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January 18, 2007

Navy Successfully Tests Hypervelocity-Bullet Railgun; Says Weapon Is Ready Right Now For The Field, They Just "Want To Make It Better"

One bullet that packs all the kinetic punch of a Tomahawk cruise missile.

Normally, new weaponry tends to make defense more expensive. But the Navy likes to say its new railgun delivers the punch of a missile at bullet prices.

A flashy demonstration of the futuristic and comparatively inexpensive railgun weapon Tuesday at the Naval Surface Warfare Center had Navy brass smiling.

The weapon, which was successfully tested in October at the King George County base, fires nonexplosive projectiles at incredible speeds, using electricity rather than gun powder.

The technology could increase the striking range of U.S. Navy ships more than tenfold by the year 2020.

...

"The biggest thing is it's real not just something on the drawing board," he said. "It could go to the field right now. We just want to improve it, to make it better."

You're going to wait 13 years just "to make it better"? Eh, who can comprehend the decisions these guys make.

...

The railgun's 200 to 250 nautical-mile range will allow Navy ships to strike deep in enemy territory while staying out of reach of hostile forces.

Rear Adm. William E. "Bill" Landay, chief of Naval Research, said Navy railgun progress from the drawing board to reality has been rapid.

"A year ago, this was (just) a good idea we all wanted to pursue," he said.

Elizabeth D'Andrea of the Office of Naval Research said a 32-megajoule lab gun will be delivered to Dahlgren in June.

...

The projectile fired Tuesday weighed only 3.2 kilograms and had no warhead.

Future railgun ordnance won't be large and heavy, either, but will deliver the punch of a Tomahawk cruise missile because of the immense speed of the projectile at impact.

Garnett compared that force to hitting a target with a Ford Taurus at 380 mph.

"It will take out a building," he said.

Warheads aren't needed because of the massive force of impact.

The range for 5-inch guns now on Navy ships is less than 15 nautical miles, Garnett said. He said the railgun will extend that range to more than 200 nautical miles and strike a target that far away quickly in 6 minutes. A Tomahawk missile covers that same distance in 8 minutes.

Garnett said specifications call for each railgun to be capable of firing four to six times a day, but he expects to reach a maximum of 10 times per day.

The Navy isn't estimating a price tag at this point, with actual use still about 13 years away. But it does know it will be a comparatively cheap weapon to use.

"A Tomahawk is about a million dollars a shot," McGettigan said.

He said estimates today are that railgun projectiles will cost less than $1,000 each, "but it's going to depend on the electronics."

The improvements they want are a GPS course adjustment system with moveable tailfins and the like -- and that will be expensive, given the massive stress each projectile will be subject to.

Why all that? Because it's not, as I first figured, primarily a direct fire weapon. At long ranges it will arc into the upper atmosphere like a ballistic missile.

Still -- at prices at least 1000 times lower than that of a cruise missile, can't you afford to just miss a couple of times?

Thanks to tmi3rd.



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posted by Ace at 09:42 PM

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