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Subject: 2020: U.S. Navy Rail Gun - A missile punch at bullet prices
DarthAmerica    1/19/2007 2:03:18 PM
Source: h*tp://www.fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2007/012007/01172007/251373/printer_friendly January 17, 2007 12:50 am By MICHAEL ZITZ Normally, new weaponry tends to make defense more expensive. But the Navy likes to say its new railgun delivers the punch of a missile at bullet prices. A demonstration of the futuristic and comparatively inexpensive weapon yesterday at the Naval Surface Warfare Center at Dahlgren had Navy brass smiling. The weapon, which was successfully tested in October at the King George County base, fires nonexplosive projectiles at incredible speeds, using electricity rather than gun powder. The technology could increase the striking range of U.S. Navy ships more than tenfold by the year 2020. "It's pretty amazing capability, and it went off without a hitch," said Capt. Joseph McGettigan, commander of NSWC Dahlgren Division. "The biggest thing is it's real--not just something on the drawing board," he said. The railgun works by sending electric current along parallel rails, creating an electromagnetic force so powerful it can fire a projectile at tremendous speed. Because the gun uses electricity and not gunpowder to fire projectiles, it's safer, eliminating the possibility of explosions on ships and vehicles equipped with it. Instead, a powerful pulse generator is used. The prototype fired at Dahlgren is only an 8-megajoule electromagnetic device, but the one to be used on Navy ships will generate a massive 64 megajoules. Current Navy guns generate about 9 megajoules of muzzle energy. The railgun's 200 to 250 nautical-mile range will allow Navy ships to strike deep in enemy territory while staying out of reach of hostile forces. Rear Adm. William E. "Bill" Landay, chief of Naval Research, said Navy railgun progress from the drawing board to reality has been rapid. "A year ago, this was [just] a good idea we all wanted to pursue," he said. Elizabeth D'Andrea of the Office of Naval Research said a 32-megajoule lab gun will be delivered to Dahlgren in June. Charles Garnett, project director, called the projectile fired by the railgun "a supersonic bullet," and the weapon itself is "a very simple device." He compared the process to charging up a battery on the flash of a digital camera, then pushing the button and "dumping that charge," producing a magnetic field that drives the metal-cased ordnance instead of gun powder. The projectile fired yesterday weighed only 3.2 kilograms and had no warhead. Future railgun ordnance won't be large and heavy, either, but will deliver the punch of a Tomahawk cruise missile because of the immense speed of the projectile at impact. Garnett compared that force to hitting a target with a Ford Taurus at 380 mph. "It will take out a building," he said. Warheads aren't needed because of the massive force of impact. The range for 5-inch guns now on Navy ships is less than 15 nautical miles, Garnett said. He said the railgun will extend that range to more than 200 nautical miles and strike a target that far away in six minutes. A Tomahawk missile covers that same distance in eight minutes. The Navy isn't estimating a price tag at this point, with actual use still about 13 years away. But it does know it will be a comparatively cheap weapon to use. "A Tomahawk is about a million dollars a shot," McGettigan said. "One of these things is pretty inexpensive compared to that." He said estimates today are that railgun projectiles will cost less than $1,000 each, "but it's going to depend on the electronics." Projectiles will probably eventually have fins for GPS control and navigation. To achieve that kind of control and minimize collateral damage, railgun ordnance will require electronic innards that can survive tremendous stress coming out of the muzzle. "When this thing leaves, it's [under] hundreds of thousands of g 's, and the electronics of today won't survive that," he said. "We need to develop something that will survive that many g 's." At the peak of its ballistic trajectory, the projectile will reach an altitude of 500,000 feet, or about 95 miles, actually exiting the Earth's atmosphere. The railgun will save precious minutes in providing support for U.S. Army and Marine Corps forces on the ground under fire from the enemy. "The big difference is that with a Tomahawk, planning a mission takes a certain period of time," McGettigan said. "With this, you get GPS coordinates, put that into the system and the response to target is much quicker from call to fire to actual impact." General Atomics, a San Diego defense contractor, was awarded a $10 million contract for the project last spring. The concept was born in the 1970s then promoted when President Ronald Reagan proposed the anti-missile "Star Wars" Strategic Defense Initiative. The SDI railgun was originally intended to use super high-velocity projectiles to shoot down incoming ballistic missiles.
 
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Herald1234    Effective as artillery, yes. As flak?    1/19/2007 2:34:02 PM
That gun will be huge.

Also not mentioned is something called rail deformation and pitting. If the slug gaps at any point along the travel down the rails you get sparking. Its ELECTRO-MAGNETIC artillery.

Imagine two barmagnets laid N/S pole parallel oriented, then put a steel or aluminim slug between them. The slug is the bridge conductor. You just sent a travelling electrical charge down yourm bar manet rails.

This is what is approximately happening. That slug is taking current across it of about 400 megajoules.or about the equivalent of two broadsides from the battleship Iowa. The slug goes from from zero relative velocity to MACH 6. That travelling electromagnetic charge is pushing your two rails apart at about the pull power of two tractor trucks playing tug of war.

The rails wear from friction.

The rails from repeated shots are getting HOT.

And to top it all off, you have a MACH six event[Sonic BOOM] at the muzzle.

This isn't as easy as it sounds, as artillery, and as a flak weapon it is MUCH harder. You havve to slue and elevate that puppy.

Herald     

 
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DarthAmerica       1/19/2007 2:41:51 PM

This isn't as easy as it sounds, as artillery, and as a flak weapon it is MUCH harder. You havve to slue and elevate that puppy.

Herald     


Neither were nukes, lasers, stealth aircraft, CVNs or all the other MUCH HARDER technologies we now take for granted. Thats why it's likely we will be the first and only nation able to do it for a while.


DA
 
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longrifle       1/19/2007 2:49:40 PM
Gerald Bull, vindicated at last? 
 
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andyf    hmm   1/19/2007 3:47:56 PM
perhaps as a spinal mount type weapon? slues by aiming the whole ship?
gps would do the fine aiming, you could probably have the thing completely fixed in elevation too.
water cooled?
probably good vs surface targets , anything manuvering would be problematic id say
 
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Yimmy       1/19/2007 4:49:43 PM
With such high velocities, could this be developed into an anti-sat weapon?
 
Or even a large land based artillery gun, similar to HARP and the "Doomsday Gun", where a projectile is shot into orbit and then can land anywhere in the world, as a "Rod from God".
 
Lots of interesting possibilities.
 
 
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reefdiver       1/19/2007 8:19:25 PM


The rails wear from friction.

The rails from repeated shots are getting HOT.

Herald     

Gotta agree about most of the problems, but I suspect they will manage to make the system frictionless - with magnetic bearings of some sort. Without friction, the heat problems will be reduced but obviously not eliminated. Once the system is perfected, there will undoubtly someday be an anti-aircraft version.  In the future, with laser and other DEW defences on aircraft, it may be the only weapon capable of bringing aircraft down.
 
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HYPOCENTER       1/19/2007 10:26:09 PM
This type of technology will be put on the small scale eventually.... we'll have electro-magnetic assault rifles. This is the future. In a sense we already have it with systems like "Metal Storm".... it's the future. I bet we adopt such an assault rifle within the next 150-200 years.

Think about it -- what was the precursor to the black powder musket? It was the black powder cannon.

Today we have the equivalent of the black power cannon (the battleship size railgun) which will eventually be scaled down to assault rifle size. I feel smart.
 
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Ehran       1/20/2007 4:27:48 PM
i like the part where they assume for some reason that if things go south on the gun it will be safer than powder.  if the capacitors cook off for instance the difference is gonna be rather insignificant to anyone in the area i expect.

still and all this could have a very positive effect on missile defense as it would allow hits even on wave skimmers out 4-6 times what a phalanx can manage now.

 
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andyf    enregy is energy   1/21/2007 2:52:31 PM
if those capacitors blow, all those joules have to go somewhere
 
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Herald1234    Depending onn the type of capacitor.   1/21/2007 3:01:21 PM
An explosion like a giant flashbulb going off, lightning, and then fire.

Herald
 
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