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Electromagnetic Railgun Successfully Tested

NAVSEA News Wire

Release Date: 12 May 2003

By David Caskey, Naval Sea Systems Command Public Affairs

KIRKCUDBRIGHT, Scotland -- A successful sea trial demonstration of an electromagnetic launcher (EML) was conducted in Kirkcudbright, Scotland on April 24, demonstrating how projectiles at hypersonic velocities can be fired. Senior US Navy officials, including Adm. Robert Natter, Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, and Rear Adm. Jay Cohen, Chief of Naval Research, were on hand to see this promising technology.

Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Dahlgren Division designed, analyzed and manufactured the projectiles and sabots for this effort. The system demonstrated in Scotland is a one eighth scale predecessor of a U.S. Navy system that will be developed to fire guided projectiles at speeds greater than 2,500 km/second (Mach 7) for distances beyond 200 nautical miles. That system will be located at NSWC Dahlgren.

This international effort was performed in cooperation with the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence at the British company QinetiQ's EML facility. Fred Beach, the Director of the Electromagnetic Weapons Division hosted the event, sponsored by Naval Sea Systems Command, and presented the Sea Trial Summary,

Naval railguns offer the potential to deliver hypersonic projectiles at very long ranges (200+ nautical miles) in less than six minutes. Railguns use bursts of electrical energy to generate electromagnetic forces to accelerate a projectile. In a projectile flight profile, which occurs mostly in the exoatmosphere, airspace encroachment would be minimized, and in a direct fire mode the projectile would reach a surface target in seconds.

The absence of energetic materials also eliminates the need for explosive safely standards for manufacturing, transportation, handling and storage. The extremely long ranges, short flight times and high energy on target lethality all contribute to the potential to vastly enhance future assault requirements for expeditionary warfare.

The decision to make the next Navy surface combatant, DD(X), an Integrated Power System (IPS) ship provided the incentive to study and develop a new generation of electric weapons, including railguns. With IPS, the power can be shared among various electric weapons and sensors when the tactical situation allows as well as with the ship's motors for high-speed operation. DD(X) will have ample power to supply a railgun with the 15-30 megawatts necessary for sustained fires at 6-12 rounds per minute.

This test was a key step in developing an electric weapon that could revolutionize naval firepower and the possible roles of the next generation Navy surface combatant.

Two other events were conducted preceding the Sea Trial Demonstration. The first, a system interfaces verification, was conducted the week of February 25 in order to verify that all EML system interfaces were fully functional and that the integrated launch package (ILP), composed of the saboted projectile, pusher plate, armature and bore riders, were structurally sound to survive launches.

The second event, the free-flight verification, was performed the week of March 17 in order to verify that the ILP components would separate upon muzzle exit resulting in stable projectile flight.

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