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  • 32-megajoule railgun delivered to US Navy

    http://www.popularmechanics.com/tech...w/4231461.html
    World’s Most Powerful Rail Gun Delivered to Navy
    By Erik Sofge
    Published on: November 14, 2007

    For true sci-fi fans, any mention of a real-world rail gun will draw an instant, slightly audible gasp. Instead of relying on chemical propellants—such as gunpowder—a rail gun uses magnetic “rails” to launch a solid, nonexplosive projectile at incredible speed. Theoretically, rail guns would be able to precisely strike targets at extreme ranges, and would negate the risks associated with carrying around tons of explosive ammo. More to the point, they’re cool-sounding, just like lasers.

    Which is why the news that BAE Systems has delivered a functional, 32-megajoule Electro-Magnetic Laboratory Rail Gun (32-MJ LRG) to the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Va., is exciting. Installation of the laboratory launcher is currently underway, and according to BAE, this is the first step toward the Navy’s goal of developing a tactical 64-megajoule ship-mounted weapon.

    The lab version doesn’t look particularly menacing—more like a long, belt-fed airport screening device than like a futuristic cannon—but the system will fire rounds at up to Mach 8, drawing on tremendous amounts of electricity to generate the current for each test shot. That, of course, is the problem with rail guns: Like lasers, they’re out of step with modern-day generators and capacitors. Eight and 9-megajoule rail guns have been fired before, but providing 3 million amps of power per shot has been a limitation. At 32 megajoules, this new system appears to be the most powerful rail gun ever built, and the Office of Naval Research is installing additional capacitors at the Dahlgren facility to support it. The planned 64-megajoule weapon, if it’s ever built, could require even more power—a staggering 6 million amps.

    According to Dr. Amir Chaboki, the program manager for Electro-Magnetic Rail Guns at BAE Systems, “The power is available. The challenge is how you use it.” The Navy’s electrically-propelled DDG 100 Destroyer, Chaboki says, is a prime candidate for the final 64-megajoule system. Around 72 megawatts (MW) of the vessel’s power can be used for propulsion. But during combat, the destroyer’s speed could be brought down, freeing up energy for a rail gun. Chaboki calculates that firing the 64-megajoule weapon six times per minute would require 16 MW of power, which would be supplied by either onboard capacitors or pulsed alternators. The more daunting challenge is the force of the rail gun itself: A few shots can dislodge the conducting rails—or even damage the barrel of the gun.

    While the 32-MJ LRG should start firing soon, it could take another 13 years for a 64-megajoule system to be built and deployed on a ship. The Marines, in particular, are interested in the potential for rail guns to deliver supporting fire from up to 220 miles away—around 10 times further than standard ship-mounted cannons—with rounds landing more quickly and with less advance warning than a volley of Tomahawk cruise missiles.

    Effective rail guns will require a major breakthrough in materials between now and 2020, to keep the guns themselves from being shredded by each high-velocity barrage. Which means that for now, rail guns are precisely like lasers in one crucial way: They’re Holy Grails, irresistible precisely because they’re out of reach.

  • #2
    Not sure if a rail gun can replace an old fashioned gun tube for reasons of cost and complexity. The idea of powder propelling a projectile along a tube has been with us since the Middle Ages and it works because it's simple. Ammo fuses have changed, the power of propellants and bursting charges has increased and so have targeting and guidance systems but the tube has been the the same for centuries: there are smooth tubes and rifled tubes...and that's the way it's been since the dawn of artillery.

    "Artillery adds dignity to what would otherwise be a ugly brawl."
    --Frederick II, King of Prussia

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    • #3
      They've been testing this thing (smaller versions) for a while now at Dahlgren, which is not far from my house. The specs on it are amazing. I can't imagine that it will replace field artillery either, but that's not its purpose. This is a weapon that will operate at the operational level, firing deep from sea-based platforms. It's an addition to the arsenal, not a replacement weapon.

      I think this is great news.
      Barcsi János ispán vezérőrnagy
      Time Magazine's Person of the Year for 2003 & 2006


      "Never pet a burning dog."

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      • #4
        Watched a mythbusters recently about the hero's in movies diving underwater to avoid gunfire. The bullets were penetrating ballistic gel much deeper than the movie heros swam.

        Makes me wonder. If you could mount a rail gun powerful enough in an aircraft and then fire down into the sea to penetrate the hull of a submarine. Probably not one at 900 ft but it could certainly get those in coastal waters.
        As lord and master of your grill, you will welcome any opportunity to display your grilling prowess.
        Mario Batali, 2006

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        • #5
          Originally posted by dhuffjr View Post
          Makes me wonder. If you could mount a rail gun powerful enough in an aircraft and then fire down into the sea to penetrate the hull of a submarine. Probably not one at 900 ft but it could certainly get those in coastal waters.
          IIRC, the current plan is only surface to surface against ground targets. I suspect the current pattern of railgun would make mounting it in an aircraft very difficult unless they can find a way to make it smaller.
          Barcsi János ispán vezérőrnagy
          Time Magazine's Person of the Year for 2003 & 2006


          "Never pet a burning dog."

          RECOMMENDED WEBSITES:
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          http://www.sca.org
          http://www.scv.org/
          http://www.scouting.org/

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Janos View Post
            IIRC, the current plan is only surface to surface against ground targets. I suspect the current pattern of railgun would make mounting it in an aircraft very difficult unless they can find a way to make it smaller.
            Well there talking 15 years till its in the field so I'd say it is more like 20-25. Amazing how far computers and microchips have come in the last 20 years, so I'd think it is not too far fetched.
            As lord and master of your grill, you will welcome any opportunity to display your grilling prowess.
            Mario Batali, 2006

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            • #7
              Originally posted by dhuffjr View Post
              Amazing how far computers and microchips have come in the last 20 years, so I'd think it is not too far fetched.
              I think about that all the time. Could be.
              Barcsi János ispán vezérőrnagy
              Time Magazine's Person of the Year for 2003 & 2006


              "Never pet a burning dog."

              RECOMMENDED WEBSITES:
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              http://www.sca.org
              http://www.scv.org/
              http://www.scouting.org/

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              • #8
                yeah i agree, the current pace of technology means that it will probably be feasible in half the time that they are currently stating...

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by dhuffjr View Post
                  Well there talking 15 years till its in the field so I'd say it is more like 20-25. Amazing how far computers and microchips have come in the last 20 years, so I'd think it is not too far fetched.

                  The issue with airborne railguns is not a matter of miniturization as it is a matter of power. Much ASW is done with large, 4 engined aircraft. aircraft in these classes have the carrying capacity for a small to mid-calibre railgun. These guns could be used as countersurface or counter sub and be fired horizontally, with the adjustments to the vertical plane being accomplished by a "targetting solution" which would alter the magnetic fields within the coils, essentially pulling the round in an arc around a point until it was released for straight-line flight.

                  The big issue is power. With shipborne or ground-based systems, you can have entire storage compartments, or a power supply vehicle to hold the capacitors. You can also shut down propulsion or other alternate subsystems for firing. Think Star Wars IV, when they fired the Superlaser from the Death Star. "Commence primary ignition!" The charging of the capacitors for the shot shut down power to many systems directly linked to the generators. This is fine for anything in Space, on the Ground, or at Sea, where it's placement in the 4 dimensional universe is already assured. In the air however, the inadvertent loss of power to virtually any system would result in a midair emergency. You could pack the aircraft with capacitors, and have it charge for an extended period of time, reducing the power drain to an acceptable level, but then you've reduced the rate of fire so significantly that the airborne railgun is no longer the cheap source of firepower you once envisioned.

                  IMHO, railguns as a weapon will follow the following progression:

                  1 Shipboard systems: For opsec and testing purposes, the sea is the safest place for trials of a railgun system. Also, the Navy is the key proponent of the system, so naturally it will be first mounted on ships. Thirdly, shipborne platforms mean that the weapons system would be within range of what ~80% of combat actions performed in the world today?

                  2 Permanent installations: With its extreme range and ravenous power requirements, railguns firing a variety of ammo types will see a home in permanent installations. The key uses will be for AAA and artillery defense purposes. Many nations with border issues would benefit immensely from a handful of installations firing shells with 220 mile range. Such guns could provide a conventional first strike capability that is difficult to detect by radar, and nearly impossible to counteract by any non preparatory means. As AAA, smaller systems could be installed in bunkers spaced inside a border region or a defense zone. Firing shells of 20-30mm, these hypervelocity cannons could provide a much longer lasting alternative to SAM systems. (I particularly forsee nations like Taiwan searching for this use, as they would have to withstand large numbers of inferior, but still dangerous Chinese aircraft before they could begin to bring down the important bombers and attack aircraft. These numbers would deplete stocks of SAMs,while stockpiles of bullets or exploding shells for railguns would be both cheaper, more difficult to avoid, and smaller, meaning a greater return for each individual shell investment, after paying off the cost of the system itself.)

                  3 Mobile Land based systems: Remember the Scuds in Iraq during GW I? This is the Third use of the Railgun. In a mobile package, consisting of a Transporter/Erector, a Cannon, A supply limber, and 1-3 Power Trucks, a Railgun could provide a much more accurate, as well as more difficult to detect, and more dangerous alternative to the theater ballistic missile. Firing a hypersonic missile using a ram or scramjet engine, the railgun could theoretically increase it's range to well over a thousand miles.

                  4 Mobile Battlefield systems: The logical permutation of the large mobile system would be the mobile battlefield system. For battlefield use, you would not need the large calibre guns that have largely been discussed, and fill the fantasies of railgun enthusiasts. Railguns of 30-40mm would first see a battlefield debut in use as a main gun for a sort of modern "Tank Destroyer". Armed with conventional machine guns and a rail-cannon, this vehicle would lay waste to the modern crop of MBTs in a straight up fight. Of course, it would be decidedly heavier than even the heaviest tanks of WWII, in the range of 110 tons, with all the equipment necessary for function directly packed in, as well as frontal armor capable of withstanding MBT hits, and possibly deflecting hits from its own kind, though the latter is doubtful at best. In the end, I believe a 2 stage armor doctrine would have to return, with rail-gun armed tanks operating in the armor-destruction/battlefield-domination role, and conventionally armed tanks operating as support vehicles for anti-infantry duties.

                  I do not believe that airborne systems would be practical, as lasers are being developed concurrently, and airborne combat tends towards the light speed attack and more continuous burst of a laser, as opposed to the relatively short impulse of a rail gun shell. For ground attack, I believe that the rail-gun will make the use of an extremely fast, low-level attack craft even more necessary, as getting in and out of the firing cone of railgun and ground based laser defenses would be imminently necessary. More emphasis would need to be placed on ground direction of airborne fire (such as lasing of targets), as the aircraft would no longer be able to loiter at such a speed as to allow the pilot to effectively deliver precision ordinance to the target. Of course, with hypervelocity rounds on standby for the ground forces, meaning instant gratification of fire support requests, the utility of the airborne ground attack platform would be lessened somewhat in the ground battle situation.
                  Tacitos, Satrap of Kyrene

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                  • #10
                    Development of this thing reminds me of gunpowder weapons replacing mechanical energy weapons in Medival Europe. It took a couple centuries before the chemical energy weapons filled all roles. In that case there was a advance in chemistry which provided a energy concentration in excess of what other technologys could provide in containing & controling it. That is the gunpowder charges burst most lightweight guns. Interior and terminal ballistics were not understood very well either.

                    When evaluating the latest elctromagnetic guns visualize the year 1400 and large piles of iron, bronze, and timber strapped to sleds and carts, hitched to oxen teams, and attended by a entourage of skilled craftsmen. Off to the side the 'project manager' is trying to convince the prince this expensive & unrecognizeable train of materials really will knock down castle walls in a effcient manner.

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                    • #11
                      The biggest limitation of rail guns is power consumption. A nuclear reactor is one of the few things small enough to put on a ship that can generate 16 MW continuously. That's just for one gun, you would want at least two ro three on a ship. The shielding for the reactor would weigh more then most large airplanes so forget about mounting these guns on anything smaller then a cruiser.
                      Battles are dangerous affairs... Wang Hsi

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                      • #12
                        I believe that I can speak with some authority on this subject, as I was actually at the Dahlgren facility last week, and I visited the test lab. Additionally, I have written extensively about the weapon as part of my job.

                        Without giving away classified information, or going into the "for official use only" realm for that matter, yes, the biggest concerns are the power requirements, but those are surmountable. The rail gun is not intended to replace conventional powder actuated weapons, yet. It is however intended to give the US Navy a capability which it has lacked since the decommissioning of battleships; the ability to truly provide Naval Gunfire Support to the Marine Corps, at ranges that are above and beyond any weapon that was available in the past, including the main batteries on battleships. I was highly impressed with what the rail gun can do now, and with what it will be able to do once it is actually placed onboard ship.
                        Give me a fast ship and the wind at my back for I intend to sail in harms way! (John Paul Jones)

                        Initiated Chief Petty Officer
                        Hard core! Old School! Deal with it!

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by dhuffjr View Post
                          Watched a mythbusters recently about the hero's in movies diving underwater to avoid gunfire. The bullets were penetrating ballistic gel much deeper than the movie heros swam.

                          Makes me wonder. If you could mount a rail gun powerful enough in an aircraft and then fire down into the sea to penetrate the hull of a submarine. Probably not one at 900 ft but it could certainly get those in coastal waters.
                          Yeah but it'd have to be perfectly perpendicular because if you noticed the supersonic weapons at an angle shred themselves before they get a few feet into the water.

                          Which made me wonder about SPR, though the bullets could have slowed down enough to make it.

                          ANyways railguns are the next logical step I think, and eventually they can probably make it to toss explosive rounds much further than anything conventional with less space required, or the same space for more ammo. It does make a deadly anti-ship weapon though.... Now after they can perfect this, they'll have to perfect the targeting methods as well.
                          The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed. -Carl Jung

                          Hell is other people. -Jean-Paul Sarte

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by bass_man86 View Post
                            I believe that I can speak with some authority on this subject, as I was actually at the Dahlgren facility last week, and I visited the test lab. Additionally, I have written extensively about the weapon as part of my job.

                            Without giving away classified information, or going into the "for official use only" realm for that matter, yes, the biggest concerns are the power requirements, but those are surmountable. The rail gun is not intended to replace conventional powder actuated weapons, yet. It is however intended to give the US Navy a capability which it has lacked since the decommissioning of battleships; the ability to truly provide Naval Gunfire Support to the Marine Corps, at ranges that are above and beyond any weapon that was available in the past, including the main batteries on battleships. I was highly impressed with what the rail gun can do now, and with what it will be able to do once it is actually placed onboard ship.

                            hello mario, and welcome to the forums...what you have posted sounds very interesting, i have no doubt your expertise can really help this thread, and look forward to hearing your thoughts on this excitng development...cheers

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                            • #15
                              I doubt that naval captains will great any weapon with much enthusiasm if it requires them to give up speed and mobility in order to fire it.

                              I agree with MonsterZero - conventional artillery remains the most viable weaponry at the present time.
                              Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Who is watching the watchers?

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