Railgun potentially cancelled: what went wrong for the US superweapon?

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Railgun’s power consumption and degradation major stumbling blocks

The project faced two major complications. The weapon takes a colossal amount of power to fire, and it tears itself apart with use.

To date railgun demonstrations, while impressive, have not demonstrated an ability to fire multiple full power shots from the same set of rails. In a March 2014 statement, Chief of Naval Research Admiral Matthew Klunder claimed the weapon’s durability had increased from tens of shots to over 400. However, the ONR refused to confirm if these 400 shots were at the weapon’s maximum capacity.

The railgun’s power concerns are currently making it available on one new class of US destroyer. The problem is that the only ships that will be able to generate the 25 megawatts of power (enough to power almost 19,000 homes) required to fire the railgun are the Zumwalt-class destroyers, and only three will be produced due to budget considerations, down from the originally planned 32.

HVP preferred due to compatibility with conventional weapons

For a short-term solution to the railgun question, the navy has discovered it can fire the railgun projectiles out of conventional warship cannons. In 2012 the Navy fired the railgun projectile out of 5-inch powder guns already mounted on many US warships. The HVP has also been tested in 6-inch guns and 155mm Army howitzers. While it wouldn’t achieve the velocity in the EM railgun of Mach 6, it still travels twice as fast as conventional rounds.

The US is not the only country developing railguns. India, Russia, China, and Turkey have all tested prototypes.

[via Naval Technology]

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Railgun US Navy Electromagnetic HVP