Future Warfare – Railgun
General Atomics is making its way into supplying US navy with weapons that can be best described as “Bleeding edge”. Best known for as an UAV manufacturer, this company is trying to reach a true holy grail of solid projectile weaponry with its Blitzer railgun program (http://www.ga.com/railgun-programs).
It also has competition in that department, BAE Systems (http://www.baesystems.com/) and Boeing’s Phantom Works (http://www.boeing.com/boeing/bds/phantom_works/index.page) have both worked on the technology and developed prototypes of it for the Navy – of railguns and sabot ammunition for them, respectively.
Also called advanced electromagnetic launch technology, railguns (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Railgun) fire projectiles using electromagnetic force. They consist of two conductive rails that project electromagnetic force that propels the payload at absolutely incredible speeds – reaching up to seven times the speed of sound. Railguns were researched by the Office of Naval Research for a long time. They have many advantages over conventional guns including flatter trajectories and greater range; great speed of the projectile also adds to tremendous devastating power of simple solid slugs, and can make detection and interception of other types of projectiles nigh impossible.
They are designed for engagement with land batteries, enemy encampments and opposing craft as well as interception of enemy missiles. The weapon offers unparalleled versatility, considering the force used can be altered easily this allows for multiple types of “rounds” to be launched from the same firing emplacement. The navy plans to put a fully operational guns on their ships by 2020 (http://www.dailytech.com/US+Navy+Test+Fires+32Megajoule+Railgun+Could+See+Service+by+2020/article24126.htm).
While the technology shows a lot of promise in sheer range, power and versatility, all the while being cheaper than standard chemical propellant guns and much cheaper than missile technology, railguns are far from ready for service, there are several problems to work out before that happens, high energy consumption being the primary one.