The US Navy will soon conduct tests on an Electromagnetic (EM) Railgun prototype launcher, which was delivered last month to a facility in Dahlgren, Virginia, US.
The Office of Naval Research’s (ONR) EM Railgun development programme is intended to develop a 6m-long, 50mm-diameter and 64-megajoule railgun with a range of 220 nautical miles.
The weapon creates a magnetic field with electricity to accelerate a sliding metal conductor, or armature, between two rails to launch projectiles at 4,500mph-5,600mph.
The long-range EM Railgun provides multi-mission capability with increased velocity and extended range to the warfighter, and is used to provide accurate naval surface fire support against land strikes, cruise and ballistic missiles.
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EM Railgun programme manager Roger Ellis said: "This is the next step toward a future tactical system that will be placed on board a ship some day."
The new EM railgun demonstrator features advanced composites and improved barrel life performance and is capable of performing surface warfare missions to deter enemy vessels.
The Navy will commence the testing of the railgun this month while the second General Atomics-built prototype launcher is prepared for delivery.
"The next phase of the development effort is to demonstrate the ability to operate at a firing rate of significant military utility," Ellis added.
Recently, the ONR has contracted Raytheon, BAE Systems and General Atomics to develop a pulsed power system for launching projectiles with rapid succession.
The US Navy has also contracted BAE Systems and General Atomics to develop technologies that will enhance future railguns that fire up to ten rounds per minute.
The naval power system is expected to be operational by 2025.