Technology

Navy's New Railgun Shoots at Mach 7, Can Hit Targets 100 Miles Away

80beatsBy Jennifer WelshDec 13, 2010 8:58 PM

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news
 

Last week the Navy took its best shot--and it was a doozy. The shot, fired on December 10th, broke the world record for the most powerful shot, as the 23-pound aluminum projectile rocketed out of the Navy's electromagnetic railgun at a reported speed of Mach 7, or seven times the speed of sound.

Today's 33-megajoule shot--powerful enough to launch 33 Smart cars at 100 mph--means the Navy can fire projectiles at least 125 miles, keeping military personnel at a safe distance from their targets, according to the Office of Naval Research. [Popular Science]

Normal guns use explosions to propel bullets, but railguns

use electromagnetic currents to accelerate conductive bullets along two parallel rails. The Navy has been working on this project since 2005. The new test of the gun broke the Navy's previous 10-megajoule record

for railgun firing set in 2008.

“The 33-megajoule shot means the Navy can fire projectiles at least 110 nautical miles, placing Sailors and Marines at a safe standoff distance and out of harm’s way, and the high velocities achievable are tactically relevant for air and missile defense,” [Rear Adm. Nevin Carr] added. “This demonstration moves us one day closer to getting this advanced capability to sea.” [Navy press release]

One of the project's goals is to reduce the need to carry gunpowder and other explosives on Navy ships, making them less vulnerable. The big barriers to implementation now include figuring out how to power the gun off of a ship's batteries, and how to protect the gun parts themselves from the incredible energy released when it's fired.

The eventual goal is a ship-mounted railgun that can fire a projectile more than 200 miles at speeds of more than 8,000 feet per second. A kinetic energy warhead would eliminate the use of hazardous explosives on ships and on the battlefield, the Navy says. [Popular Science]

To reach those distances and speeds, the Navy will need to develop a railgun that can shoot at 64 megajoules. Navy researchers hope to reach that goal and have a gun ready for on-ship use in 2025. Related Content: 80beats: Computerized Smart-Gun Can Shoot Someone Behind a Rock

80beats: Video: Navy’s New Laser Weapon Shoots Down Drones

80beats: DARPA Loses Contact with Mach 20 “Hypersonic Glider” During Test Flight

80beats: Military Tests New Missile Defense System: Lasers Mounted on Jumbo Jets

80beats: DARPA’s New Sniper Rifle Offers a Perfect Shot Across 12 Football Fields

Video: YouTube / usnavyresearch

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Magazine Examples
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!

Subscribe

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Join
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

 
Subscribe
To The Magazine

Save up to 70% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2021 Kalmbach Media Co.