Ruin on Rails: The US Navy’s Rail Gun Project


BAE briefing

August 04/17: A new 10 mega joule medium-range multi-mission railgun developed by General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems is ready for testing, according to the company. Designed to provide multi-mission, multi-domain capability with greater flexibility and a smaller footprint for ship, land and mobile platforms, the firm stated that field testing of the system will be conducted at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, however, they did not disclose when the system will be tested. The railgun integrates a High Energy Pulsed Power Container, 10 MJ launcher, hypersonic hybrid missile, and fire control technologies. The HEPPC uses next-generation railgun capacitors and a new approach to packaging and distribution of the energy in a smaller footprint than existing pulsed power solutions.


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The concept (click to view full) Back in March 2006, BAE Systems received a contract for “design and production of the 32 MJ Laboratory Launcher for the U.S. Navy.” Some hint of what they are talking about can be gleaned from the name. BAE isn’t the only firm that’s working on this program, which the US Navy sees as its gateway to a game-changing technology. The project is an electro-magnetic rail gun, which accelerates a projectile to incredibly high speeds without using explosives. The attraction of such systems is no mystery – they promise to fire their ammunition 10 or more times farther than conventional naval gun shells, while sharply reducing both the required size of each shell, and the amount of dangerous explosive material carried on board ship. Progress is being made, but there are still major technical challenges to overcome before a working rail gun becomes a serious naval option. This DID FOCUS article looks at the key technical challenges, the programs, and the history of key contracts and events. Rail Guns: Concept & Technology Developments BAE’s EMRG gun & ammo mock-up (click to view full) As a BAE release put it: “An electro-magnetic railgun uses electrical energy […]

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