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China to test magnetized plasma artillery which can travel at hypersonic speeds

Plasma is a state of super excitement of mater and can be described as a super hot gas. The Plasma Spray Process is basically the spraying of molten or heat softened material onto a surface to provide a coating. Plasma spray is a versatile technology used for production of environmental and thermal barrier coatings, mainly in the aerospace, gas turbine, and automotive industries, with potential application in the renewable energy industry.


In recent years, magnetized plasma has been employed to coat aircrafts for the purpose of RCS reduction of aircrafts. Militaries have long researched on plasma weapons. One of the significant challenges has been how to make a burst of plasma, normally many times less dense than the air, cross a significant range of atmosphere.  One of the method proposed is a laser beam can be used to ionize the atmosphere between the weapon and the target which is, essentially, plasma. If we use five laser beams in a pentagon shape this could lead to a ring-shaped tunnel of plasma in a direct line towards the target. That could help the torus retain its shape longer as it travels along this tunnel.


However, China has used the velocity of artillery to get over such problem. Chinese scientists believe that magnetized plasma artillery will be so light and energy-efficient that it can be mounted on tanks.  China is working on magnetized plasma artillery which could enable hypersonic projectiles from a tank. The plasma generated in the barrel of gun is coated onto artillery for hypersonic projectiles.


Dennis Killinger, a professor emeritus of physics at the University of South Florida, called the idea “intriguing.” “The idea seems possible,” he told the National Interest. “My main question is what is the lifetime of the plasma and is it sufficient during the launch time inside the barrel.”


PLA Academy of Armored Forces Engineering filed a patent with the same name in 2015 to the National Intellectual Property Administration.  According to the specification of the patent, the cannon will have magnetic material covering the gun barrel and a magnetic field generator to create a certain magnetic field inside the barrel. When artillery is fired, gas inside the barrel will be partly ionized into plasma by the high pressure and heat. The plasma will then form about a millimeter sheath on the inner wall of the barrel due to the magnetic field, the patent specification said. The magnetized plasma layer can greatly reduce the radial force the barrel takes and boost thrust of the cannon shell, making it possible for the initial velocity of shells to exceed Mach 6, the limit for conventional artillery.


The text of the Chinese-approved patent available on Google Patents: The invention discloses magnetized plasma artillery. A magnetic field is arranged in an artillery body pipe, the direction of the magnetic field points to an artillery port along the direction of an axis of the artillery body pipe, the magnetic field strength is gradually reduced from an inner wall of the artillery body pipe to the axis of the artillery body pipe, and the gas in the artillery body pipe can be ionized into the plasma for forming a plasma sheath layer on the inner wall of the artillery body pipe under the action of the magnetic field while the artillery is launched. The magnetized plasma sheath layer formed on the inner wall of the artillery body pipe of the magnetized plasma artillery has stress anisotropic characteristic and has thermal insulation function, and then, the radial force for the artillery body pipe is greatly reduced, the driving force for the bullet is greatly improved, the heat resistance of the artillery body pipe is greatly improved and the service life is prolonged


Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military analyst, told that due to the increased thrust, the range of the artillery can also be extended. Wei predicts the new technology would extend the range of a conventional 155-millimeter self-propelled howitzer from 30-50 kilometers to 100 kilometers. He added that the plasma layer might also reduce friction between the barrel and rounds, making the weapon more accurate. The layer can also provide heat resistance to the barrel, which will prolong its service life.


This technology is different than railguns. By comparison, an electromagnetic railgun can in theory accelerate its munitions to Mach 7, US-based media outlet the National Interest reported. But a railgun and its power system are so large that they are not mobile unless installed on large warships, the report said.If the technology succeeds, this would transform China’s  every artillery gun into hypersonic firing weapons.


China to test magnetized plasma artillery

The Chinese military is looking to procure test systems for magnetized plasma artillery, according to a notice on the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) weapon and equipment procurement website weain.mil.cn. The notice invites tenders for a theory-testing and a launch system for magnetized plasma artillery. Although the weapon sounds as if it comes from a sci-fi movie, it will probably not shoot high-energy plasma but ultra-high velocity cannon shells.


A PLZ-83 152mm self-propelled howitzer system attached to a brigade under the PLA 81st Group Army fires at mock target during a round-the-clock live-fire training exercise at an artillery training base in north China in late September, 2018. Photo: eng.chinamil.com.cn





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