By Tuan Nguyen
Posting in Technology
A recently released video demonstrates the long-range destructive power of a railgun prototype known as the "Blitzer."
The U.S. Navy may be well on its way toward obtaining a breakthrough weapon that can hit enemy targets located hundreds of miles away in less time than it takes to heat up a microwave dinner.
Defense firm General Atomics' has recently released a video that demonstrates the long-range destructive capabilities of a high-speed railgun prototype known as the "Blitzer." During tests, rounds fired from the gun blasted right through a 1/8-inch thick steel plate located 100 meters downrange and continued to travel more than four miles at mach five speed. In layman's terms, that's about 4,000 miles an hour at zero elevation.
For decades, the Navy has long been infatuated with the idea of arming warships with battle-ready electromagnetic railguns. This isn't surprising considering that such a weapon has the potential to intercept missiles with an unparalleled combination of long-range accuracy and velocity. Initially proposed as part of the Reagan-era "Star Wars" Strategic Defense Initiative, the technology can also have non-military applications such as launching satellites and space shuttles or even help avert a doomsday scenario by taking out asteroids on a collision course toward earth.
So how does it work?
You can basically think of an electric rail gun as a really big electrical circuit. It consists of a power source, two conducting rails running parallel to each other and, in between them, a piece of conductive metal known an armature that houses the round. To fire a round, a powerful electrical current at a magnitude of about a million amps is sent flowing through the positive conducting rail, through the armature and back towards the power source in a semi-circular motion to generate an electromagnetic field. The force generated by the electromagnetic field is what causes the round to launch at such high velocity.
For a visual explanation of how the technology works, check out out this railgun infographic.
Early tests on the Blitzer sputtered as the company experimented with rounds known coincidentally as “hypersonic bricks." These have since been replaced with a high-speed sabot round developed by Boeing. And as you can see from the video, they work much better.
Company officials hope to take the promising results and scale up the railgun to where it can be installed aboard a DDG-51 class destroyer by the year 2020.
So without further adieu, here's that jaw-dropping test video:
Photo: General Atomics'
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Apr 18, 2011
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"...or even help avert a doomsday scenario by taking out asteroids on a collision course toward earth." Balderdash. Consult any physicist (even a high-school teacher).
They featured something similar in TF2. That one looked cooler and had a balistics velocity of mach 7. Also was scaled a bit bigger as it was mounted on a Navy destroyer. I personally like this idea. Functionality wise, it's like a sniper rifle the size of a mortar cannon. Take out missles by "sniping" them out of the air. The US doesn't have that many naval threats warrenting a gun of this caliber at the moment, but a ship-mounted model would be useful for taking out close to shore targets on enemy soil. Just have an on-site spotter equiped with a laser target designator to spot targets. Fires right through buildings. Want that tank gone? It's gone! I noticed that this prototype model is flatbed mounted. I'm wondering what kind of power requirements it has and what the reload/coodown cycle is like. It'd be awesome to be able to rapid fire this thing. Having a portable truck-mounted production version that could run off a Diesel generator would be nice too.
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Very impressive. Lets hope our "competitors" of certain Asian persuasion don't get hold of it too. This In reference to recent news that China has: "an unprecedented carrier-killing missile called the Dong Feng 21D that could be launched from land with enough accuracy to penetrate the defenses of even the most advanced moving aircraft carrier at a distance of more than 1,500 kilometers (900 miles)."
A projectile traveling at that kind of velocity doesn't need an explosive charge, the kinetic energy would be more than enough to destroy the target.
The EMALS (ElectroMagnetic Aircraft Launching System) project is far enough along that the Ford class carriers are designed to use it instead of conventional steam catapults. The keel of the Gerald Ford was laid back in '07. The British Queen Elizabeth class will use a similar EMCAT.
How do they generate and store the enormous power needed to fire one of these projectiles? I know there are huge banks of capacitors, but a typical destroyer is not designed to generate the electrical energy needed to charge them. On its aircraft carriers the Navy wants to replace the steam catapults used to launch planes with what are essentially electromagnetic rail guns. However, this requires an entirely new class of aircraft carrier since current nuclear carriers simply do not generate enough electrical power for these new launch systems plus the power needed for advanced radar and other sophisticated defense systems. Even today, electrical power generation is a major limiting factor on our nuclear carriers.
Experiments to date have been with projectiles that are not only not guided, but not even explosive - hence, "bricks". Although the projectile experiences less maximum acceleration than 1 fired from an ordinary gun, it also goes through the intense electromagnetic field. So the projectiles may not be able to contain electronic fuses & guidance mechanisms. The Navy is urgently in need of weapons to counter modern cruise missiles, which fly at high speeds - some supersonic - and at low altitudes (aka sea skimming), therefore leaving only seconds between appearing on radar & hitting a ship.
This is nit picking I know, but the the word "adieu" (goodbye) in the final paragraph should be replaced with "ado" (time-wasting bother over trivial details )