellant, but rather rely on electromagnetic forces to impart a very high kinetic energy to a projectile. The absence of explosive propellants or warheads to store and handle, as well as the low cost of projectiles compared to conventional weaponry, come as additional advantages.
In late 2013, BAE also received a $33.6m contract from ONR to develop and demonstrate a HVP – a next-generation, guided projectile capable of completing multiple missions for the Electromagnetic Railgun.