from the Gauss-him?-I-just-met-him! dept.
Allen McDuffee writes the US Navy's latest weapon is an electromagnetic railgun launcher that can hurl a 23-pound projectile at speeds exceeding Mach 7 with a range of 100 miles turning a destroyer into super-long-range machine gun able to fire up to a dozen relatively inexpensive projectiles every minute. The Navy says the cost differential $25,000 for a railgun projectile versus $500,000 to $1.5 million for a missile will make potential enemies think twice about the economic viability of engaging U.S. forces. "[It] will give our adversaries a huge moment of pause to go: 'Do I even want to go engage a naval ship?'" says Rear Admiral Matt Klunder. "Because you are going to lose. You could throw anything at us, frankly, and the fact that we now can shoot a number of these rounds at a very affordable cost, it's my opinion that they don't win."
Engineers already have tested this futuristic weapon on land, and the Navy plans to begin sea trials aboard a Joint High Speed Vessel Millinocket in 2016. Railguns use electromagnetic energy known as the Lorenz Force to launch a projectile between two conductive rails. The high-power electric pulse generates a magnetic field to fire the projectile with very little recoil, officials say. Weapons like the electromagnetic rail gun could help U.S. forces retain their edge and give them an asymmetric advantage over rivals, making it too expensive to use missiles to attack U.S. warships because of the cheap way to defeat them. "Your magazine never runs out, you just keep shooting, and that's compelling."