The US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has commissioned the new small-bore railgun (SRG) at its materials testing facility.
Commissioned through support from the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the SRG is a single-turn linear motor.
NRL’s charged-particle physics branch head Dr Robert Meger said: "This small railgun is an experimental platform for a small-bore system that could address modest power for land and sea based missions.
"The SRG is designed to operate at several launches per minute from a mobile platform using advanced battery technology."
In October 2011 NRL researchers fired the one-thousandth shot from the larger experimental electromagnetic railgun, marking a critical milestone in the programme.
Then, in February 2012, the US Navy outlined its plan to start a full-size prototype testing at its facility in Dahlgren, Virginia, US.
The navy’s electromagnetic railgun development programme is intended to develop a 6m-long, 50mm-diameter and 64-MJ weapon with a range of 220nm.
Managed by the Naval Air Warfare and Weapons Department, it features advanced composites and fires projectiles using electricity with improved barrel life performance.
It creates a magnetic field via high electrical currents, which accelerate a sliding metal conductor, or armature, between two rails to launch projectiles at speeds of 4,500mph to 5,600mph.
It will support a wide range of missions, including precise-surface fire support or land strikes and cruise and ballistic missile defences.
Image: The small railgun (SRG), located at the US Naval Research Laboratory materials testing facility. Photo: courtesy of US Naval Research Laboratory/Jamie Hartman.