Navy railgun test breaks world record

Railgun test

Picture of a railgun test by the U.S. Navy. Railgun projectiles travel three times faster than a bullet. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Ordinarily, a railgun is solely the domain of science fiction and video games. However, the Navy has been experimenting with real railguns for years and getting results. A recent Navy test broke the world record for most powerful railgun firing.

Navy tests world record railgun

The railguns in films and gaming media like the “Doom” and “Quake” series are fictional, but the United States Navy has been experimenting with real railgun technology for years. A recent test has produced the world record for the most powerful railgun firing ever, according to Fox News. At the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Dahlgren, Va., a railgun was successfully fired on Dec. 10 that produced 33 megajoules of energy, the most powerful railgun firing ever recorded. One megajoule is about the amount of energy carried by a one-ton object moving about 100 miles an hour. That much energy propels a projectile to about mach seven, more than three times as fast as a fighter jet or typical rifle bullet.

How railguns work

According to Wikipedia, a railgun works by using electromagnetic energy. Essentially, the repelling effect of two opposite-pole electromagnets is used to move the projectile. Two electromagnetic “rails,” set in parallel lines, are charged with a current, which powers a projectile along the rails and out the barrel using electromagnetic repulsion. The result is that the projectile is moving at a dramatically faster speed than traditional bullets, cannon rounds or missiles.

Applications

The Navy is looking into mounting railguns on battleships. A railgun could destroy a target 200 miles away in less time than a cruise missile. Railgun rounds aren’t explosive, but they carry more energy than an explosive round coming out of the barrel. That makes battleships safer, as fewer things are aboard that can explode. Also, the energy that a railgun round carries could obliterate just about anything. However, power and material requirements make it impossible to use for now. That said, the Navy expects railguns to be standard equipment by 2025.

Sources

Fox News

Wikipedia on railguns

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