Electromagnetic Railguns  – The U.S Military’s future Superguns – 200 mile range Mach 7 projectiles
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Electromagnetic Railguns – The U.S Military’s future Superguns – 200 mile range Mach 7 projectiles


‘Velocitas Eradico’ sounds like
sort of think Harry Potter might say when fighting Voldemort which would be
quite apt as the translation of ‘Velocitas Eradico’ is quickly get rid
or in the vernacular speed kills and is the motto for the no less futuristic US
Navy electromagnetic railgun project. Now before we set the comments on fire about
the Latin it seems that ‘Velocitas Eradicat’ would be a better translation
of speed kills but I’ll leave it to you latin scholars out there to let me
know in the comments. So back to the railgun now some might be saying why do
we need a new gun we have precision guided missiles that can travel
thousands of kilometers and the massive 16 of 18 inch guns used in the world war
ii class battleships have been made almost obsolete by the aforementioned
missiles and the rest can be taken care of by aircraft. In world war ii the
weaponry was cheap and easy to make. Tens of thousands of planes and tanks and
millions of bombs and shells were produced. The U.S. won the war because
they could out manufacture the Germans and the Japanese whilst keeping their
manufacturing base safe. Modern warfare is now about keeping the action at arm’s
length whilst keeping troops off the ground where possible. Carpet bombing and
massive artillery bombardments of large areas doesn’t always produce victories
as was seen in Vietnam. Today precision weapons reduce collateral damage but
remote control drones, high-tech planes and guided missiles are not only
extremely expensive to buy but also to develop in the first place. The US has a
stockpile of around about 3,500 cruise missiles at about $800,000 each
and these can’t be mass-produced by the old style shells the same also applies
to things like new planes but at much higher costs. As a way to provide a lower
cost fire support with less reliance on air power or expensive missiles the US
Navy was looking for a way of firing hundreds or thousands of
low-cost guided ordinance reaching up to 200 miles or 320 kilometers from the
beach on to thousands of targets a day. Conventional large naval guns are
limited by the rate of gas expansion from the explosive used to propel the
projectile giving them a range of around 45 kilometers but with muzzle velocities
of around 800 meters per second. A kinetic tank round has a muzzle velocity
of up to 1,900 meters per second but has a range of only a few kilometers. The
goal of a railgun is to deliver a guided projectile which is currently kinetic
but could be explosive in the future at around 2500 meters per second at up to
200 miles or 320 kilometers or over current technology for range is around
120 kilometers. The current generation of electromagnetic railguns can accelerate
a 10 kilogram projectile from 0 to more than mach 6 in just 10 milliseconds
emerging from a barrel in a plume of fire these are as close as you can get to
man-made meteorites raining down on enemy targets far beyond the horizon.
Railguns might appear to be futuristic weapons but the idea first appeared
almost a hundred years ago when the French inventorLouis Octave Fauchon-Villeplee submitted a patent for ‘Electrical apparatus for
propelling projectiles’ in 1919. By 1944 the Nazis had drawn up more advanced
plans for an anti-aircraft railgun that would use as much power as a large city
that was however never built but it caused a great deal of interest when the
plans were discovered after the war. The railgun works because of the Lorentz
force discovered by engineers and mathematicians in the 19th century and
named after the Dutch Nobel Prize winning physicist. The physics behind the
railgun is simple enough to be demonstrated by a home-built railgun. Two parallel electrically conductive rails are connected to a large power source.
one rail has positive charge the other out a negative
charge. To fire the gun a moving armature or bridge connects the
two completing the circuit this armature can be either a metal projector or a
thin film on the back of a nonmetallic shell that carries the current across a
plasma arc. When the electrical energy travels through the circuit a very
strong magnetic field is created and pushes a projectile down the barrel. In
the video the squarish looking object being loaded into the gun is the sabot
with the moving armature and the projectile is placed inside that. When
the Sabot exits the barrel it breaks apart leaving the projectile which has
been accelerated to around 2,500m/s. The amount of electrical power discharged during a firing is around five million
amps at 1200 volts for about five milliseconds which works out that around
30 megajoules of power. In theory this force is scalable and could allow for an
on-demand almost limitless acceleration but in early railgun prototypes for
forces was so great but it caused the rails to move apart creating intense
plasma arcing and friction that destroyed the rails and the barrel
making repairs necessary after every shot. Engineers have continued to work on the technology and the electromagnetic weaponry and propulsion are looking more and more attractive. For the same reason laser weapons have also seen significant
investment in the recent decades famously as a way to shoot down incoming
ICBMs. A high-power railgun could do the same job and so in 2005 the American
Office for Naval Research or ONR contracted BAE Systems to produce a
prototype. The electromagnetic laboratory railgun was the result. It uses a 25
megawatt power plant enough to power almost 19,000 homes to create policies
of capacitor based power Phase two of BAE’s contract began in 2012 working
towards a railgun with a repeat fire capability to achieve this BAE’s barrel
design uses advanced materials to resist ablation and fire five rounds per minute. The range of a weapon will be around 125
miles or 200 kilometers firing at speeds of up to 5,600 miles an hour at 9,000
km/h with high accuracy. Firing this rate the total power of a weapon will be 32
mega joules of muzzle energy per minute to achieve the 200 mile or 320 kilometer
range the energy required will be around 64 mega joules but as yet there aren’t
the high-power capacitors or materials available to survive the multiple
firings per minute but this one undoubtedly be developed as time goes by. Currently only the Zumwalt-class destroyers of the US Navy were there 78
megawatts of power have enough capacity to power over 32 Mega Joule rail guns
but other ships are looking at being upgraded.
General Atomics have also produced a version called the Blitzer which is
looking to make both land and ship based. Land bombardments aren’t the only use
for Navy is looking at because the speed of a projectile is so high it could
intercept an incoming supersonic anti-ship cruise missile at a distance
much farther away than relying upon traditional anti-missile systems or
phalanx guns. This ability could also be used against planes or even ballistic
missiles by having a proximity exploding projectile it doesn’t have to score a
direct hit it explodes just before interception to create a cloud of
hypersonic shrapnel to hit a much larger target area. Another advantage is that
the rail guns projectiles are compact a ship could hold enough to carry out more
Shore bombardments than an aircraft carrier full of planes. With compact
ammunition the practical scale of a railgun weapon becomes more viable and
on extended operations gives it a huge advantage in firepower. Another advantage of kinetic weapons without warheads is that if the ship were to be hit there is
much less chance of a catastrophic ammo explosion like those which destroyed
ships in the past like HMS hood and the HMS barham. In the future rail guns might
be miniaturized and find their way onto tanks and
aircraft but as a ground-based platform there are non-military uses that could
accelerate the development of a useful working railguns at NASA’s Applied
Physics Laboratory at the Kennedy Space Center studies investigating using
electromagnetic propulsion to accelerate a wedge-shaped spacecraft and mac-10 on a trajectory high into the atmosphere. Then the spacecraft onboard potion would engage to circularise delivering a payload into orbit for a fraction of a
cost of a traditional launch. NASA has a significant body of existing technology
to draw on such as the x43 or the X51 scramjet power vehicles which have been
shown to work in the real world. Whether for peaceful or destructive
applications the investment in rail gun technology is likely to make its way
from science fiction into practical use in the next decade or so without a doubt
these machines will put on a spectacular show as they accelerate into an
electrified future. So thanks watching I’d just like to say that this episode’s
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