Thursday, December 23, 2010

Naval Rail Gun Fires at 7 Mach

As I have posted in the past, only the navy has the capacity to develop a rail gun and plausibly deploy it.

Here they are setting new records.  I am unsure what use a line of sight weapon will have.  We have so many other great ways to kill targets that are that close or that visible.  However, it certainly opens the door for eliminating incoming missiles.

In the event they are playing with the toy and maybe it may be useful someday.

By Rebecca BoylePosted 12.10.2010 at 4:39 pm

Railgun Test U.S. Navy

The Navy just broke its own record for an awesomely powerful railgun, which can hurl a projectile hundreds of miles at superfast speeds without using explosives.

Today's 33-megajoule shot — powerful enough to launch 33 Smart cars at 100 mph — means the Navy can fire projectiles at least 125 miles, keeping military personnel at a safe distance from their targets, according to the Office of Naval Research.

Rather than using an explosion to fire a bullet, the futuristic weapon uses an electromagnetic current to accelerate a projectile to March 7.5. The video pretty much says it all.

The eventual goal is a ship-mounted railgun that can fire a projectile more than 200 miles at speeds of more than 8,000 feet per second. A kinetic energy warhead would eliminate the use of hazardous explosives on ships and on the battlefield, the Navy says.

Today’s test beats the Navy’s previous record, set in 2008. The old video is still pretty impressive.

Schematic diagram of a railgun
railgun is an entirely electrical gun that accelerates a conductive projectile along a pair of metal rails using the same principles as thehomopolar motor. Railguns use two sliding or rolling contacts[1] that permit a large electric current to pass through the projectile. This current interacts with the strong magnetic fields generated by the rails and this accelerates the projectile.

The U.S. Navy has tested a railgun that accelerates a 3.2 kg (7 pound) projectile to 2.4 kilometers per second (7,875 feet per second).[2] They gave the project the motto, "Velocitas Eradico" which they translate as "Speed Destroys" but actually means "I am speed and I destroy".

Top gun: Navy's super sci-fi railgun declared most powerful on Earth

Once exclusively within the world of classic science fiction novels—like Robert A. Heinlein's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress"—the United States' Navy has brought the electronic railgun into the world of reality.

The technology for the railgun was first demonstrated in a MIT lab back in 1964. Also known as a "mass driver" the concept was used as a futuristic weapon in many different stories including the famous Heinlein novel.

The Office of Naval research demonstrated the power of the new weapon on December 10, 2010 by firing at a target using an astounding energy pulse of 33 megajoules to propel the projectile.

Megajoules are a unit of energy. One is about equal to the kinetic energy stored within 1-ton traveling at 100 miles per hour.

The railgun tested is a newly upgraded version of the gun. Two years ago it only managed abort a third of the current energy output.

Naval engineers stated that the super weapon was fired twice. The test took place at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Virginia.

The very first shot obliterated the world's record for muzzle energy. After a 5-minute power up of the tractor-trailer sized weapon, the first projectile exploded from the barrel generating a terrific force. The slug traveled 5,500 feet and effectively destroyed the wooden target. The speed burned the atmosphere about it and left a fiery trail like a meteor.

Very historical

During an interview with the Washington Post, railgun project manager Roger Ellis explained that people "see these things in the video games, but this is real. This is what is very historical."

Unlike conventional guns, a railgun operates on a different set of physics. It doesn't depend on explosive propellants or charges. Instead the futuristic weapon relies on a mammoth surge of electrical energy to shoot a slug from the barrel. According to naval engineers the projectile can reach speeds of Mach 8 and obliterate objects as far away as 100 miles.

Each time it's fired the railgun's projectile breaks the sound barrier creating a sonic boom that rolls across the countryside like ominous thunder.

Although the technology has been around for about half a century, until the last decade it was considered impractical. The concept of a railgun seemed more suited for use in space or on nearly airless planets or moons. The energy needed to propel a projectile any distance in atmosphere as dense as Earths was seen as unattainable.

Yet gradually the technology to generate fantastic amounts of energy bursts became available and once it was feasible the Navy began building experimental models of the railgun.

The need for speed

One advantage of a railgun is that no explosive warheads are used. The target is not destroyed by a warhead, but rather the kinetic energy built up by the speed and mass of the projectile.

This is same principle that's at play when a deep space object such as a large meteor or asteroid impacts the surface of a planet with the force of many hydrogen bombs detonating at once.

The Navy likes the fact that the weapon works without warheads. The need to carry explosive munitions on board their ships is therefore reduced and so are the odds of accidental detonations.

The Post reported that the chief of Naval Research, Rear Adm. Nevin P. Carr Jr., expects the railgun to be tested on ships at sea before 2018 and deployed as a defensive weapon sometime after 2020. The ONR sees one use as a defense against incoming cruise missiles.

Seeing that the Navy now has the fastest, most powerful gun in the world, they chose their project's Latin motto well: "velocitas eradico." 

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