The railgun is unlike any other weapon used in warfare. The U.S. Navy has proven that in a record-setting test on Friday in Dahlgren, VA. On Friday morning the the United States Navy produced a 33-megajoule firing — more than three times the previous record set by the Navy in 2008. Rather than relying on a explosion to fire a projectile, the technology uses an electomagnetic current to accelerate a non-explosive bullet at several times the speed of sound. The conductive projectile zips along a set of electrically charged parallel rails and out of the barrel at speeds up to Mach 7. The result: a weapon that can hit a target 100 miles or more away within minutes.
“It bursts radially, but it’s hard to quantify,” said Roger Ellis, electromagnetic railgun program manager with the Office of Naval Research. Ellis says the Navy has invested about $211 million in the program since 2005, since the railgun provides many significant advantages over convention weapons. For one thing, a railgun offers 2 to 3 times the velocity of a conventional big gun, so that it can hit its target within 6 minutes. By contrast, a guided cruise missile travels at subsonic speeds, meaning that the intended target could be gone by the time it reaches its destination.