Military

First industry railgun prototype launcher gets all fired up

First industry railgun prototy...
The first full-energy shots from the electromagnetic railgun prototype launcher captured from a high-speed camera (Photo: U.S. Navy)
The first full-energy shots from the electromagnetic railgun prototype launcher captured from a high-speed camera (Photo: U.S. Navy)
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The first full-energy shots from the electromagnetic railgun prototype launcher captured from a high-speed camera (Photo: U.S. Navy)
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The first full-energy shots from the electromagnetic railgun prototype launcher captured from a high-speed camera (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The electromagnetic (EM) railgun prototype launcher that was recently installed at the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) in Dahlgren, Virginia, has commenced firing, kicking off a two-month-long series of full-energy tests. Predictably, the first full energy shots make for some pretty impressive video.

Following its delivery by BAE Systems on January 30, the first prototype demonstrator was installed and outfitted with a suite of sensors, high-speed cameras and measuring devices to allow for evaluation of the 32-megajoule weapon.

Following a series of low-energy test shots, evaluation of the launcher is now underway and will see tests conducted at 20 megajoules to 32 megajoules - one megajoule is equivalent to a 1-ton object being thrust at 100 mph (161 km/h). Test projectiles similar to those previously fired from NSWC Dahlgren's laboratory launcher will be fired at speeds of 4,500 to 5,600 mph (7,242 to 9,012 km/h) using electricity instead of chemical propellants.

The U.S. Navy hopes the evaluation will help it reach its near-term goal of a 20- to 32-megajoule weapon for surface ships capable of shooting a distance of 50 to 100 nautical miles (57 to 115 miles/93 to 185 km).

A second launcher being built by General Atomics is scheduled for delivery in April.

The video below shows what those high-speed cameras caught on the first full-energy test firings.

Source: U.S. Navy

BAE Electromagnetic Railgun

23 comments
Hala Chaoui
Charming. What a contrast with this, an Afghani inventor comes up with a mine sweeper: http://www.greenprophet.com/2012/02/wind-powered-bamboo-mine-sweeper/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+greenprophet+%28Green+Prophet%29
Nacho Lotitto
YEYYYY!!! MORE WMD's!!
Larry Hooten
If it's electrical, what's with all the fire coming out of the muzzle?
BlacknYellow
YYYEEEESSS! Awsome, i love it. But that seems like a lot chemical energy propulsion behind the projectile...
Dawar Saify
Industry first, this is a killing machine, not part of some constructive industry.
halcyon_m
@Larry Hooten
The fire/flame is plasma from the arc, super-heated air. Needless to say, this weapon isn't the most efficient way to propel an object, but it is effective.
Clay Jones
Awesome technology. Let's deploy this as soon as possible.
rwalker
I'm guessing the flame is caused by super heated air, from huge emp it takes to propel the projectile
benfelts70
@ Nacho: I think the fire exists because of the friction that's created when the super speed projectile is launched. I heard a story awhile back that said, the heat inside the muzzle got so hot that past devices destroyed themselves or couldn't sustain high firing rates.
Annawyn
The projectile is travelling 5,000 mph. That "chemical energy" you see is pure friction coming off the front blunt edge.