A technology that will increase the Navy’s capable strike distance by ten fold is on the way. Proposed in the 1970’s under the “star wars” Strategic Defense Initiative, railguns are no longer a thing of the past or just an idea on the drawing boards. The United States Office of Naval Research has successfully fired a Railgun and has plans to incorporate the technology into Naval Ships by the year 2020. The main idea in developing the Railgun is to overcome the limitations of chemical projectiles. The Railgun will deliver projectiles to its intended target much more quickly and with an incredible amount of force. In fact, the force from a Rail Gun will be so intense, warheads will not need to be used. Charles Garnett, the project director, said that the rail gun will be able to take out a building by the time it is put into service.
Future Railguns will deliver small projectiles (3.2 KG) at immense speeds packing the punch of a Tomahawk cruise missile at a fraction of the price. For once a military technologyn is being created that greatly reduces costs to the Navy. Tomohawk Cruise Missiles can cost a million dollars a piece, while railgun projectiles are estimated to cost only $1000 by the time they are ready for use in 2020.
Still 13 years away from actual military use, the railgun has some obstacles yet to overcome. One of the biggest challenges in creating the electronically driven railgun is to find an electronic device that can withstand the hundreds of thousands of G’s that it’s projectile is pulling after being launched from the railgun. With accurate smart weapons prevailing, GPS is becoming a more integral part of US military arsenal and the railgun is pretty useless without it. Developing a device that will shield the railgun projectile’s instruments and GPS sytems at extremely high G-forces is still underway. Similar intsrumentation protection devices have been developed in the Excalibur artillery shell which can withstand up to 16,000 G’s.
General Atomics, a San Diego Defense Contracter was awarded a 10 million dollar contract to produce a railgun. Railgun technology has many benefits such as reducing the time it takes for a projectile to reach its target, reducing the hazard of tank crews carrying explosive rounds, and the reduction in military costs to fire long distance projectiles. Although the railgun is still under development and is years away from service, the abilities of this weapon are pretty incredible, surpassing any projectile technology that we have in our arsenal today