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Thread: Navy Test Fires First Working Prototype Railgun.

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    Navy Test Fires First Working Prototype Railgun.

    Video of the test fire within the link.


    The Navy’s futuristic railgun is one step closer to becoming a reality.

    Navy officials told FoxNews.com this week that the railgun, which relies on magnets rather than explosives to fire bullets at several times the speed of sound, had blasted through budget constraints that are leaving federal research programs in Washington at the drawing board.

    “I think it is a great example of how our naval science and technology -- in these tough fiscal times -- can be responsive to the military’s emerging needs,” said Adm. Matthew Klunder, Chief of Naval Research for the Office of Naval Research (ONR), which has been developing the electromagnetic railgun since 2005.

    He insisted that not only will the railgun fire projectiles faster and farther than any weapon now known to man, but “in these fiscal times of belt tightening … [it’s] a more cost-effective system.”

    How so? For one, because the gun and the storage of its projectiles (which are not incendiary, and weigh about 40 pounds each -- smaller and less expensive than today’s missiles) ultimately will take up less space than traditional weapons systems.

    In addition, rather than relying on chemical propellants like gunpowder, the railgun uses an electromagnetic pulse to create strong magnetic fields that propel the conductive bullet on a sliding metal sled and out of the barrel -- at 4,500 to 5,000 miles per hour and as far as 100 nautical miles away in about 5 minutes, with possible future expansion to 220 miles, according to ONR.

    The Navy’s most advanced shipboard gun in operation today, the 5-inch,54-caliber lightweight gun, has a range of about 13 nautical miles, Klunder said. The Advanced Gun System (AGS), which is currently being developed for the Navy’s Zumwalt-class destroyer, is expected to have a range of nearly 60 nautical miles.

    “We’re still talking about four times the range,” said Klunder, calling it “leap-ahead technology.”

    “This is the stuff you saw in movies a couple of years ago -- cutting edge, taking out the Transformers -- and now it’s reality,” he added.

    Well, almost.

    On Feb. 26, ONR announced that it was getting ready to test the gun’s first prototype, built by private defense contractor BAE Systems, at the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) in Dahlgren, Va. Another prototype built by General Atomics is expected to arrive at Dahlgren in the coming weeks.

    ONR began firing railgun slugs in its laboratories in 2008, but this is the first time the Navy has tested the gun from a launcher that resembles what the final weapon system will look like, Roger Ellis, the EM Railgun program officer, said in an interview.

    It will also indicate what the weapon can do. According to ONR, BAE initiated its tests in February, firing at 20-megajoules and planning for a 32-megajoule test soon after. (A megajoule of energy is equivalent to a one-ton car traveling at 100 miles per hour.)

    “We’ve made a lot of progress, to say the least,” Ellis said. “It’s a significant step beyond previous laboratory-based launchers. [The lab models] were nothing you could put on a Navy ship ... this is closer to the fit and form of what we could put on a ship someday.”

    The clear advantage to a long-range gun, of course, is to provide cover for soldiers and Marines operating in coastal areas from a safe distance at sea, and for anti-missile/aircraft capabilities. The longer the range the technology offers, the more strategic it becomes, offering the Navy new abilities to hit other targets on water and land, ONR officials said.

    But there are potential obstacles, too. So far, Congress has been supportive of the railgun program, though it barely survived a snag last June. In passing its version of the FY2012 defense authorization bill, the Senate Armed Services Committee eliminated funding for the project, citing technical challenges related “to the power required and the barrel of the gun having limited life.”

    Though these concerns did not stop the program from getting funding, thanks to the railgun’s friends on Capitol Hill, they highlight a number of unresolved issues, not the least of which is how the barrel will withstand repeated, massive explosions -- and creating a projectile with a guidance system that will be able to endure the ensuing heat and velocity.

    Ellis told reporters in a Feb. 28 press conference that Phase II of the program, which begins now, will concentrate on improving the barrel’s lifespan and developing the repetition rate -- how many times in a row the railgun can be fired successfully. The goal is 10 rounds per minute. That means having enough energy stored to fire it up to “pulsed power” that quickly, for multiple rounds.

    The energy question is a big one, as experts have said the amount of electricity necessary to operate the railgun at 32 megajoules would require a ship that that can generate enough power, one that doesn’t yet exist. It may be the massive Zumwalt class DDG-1000 destroyer, which is now being designed as a multi-mission ship at a price tag of $3.3 billion per ship.

    Ellis said ONR is working on a battery system that would mitigate the problem by storing up energy much like the batteries used in hybrid vehicles, allowing the Navy to position the guns on both “new and existing platforms” and still get the pulsed power necessary to operate at optimum levels.

    Phase II is expected to end in 2017, at which time the railgun, if complete, would go into a funding and acquisition phase that will take the project to full deployment on Navy ships by 2025, though there are hopes for a slightly shorter timeline, Ellis said.

    So far, the railgun has cost taxpayers $240 million in research and design costs, according to ONR. Ellis said the project has been “adequately funded” for Phase II and should come in at a similar price tag.

    “(Congress) did ask for a better understanding of the future of the railgun, and we are comfortable that the information we have provided will help them understand the benefits of the program,” Klunder said. "The prototype railgun is now functioning and successful and we hope this helps to increase overall confidence in the significance of the program.”

    Read more: It's real! Navy test-fires first working prototype railgun | Fox News
    It's real! Navy test-fires first working prototype railgun | Fox News

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    Battleship Enthusiast Defense Professional USSWisconsin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by erik View Post
    it looks a little like an old battleship gun from the 19th century
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    "If your plan is for one year, plant rice. If your plan is for ten years, plant trees.
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    Quote Originally Posted by USSWisconsin View Post
    it looks a little like an old battleship gun from the 19th century
    Name:  railgun01.jpg
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    And you would need a ship the size of a Battleship to carry it, plus its generators and the "engines" to turn the generators. At the range it can supposedly shoot, what kind of targeting computer will be needed to allow for wind drift, movement of the Earth underneath the flight path, re-entry into the atomosphere, etc.?

    I think the best use for this gun is NOT long range firepower but high velocity drilling of holes in the side of a volcano to release magma pressure from blowing up an Island or covering a city in molten lava (as in Iceland where the US Navy provided pumps to cool down a wall of lava from burying a small city).
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    A DDG-1000 destroyer at 3.3 billion dollars!!! What did the CV Bush cost? Around 5 billion? In my mind there is something seriously wrong with our defense procurement systems when a destroyer costs 3.3 billion dollars a piece. That is absolutely insane...

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    Defense Professional RustyBattleship's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tbm3fan View Post
    A DDG-1000 destroyer at 3.3 billion dollars!!! What did the CV Bush cost? Around 5 billion? In my mind there is something seriously wrong with our defense procurement systems when a destroyer costs 3.3 billion dollars a piece. That is absolutely insane...
    Yes, it seems insane. But there is an historical reason for this. Electronics started growing so rapidly from the 1950's until today that WW II classes of Destroyers needed major modifications to fit everything in. And I mean EVERYTHING. As our Navy got smaller in numbers of ships, Destroyers were being converted to be multi-taskers. They had to have the latest in Aircraft defense (Sea Sparrow missiles), ship to ship engagement (guns and/or torpedoes) and anti-submarine weaponry (depth charges and torpedoes).

    It was fitting 12 pounds of potatoes in a 10 pound sack.

    So to retain their multi-funtional roles, they had to be bigger. Lots bigger such as a Spruance class Destroyer was as big as a light Cruiser of WW II vintage (but without any armor).

    Also, with all the new gizmos, doo-hickies and blivits the ships were running out of room for a crew. So almost every system on a ship is now controlled by pushing buttons and twisting dials. It will come to a point (most likey in your lifetime and possibly in mine) that a ship will only have 12 human beings on board (four for each 8 hour shift) to monitor the dials, buzzers and video screens. Once in a while they may need to physically switch over to back up lubricating system number 3 to automatically keep grease around the bearings of a motor.

    Or hit the off button (aka PANIC button) should the impossibe ever go wrong -- beep -- ever go wrong -- beep -- ever go --beeeeep.
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    Battleship Enthusiast Defense Professional USSWisconsin's Avatar
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    Just wait until the master computer decides that some fully loaded cruise ship is hostile - and the warship goes into combat mode and sinks it - to protect itself - not allowing any overrides from the ride along crew - then it moves in and gattles the surviors in the water and lifeboats with CIWS. Racing around the sinking site at full throttle grinding up the few it missed with its turbine props.

    Dr Daystrom - M5 just killed a friendly...
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    Do you see the technology advancing enough to one day be fitted onto an MBT?
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    i've seen some old RMA advocates thinking (well, more like mentally masterbating) about railguns on MBTs since the mid-90s. seems like fusion technology-- one of those things that will always remain 20-30 years off!
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    Battleship Enthusiast Defense Professional USSWisconsin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigross86 View Post
    Do you see the technology advancing enough to one day be fitted onto an MBT?
    The system needs big capacitor banks (the blue things behind the gun) - and more than one bank if it wants to fire fast, big generators or alternators to recharge those capacitors (it takes a few minutes now - so 10 rpm sustained means about 20 or 30 of those banks for one gun - plus the generaters to recharge each of them), great big soliniod switches (these are on the left side of the blue capacitors) and the gun itself - and hefty cooling to allow rapid fire. It sounds like a system for a large ship, I don't know how they can shrink the power supply with technology in sight or on the drawing board - explosive capacitance? - sounds like an extremely expenisive approach to a solution that a conventianal AGS gun could already provide).
    If a railgun MBT is going to have as many rounds ready as a conventional version - it will need to be huge.
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    Defense Professional Dreadnought's Avatar
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    It all starts out very large, then becomes small enough to probably fit in either a DDG or CG hull. Microtech has been the trend since the 90's. Give them time.

    If we actually think about it, whats to stop them from creating an unmanned ship to carry it by remote? Its not like they havent remoted ships as they did in WWII. In this day and ages sensors, cameras and comms its completely feasable for them to do just that. Fore go the crews living spaces and such and just make it a remote weapons platform.
    Last edited by Dreadnought; 29 Feb 12, at 23:08.
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    Making progress. Is it just me or does the admiral's eyes light up with a crazed look of mayhem when talking about what the projectile can do?



    Last edited by citanon; 08 Apr 14, at 02:46.

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    All I know is that if your going to take out a supersonic or better missle in the future then that gun better be "chain lightning" in train, elevation and firing rate and certainly able to take damage for the one that gets through.
    Fortitude.....The strength to persist...The courage to endure.

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    Where do the flames come from if there are no propellants or gunpowder?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blademaster View Post
    Where do the flames come from if there are no propellants or gunpowder?
    My guess would be the immense friction of the projectile going down the barrel, or the air igniting from same. No idea if that's it though.
    Far better it is to dare mighty things, than to take rank with those poor, timid spirits who know neither victory nor defeat ~ Theodore Roosevelt

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    Quote Originally Posted by TopHatter View Post
    My guess would be the immense friction of the projectile going down the barrel, or the air igniting from same. No idea if that's it though.
    That was my initial thought but I wanted to confirm it first, hence my question.

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