The first firing of the railgun in January 2008, was an historic and spectacular occasion
Think of the electromagnetic railgun as an electric cannon which uses electrical energy instead of chemical propellant to launch projectiles at hypervelocities. First conceived nearly a century ago, the concept was investigated by Germany during WWII, but has really only stepped out of science fiction and into reality in the last 12 months. With shells travelling at Mach 5 on impact, and accurate to within five metres at a 200 mile range, such weapons maximize the damage they do through kinetic energy, and hence don't need explosive payloads. Accordingly, they are ideal for naval warfare as they minimise the risk to warships which do not need to carry explosive warheads or propellants. Earlier this week, the US Office of Naval Research (ONR) awarded a USD 21 million 30-month contract to BAE Systems for the detailed design and delivery of an Innovative Naval Prototype (INP) Railgun. As previously warned, if the Daleks don't get here soon, they'll have a serious fight on their hands.