First industry railgun prototype launcher gets all fired up

The first full-energy shots from the electromagnetic railgun prototype launcher captured from a high-speed camera (Photo: ...

The first full-energy shots from the electromagnetic railgun prototype launcher captured from a high-speed camera (Photo: U.S. Navy).

The electromagnetic (EM) railgun prototype launcher that was recently installed at the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) in Dahlgren, Virginia, has commenced firing, kicking off a two-month-long series of full-energy tests. Predictably, the first full energy shots make for some pretty impressive video.

Following its delivery by BAE Systems on January 30, the first prototype demonstrator was installed and outfitted with a suite of sensors, high-speed cameras and measuring devices to allow for evaluation of the 32-megajoule weapon.

Following a series of low-energy test shots, evaluation of the launcher is now underway and will see tests conducted at 20 megajoules to 32 megajoules - one megajoule is equivalent to a 1-ton object being thrust at 100 mph (161 km/h). Test projectiles similar to those previously fired from NSWC Dahlgren's laboratory launcher will be fired at speeds of 4,500 to 5,600 mph (7,242 to 9,012 km/h) using electricity instead of chemical propellants.

The U.S. Navy hopes the evaluation will help it reach its near-term goal of a 20- to 32-megajoule weapon for surface ships capable of shooting a distance of 50 to 100 nautical miles (57 to 115 miles/93 to 185 km).

A second launcher being built by General Atomics is scheduled for delivery in April.

The video below shows what those high-speed cameras caught on the first full-energy test firings.

Source: U.S. Navy

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