Sat, 18 Dec 2010 12:20:10 +0000
By David Gardner – Daily Mail – Dec 14, 2010
It will obliterate a target 100 miles away through sheer power using a bullet fired at eight times the speed of sound. That is, if everything goes according to plan. This supergun has been described as the most powerful in the world after tests at a U.S. Navy firing range.
A shot fired by the electromagnetic railgun at the Naval Surface Warfare Centre in Dahlgren, Virginia, generated 33 megajoules of force out of the barrel, a world record for muzzle energy and more than three times the previous record. A single megajoule is roughly equivalent to a one-ton car travelling at 100mph. The impact of the projectile hitting a target would be 33 times that force. The bullet would take just minutes to fire over 100 miles and would hit with pinpoint accuracy with a velocity that’s impossible in conventional guns. The hi-tech cannon fires a 20lb bullet or missile at a speed that is impossible in conventional guns. The makers claim it has pinpoint accuracy.
A high-speed camera image of the Electromagnetic Railgun firing a world-record setting 33 mega-joule shot on December 10, 2010 in Virginia. The black square is the shell as it is fried from the gun, the smoke behind is the trail it leaves
Currently, U.S. warships can only reach targets about 13 miles away, but the navy hopes the new gun will allow attacks from a much safer distance. Rear Admiral Nevin Carr, chief of naval research, said the gun could be aimed at a magazine on an enemy ship and ‘let his explosives be your explosives’. But it will be at least another five years – possibly ten – before the weapon is ready to be used on ships.
‘People see these things in the video games, but this is real,’ said programme manager Roger Ellis. ‘This is what is very historical.’
In Friday’s tests, the gun fired a bullet 5,500ft through the woods. The shell caused a small sonic boom before dropping harmlessly back to earth. But it was fired at a very low trajectory and scientists calculate it could have travelled up to 100 miles if fired at optimum trajectory. The main obstacle the navy is trying to overcome in its research is to build up sufficient charge to allow the gun to keep firing at supersonic speeds.
In Friday’s tests, it took about five minutes for the gun to power up before launching a bullet about 5,500ft through the woods, causing a small sonic boom before dropping harmlessly back to earth.
But it will probably be another ten years before the weapon is ready to be deployed on ships. By 2025, scientists say the technology will almost double the power of the gun, enabling it to send a bullet 200 miles in six minutes.