The US Navy is reportedly considering options to install an electromagnetic railgun on its third Zumwalt-class ship, Lyndon B Johnson (DDG-1002) currently being constructed at General Dynamics Bath Iron Works (BIW).

Developed by BAE Systems, the railgun uses an electromagnetic force known as the ‘Lorenz Force’ to launch a projectile at six or seven times the speed of sound.

Launched at high velocities to achieve greater ranges than conventional guns, the guided projectile maintains enough kinetic energy to eliminate the need for a high explosive payload when it reaches its target.

"The navy is determined to increase the offensive punch of the surface warships."

According to a report by The Associated Press, US Navy surface warfare director Admiral Pete Fanta suggested the incorporation of the weapon directly into the vessel. It has also been suggested that the ship could skip seas trials and enter into operational use from 2018.

In 2014, the US Navy outlined plans to deploy and test a prototype electromagnetic on-board a joint high-speed vessel (JHSV) this year.

The weapon, if installed, would replace one of the forward turrets that houses a 155mm gun, which fires rocket-propelled projectiles.

Lexington Institute defence analyst Loren Thompson was quoted by the publication as saying: "The navy is determined to increase the offensive punch of the surface warships.

"To do that with a limited budget, it needs to look at everything from smart munitions to railguns to lasers."

Image: Test firing of an electromagnetic railgun (EMRG) at the US Naval Surface Warfare Center. Photo: courtesy of US Navy.