Electromagnetic Rail Gun, EMRG , is a cannon that uses electricity rather than chemical propellants (i.e., gunpowder charges) to launch projectiles at distances over 100 nautical miles – and at speeds exceeding Mach 5. In EMRG, “magnetic fields created by high electrical currents accelerate a sliding metal conductor, or armature, between two rails to launch projectiles at [speeds of] 4,500 mph to 5,600 mph,” or roughly Mach 5.9 to Mach 7.4 at sea level.
The Railguns provide revolutionary military capabilities. They provide Long range artillery (in excess of 200 Km) with increased penetration because of high impact speed and simultaneous impacts via rate of fire and velocity control. Railgun-equipped warships can fire hypersonic projectiles to shoot down stealth aircraft and ballistic missiles, or bombard enemy ships and land targets from hundreds of miles away. They can be employed for Anti-surface (naval), Anti air and anti missile defense (including against hypersonic threats).
The railguns are expected to become electromagnetic artillery of the future. Installed on warships they can fire at targets at a distance of 300-400 km and even destroy objects in the near-Earth orbit.
The U.S. China , Russia, Japan and France are reportedly developing their own version of the railgun.
The U.S. Navy, along with the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and BAE Systems has been working on the technology for several years. For 2018, Congress authorized nearly $2.5 billion for research and development related to electromagnetic guns and other advanced ship weapons. When the United States Navy started its railgun project, it aimed for the weapon to fire at Mach 7, or seven times the speed of sound, and to reach distances more than 180 kilometres away.
US Navy is ready to deploy their futuristic Electromagnetic Railgun (EMRG) for field tests. ONR has demonstrated the ability to conduct “multi shot salvo” (with two projectiles are fired in a 12 seconds span or about 5 rounds per minute) at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, a land based facility. Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder, head of US Naval Research, said the futuristic electromagnetic railgun – so called because it fires from two parallel rails – had already undergone extensive testing on land. “Energetic weapons, such as EM railguns, are the future of naval combat,” said Rear Adm. Matt Klunder, the chief of naval research.
Russia downplays railgun as being too inexpensive and still technologically immature. Klintsevich, first deputy chairman of Russia’s Senate committee for defense and security, has accused Washington of trying to impose a new Cold War-style arms race while saying the “supergun,” dubbed a potential game-changer by the Pentagon, is not yet an effective technological breakthrough. “There is a huge distance between a first test and mass production, moreover, at present, the main problem of creating a supergun – its expensiveness – isn’t solved.” the senator told RIA Novosti.
Russia itself is developing Railguns. A team of Russian scientists has successfully tested the country’s first railgun, which relies on electromagnetic forces rather than explosives or propellant. According to experts at the Institute of High Temperatures’ branch in Shatura, just outside Moscow, the railgun can fire shells at an incredibly fast speed of 3 kilometers per second, which is well enough to cut through any type of armor existing today. During the latest test, a 15 gram plastic cylinder fired by the railgun went through an aluminum plate several centimeters thick. “The newspaper’s report was no surprise. Similar developments are also actively under way in Russia,” Franz Klintsevich had told RIA Novosti.
Japanese newspaper Nikkei Asia reported in Jan 2022 that the Ministry of Defense is hoping to develop a fast and accurate railgun that will not only destroy missiles in flight but will be able to deter the launch of those missiles in the first place. “The Japanese Defense Ministry will develop a means to intercept hostile missiles using magnetically powered projectiles, as the nation scurries to respond to the hypersonic weapons being developed by China, North Korea and Russia,” Nikkei Asia reported. According to Nikkei, Japan has included $56 million in the 2022 defense budget to develop railguns by the end of the decade.
The Indian Navy likes this weapon for several reasons, not the least of which it has a range of 200 miles and doesn’t require explosive warheads. That makes it far safer for sailors, and cheaper for taxpayers. According to the Indian Army and Navy experts each 12-inch diameter tapered projectile which is 6 feet in Length and 250 pounds costs about Rs 15,00,000, compared to Rs 7500,000 for conventional missiles.
India’s DRDO has stated that they had Developed,a 12 mm square bore Electromagnetic Railgun (EMRG) and successfully tested. Another 30 mm square bore EMRG is also ready for tests.Their target is to accelerate a 1 kg projectile to a velocity of more than 2000 m/s (~Mach 6) with a capacitor bank of 10 Mega Joules.
“The electromagnetic railgun represents an incredible new blistering offensive capability for our Navy which rules the Arabian sea right now. This capability will allow us to effectively counter a wide range of threats at a relatively low cost, while keeping our ships and sailors safer by removing the need to carry many high-explosive weapons on the ship,” writes defence update. This massive railgun that we are developing needs just one navy-gunner/sailor to operate and it relies on the electromagnetic energy of the Lorentz force—the combination of electric and magnetic forces on a point charge—for power.
Turkey has announced a successful test of its new electromagnetic weapon — referred to as ‘railgun’ in 2018 — which shoots metallic projectiles at hypersonic speeds. Turkey is the fifth country in the world to develop the weapon, after Russia, the US, China and India. The weapon has been named “Tübitak Sapan,” or “Tübitak Slingshot,” after Turkey’s Scientific and Technological Research Council (Tübitak). Weapons similar to Sapan are capable of firing a projectile as far as 100 km, at speeds of up to 3,500 meters per second (12,600 km/h).
While many countries are already staking on the railgun as a future weapon, Russia is also considering other, more peaceful applications, such as ferrying cargoes to the International Space Station. “The railgun is a big boost to our study of high energy physics as we are now ready to build apparatuses working at speeds exceeding 4.5 kilometers a second,” the Shatura Institute’s director Alexei Shurpov told Zvezda TV.
China first country to test Railgun at sea
So far, only China seems to have developed and deployed a working railgun atop a naval ship. In December 2018, a photo appeared on the Chinese internet depicting what appeared to be a Chinese navy amphibious assault ship sporting a prototype electromagnetic railgun on its deck. China’s railgun first appeared in January 2018 in a photo of the Chinese navy Type 072 landing vessel Haiyang Shan while the ship reportedly was at a facility in Wuhan on the Yangtze River.
A large cannon was visible on the 390-feet-long Haiyang Shan’s forward deck. In March 2018, Chinese state media confirmed the cannon was an experimental railgun. The PLA-run news portal 81.cn quoted navy engineer Zhang Xiao describing the development of a direct-current electrical system that could power the railgun. Zhang said development of the power system required 50,000 tests and endured hundreds of failures.
“The entire railgun measures roughly 65 feet from turret rear to barrel muzzle, with the barrel itself about 33 feet long, and 12-20 feet in diameter. Such a wide barrel provides room for the parallel magnetic rails that propel metal projectiles to speeds of over Mach 7,” Popular Science reported
Early, rear Admiral Ma Weiming told Chinese experts in electromagnetic research that the country has made breakthroughs in key areas of electromagnetic applications, such as railguns and electromagnetic-assisted launch system (EMALS) catapults.
Turkey Announces Successful Test of ‘Sapan’ Railgun Hypervelocity Weapon
Turkish defense industry released a video in March 2019 showing the test of newest electromagnetic railgun called Şahi 209 Block II. According to media reports, new Turkish powerful railgun use electromagnetic energy instead of gunpowder to propel 35mm rounds and is capable of striking a target 31 miles. Şahi 209 Block II has 10 megajoules pulsed DC power supply.
Also reported that the Turkish Defense Ministry has successfully tested an upgraded version of the ŞAHİ-209 electromagnetic railgun, which is ten times more powerful than previous Block 1 version. The new electromagnetic railgun was developed by Yeteknoloji AŞ company.
The electromagnetic launch system is able to develop four countries around the world. Turkey is one of them.
According to the Turkish Armed Forces, the Sapan has been tested at 9,300 km/h, faster than Mach 7.5. Ankara intends to boost the velocity of the round to Mach 8.5 (10.500 km/h), making it almost impossible for a target to defend itself, Business Times reports. Railgun technology has certain upsides; the hypervelocity round is very difficult to intercept, and, since it has no electronics inside, it is immune to jamming and electronic warfare. In one live fire tests, a railgun successfully pierced a one meter-thick reinforced concrete bunker.
The primary downside of the weapon is its extremely high energy consumption. In order to fire at 10 rounds per minute (one shot every six seconds), a railgun requires some 20 megawatts of energy, the output of a power plant used to light and heat some 250 small homes. First tested in 2014, Turkey’s Sapan is a byproduct of Tübitak’s research into inertial confinement fusion technology, also known as controllable thermonuclear energy, Business Times reports.
The TF-2000 class frigate will be survivable against modern aerial threats. It will also support combat functions such as C4ISR, early warning, surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and electronic warfare. The Turkish Navy plans to build eight of these warships, all of which will be armed with full-scale, combat-ready versions of Sapan.
US DOD’s Railgun programme
The US Navy super-powerful electromagnetic railgun is targeted to to fire rounds at speeds up to Mach 7.5, which at 9,100 kilometers per hour, is more than seven times the speed of sound, and covers a distance of about 400 kilometers.The weapons are not only devastating in their speed, but at $25,000 per round are much cheaper than their explosive counterparts such as the Tomahawk or Harpoon, which can cost up to $1 million each. ‘The railgun is a true warfighter game changer,’ the Navy says. ‘Wide-area coverage, exceptionally quick response and very deep magazines will extend the reach and lethality of ships armed with this technology.’
The electromagnetic rail gun uses electrical energy generated by its host ship and stored over several seconds in a pulsed power system to create a magnetic field that propels the kinetic energy projectile well over 100 miles toward a wide range of targets, such as enemy vehicles, or cruise and ballistic missiles. The weapon can release up to 5 million amps, or 1,200 volts within 10 milliseconds, according to Military.com. That’s enough to speed up a 45-pound projectile from zero to 5,000 mph in one one-hundredth of a second, the site said.
The US Navy has been working on the gun with BAE Systems since 2005. During phase I developers focused on developing pulsed power technology. During phase II, which started in 2012, will further develop the pulsed power system and the launcher system.
The Navy funded the development of two industry-built EMRG prototype demonstrators, one by BAE Systems and the other by General Atomics. The two industry-built prototypes are designed to fire projectiles at energy levels of 20 to 32 megajoules, which is enough to propel a projectile 50 to 100 nautical miles. (Such ranges might refer to using the EMRG for NSFS missions. Intercepts of ASCMs and ASBMs might take place at much shorter ranges.) The Navy began evaluating the two industry-built prototypes in 2012.
The Navy originally began developing EMRG as a naval surface fire support (NSFS) weapon for supporting U.S. Marines operating ashore, but subsequently determined that the weapon also has potential for defending against ASCMs and ASBMs.The weapon would also eliminate the hazards of high explosives in the ship and unexploded ordnance on the battlefield, Navy officials say.
Deputy defense secretary Bob Work described his vision for a future Navy fleet that would rely on railguns and lasers for fleet defense. “If the Navy can develop working railguns and lasers that are practical enough for a warship, it would not only solve the magazine depth issue, but would also free up missile tubes for the FSC’s offensive sea-control and land attack missions.”
In January 2015, it was reported that the US Navy is projecting that EMRG could become operational on a Navy ship between 2020 and 2025. The Navy is evaluating whether to mount its new Electromagnetic Rail Gun weapon aboard the high-tech DDG 1002 destroyer by the mid-2020s, service officials said. The DDG 1002’s Integrated Power System provides a large amount of on board electricity sufficient to accommodate the weapon, said Capt. Mike Ziv, Program Manager for Directed Energy and Electric Weapon Systems. The US Navy has also revealed plans to test a prototype electromagnetic on-board a joint high-speed vessel (JHSV) this year.
According to National Defense, the Pentagon’s Defense Ordnance Technology Consortium awarded a contract to General Atomics, developer of the U.S. Navy’s railgun system, to “evaluate and mature railgun weapon system capabilities in support of U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Command.” The contract specifies the construction of railgun prototypes that could be used by the Army in the ground combat role.
The company has been in discussions with Army officials about potentially deploying the railgun on heavy expanded mobility tactical trucks. Power would be supplied by the vehicles equipped with hybrid electric drives, Bucci explained.
The existing prototype is geared toward defeating air and missile threats and providing indirect fires, but the technology could potentially be used for other missions such as direct fires if that’s what the Army wants, he noted.
After spending nearly two decades and half a billion dollars, the US stalled the project to develop railguns in 2021 . The US Navy had announced that it had decided to pause the project in light of “fiscal constraints, combat system integration challenges and the prospective technology maturation of other weapon concepts”.
To generate the electromagnetic current required to propel a projectile at Mach 7 speeds, railguns will need to be plugged into existing power grids or have dedicated generators, which may be a constraint in operating them from a ship.
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