Navy Rail Gun Test “Not Definitely Off But It’s Not Definitely Going Ahead”

Members of TTAG’s Armed Intelligentsia may not be surprised to read the above headline re: the Navy’s test of their new railgun system, originally scheduled for 2106. “Plans for the at-sea demonstration remain in place,” defensenews.com reports, “but it’s looking more likely that a test using an expeditionary fast transport (EPF) — the new designation for JHSVs — won’t take place at least until 2017, if at all.” Rear Adm. Pete Fanta is not happy about delaying his new ship to accommodate an experimental railgun . .

“It’s not definitely off but it’s not definitely going ahead,” Fanta said, “primarily because it will slow the engineering work that I have to do to get that power transference that I need to get multiple repeatable shots that I can now install in a ship. And I would frankly rather have an operational unit faster than have to take the nine months to a year it will take to set up the demo and install the systems, take the one operational [rail gun] unit I have, put it on a ship, take it to sea, do a dozen shots, turn around, take it off, reinstall it into a test bed.” . . .

The goal, he said, is to make the projectile “usable for more than just rail gun. Can I take my powder guns and use that same sort of projectile?” The technology in the projectile, he added, “actually is what enables it to fly that distance with that accuracy.”

Who knew? It seems Fanta’s thought this through.

“My old gun barrels used to last me a few thousand rounds. Is that still the way we want to go? Other countries are solving it the other way. Maybe if I carry four barrels and have them easily swapped out with a bunch of bosun’s mates on the foc’sle and stick ‘em in and a half-turn and you go. It’s kind of the way we do it when we overheat machine guns. The new machine guns, you got the old barrel, you stick in a new one and you keep shooting. Maybe that’s the way to go if we can’t solve the metallurgy issues that allow me to do 1,000 rounds out of a barrel.”

Meanwhile . . .

And while NAVSEA is working on how a rail gun system would be installed on the [destroyer Lyndon B.] Johnson, Fanta is also looking for a bigger test range to shoot the rail gun, now at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Virginia. One possibility, he acknowledged is the huge White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

“I need to be able to see how this thing — for both the projectile and the gun — how it shoots at full range, which means I need both elevation and altitude and long range where I can go blow the top off a mountain someplace and not worry about someone fishing around somewhere.

Good point and great visuals.

comments

  1. avatar Pantera Vazquez says:

    If it it scheduled for 2106 (said what?) they will find time for it……….No rush….

    1. avatar Rusty Chains says:

      Well, the need for long development times due to the need to develop a new element to increase barrel life by 20 percent pushes delivery…..

  2. avatar Former Water Walker says:

    Can’t we just use tactical nukes(on Iran?)…

    1. avatar Vitor says:

      No. You don’t kill millions of people due to shitty politics unless you are the very scum of the earth.

      1. avatar sarcastic Sal says:

        Really? They are killing tens of thousands thru their proxy terrorism. They are such good peoples.

    2. avatar Montana Dan says:

      Can’t we just use weapons that eradicate all life, destroy the ecosystem, and have global impacts on a country because I think they might be bad guys?

  3. avatar Big Bill says:

    Instead of on ships (once these are viable) We should start putting these in space.

    1. avatar anaxis says:

      Look up “Rods from God”.

      A rail-gun of that magnitude in orbit would probably be a single-use weapon.

      1. avatar Geoff PR says:

        The biggest problem will be the cost of putting into orbit enough mass to counter the recoil of firing that thing.

        Or they could go ‘recoiless’ with a bi-directional projectile. More weight…

        1. avatar Mercutio says:

          Kinetic Energy Weapons launched from space at a ground target (KEWs, otherwise known as BFRs – Big ****ing Rocks) don’t need the massive acceleration a rail gun provides. Gravity gets the job done – just a nudge in the right direction. Waddaya think those meter-wide steel balls that fell in Northern Vietnam last week were? Russian steel, so probably not an orbital Pachinko game.

        2. avatar Geoff PR says:

          “Waddaya think those meter-wide steel balls that fell in Northern Vietnam last week were?”

          Not familiar with that particular incident, but if they were a meter wide and fell from orbit they were likely titanium reaction control fuel tanks or perhaps a propellant pressurization tank of some sort (a way to provide limited ‘steering’ to reconnaissance satellites), they have been known to survive re-entry intact.

          Something along the lines of these:

          https://www.google.com/search?biw=1280&bih=646&tbm=isch&q=space+junk+falling+to+earth&revid=1964794037&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj07K_q7KXKAhXJNj4KHV-dCL8Q1QIIGw&dpr=1

    2. avatar gene says:

      To launch from space you wouldnt use a rail gun. That would launch the satellite at the same speed out into space. The kinetic energy weapons used from orbit are simply dropped from the satellite and fall under the power of gravity. Tge purpose of the rail gun is to launch a kinetic energy projectile (non explosive) into the upper atmosphere so that it falls back to earth just like a meteorite.

      1. avatar WedelJ says:

        Man, the stuff we can come up with when we are given open-ended questions just astounds me.

      2. avatar James69 says:

        Yep. The GI Joe movie has Obama using one of these to level London.

  4. avatar california richard says:

    Maybe it should be called the navy “smart gun”. Smarter to use older and more reliable technology by the sound of it the CNO. I think even an advanced guided missile would be cheaper, more accurate, and more lethal than this thing….. Really cool science experiment though….. Kind of reminds me of that Bull guy that wanted to put satelites in orbit for canada using a “super gun”….. but ended up getting killed by Mosad for making a super gun for sadam…… Missiles.

    1. avatar Cliff H says:

      You may have missed one salient point in the video – a ship armed with these guns does not have to carry high explosives aboard. Magazines would contain only small-arms ammunition. For a captain of a combat vessel that would be a major consideration, assuming the rail gun worked reliably as advertised.

      1. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

        Good point. No powder bags, no explosive war heads, no setting fuses.
        Hmm.

        1. avatar barnbwt says:

          …just high density capacitor banks and insanely brutal levels of voltage and current shooting through the place. Energy is energy after a certain point, and it all generates a lot of heat, quickly.

        2. avatar california richard says:

          That and the fireball created by the projectile turning the air in to plasma at the muzzle might be a consideration too.

        3. avatar WedelJ says:

          Lol, I would do it just to watch that!

      2. avatar Geoff PR says:

        “You may have missed one salient point in the video – a ship armed with these guns does not have to carry high explosives aboard.”

        Rail guns have their own lethal properties.

        Pray an enemy projectile never hits a charged capacitor bank, that could easily blow the ship apart.

  5. avatar Usriflecaliber.30m1 says:

    I thought Colt was going to release a navy M45 (rail gun). ?

  6. avatar Geoff PR says:

    I like their Latin project motto: “Velocitas Eradico”, crudly translates as “Speed Kills”, a bit amusing to someone who grew up in the 70’s…

  7. avatar Jay in Florida says:

    Hymm maybe I will live long enough to have a real phaser??

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      “Hymm maybe I will live long enough to have a real phaser??”

      Since that thing can deliver huge amounts of kinetic energy, the term ‘Blaster’ would be apt…

  8. avatar Five says:

    What? Are they afraid the Iranians will capture the test ship and hold it and crew hostage?

  9. avatar Matt in Maine says:

    DDG 1000 should be on it’s way to San Diego later this year. Plenty of electrical power on that ship.

  10. avatar CTstooge says:

    .204 Ruger 32 gr has a muzzle velocity around 4,000 fps. That’s about Mach 3.55 right? Can you imagine the ballistics on that sabot round coming out at Mach 7? And the kinetic energy?

    1. avatar barnbwt says:

      It’s basically a directed-energy weapon. The projectile never actually penetrates anything, from my understanding. The tungsten vaporizes on contact at those speeds (as well as the barrel/rails of the guns) and transfers nearly all its kinetic energy into a thermal load on the target; melting/vaporizing a sizeable hole in the armor and spraying the molten debris all over the inside of the vessel, killing anything and probably setting off any explosives. Very much like a sci-fi ‘plasma’ weapon, but much greater theoretical range. Probably looks just like one, too, since the projectile is going so fast it actually dissociates the air & burns like a comet as it travels.

  11. avatar glenux says:

    That Rail Gun can hit a target 100 NAUTICAL MILES?

    I would like to see that.

    Can such and object have that much Kinetic Energy fired from a rail gun?

    If it goes any faster, the projectile could go into orbit.

    Also, I would like to be the first buyer when the put it in an AR platform.

    1. avatar Raconteur says:

      Yes, they can hit at extreme range, if the target is the size of Virginia. They thought they would be able to guide the projectile. Funny thing, you can’t see through a plasma field with anything that you could use as a reference to guide by (GPS, x-ray, radio, light). Guess what totally envelopes the projectile during flight. There are a few other slight problems that can and will, bite them in the ass. But that is a tale for another time.

  12. avatar James69 says:

    This is just to battle the Russian’s Microwave Gun. Hey we can shoot frozen burritos and the russians can cook em in flight now. More “spacegun” BS.

  13. avatar I1ULUZ says:

    How long did our newest addition to the fleet go before it broke down and USN’s version of AAA had to go fetch it? Less than 3 weeks.

    How is our first CVN ( PCU Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) ) that ditched hydraulics for electromagnetic aircraft elevators coming along? Few billion over cost, few months/years behind schedule.

    Did it say BAE on the prototype? How sad, not even a US company 🙁

    1. avatar James69 says:

      Prob a “Union” job. God Bless “Unions” they have made the USA what it is today. Thank you Joe Palooka from Hackensack.

      1. avatar I1ULUZ says:

        Tradesmen are union but salary who do testing and supervise are not union. On USS Milwaukee who could not even make it to Norfolk without breaking down much less her homeport of San Diego. News reports reference testing of the propulsion system without lube oil, not sure if the crew was there during the “dry” run or not.

        PCU Gerald Ford, the new electromagnetic systems are not living up to design specs, most likely we’ll have to accept a less than 100% ship for 22% over budget cost. NNSY knows they have us by the shorties as they are the only nuke capable shipyard.

        Interesting idea if the round can be accelerated enough to hit a low earth orbit satellite, Aegis I believe has the capability to scan that far vertical. Satellites don’t maneuver so fairly simple fire control solution. NORAD won’t be happy about all the extra junk they have to track if it happened.

        I can remember silly things like this but forget where I left my truck keys.

  14. avatar The Phantom says:

    I have heard from reliable sources that the only reason this project is delayed is because the entire develop team has been ordered to direct all efforts to developing a safe gun for citizens per the Commander and Chef.

  15. avatar Alfonso A. Rodriguez says:

    About time they have a working model. The military has been working on electromagnetic artillery for four decades now. When I was a student officer at the US Field Artillery School in Fort Sill in ’79-’80 and again in ’83-84 it was being seriously discussed. Why it has taken so long? I do not think is lack of science and technology but maybe not enough development money was allocated for a Star Wars gun that was hard to develop and other more conventional projects were considered more important. Research and development is very political and cut throat and all fight for money like starving lions. This was for the long haul but is finally happening. Like I stated, it has been almost four decades.

  16. avatar Ralph says:

    Fanta is delaying the test until he has a sufficient number of female gunners to woman it.

  17. avatar kenneth says:

    “originally scheduled for 2106.” ?????
    Well, maybe my great-great-great grandkids will see it… if it isn’t pushed back another century or two.

  18. avatar Raconteur says:

    Rant time:
    The reason that the Navy is pushing this so hard, is that not one of the upper brass has the smallest hint that the purpose of R & D is to show that sometimes you don’t want to go there, or that the supporting technology problems can not be solved with what we have/know at this time. The rail gun is one of the latter.
    The other problem that has bitten the Navy in the ass for decades, is that they want to use guns where they need missiles and missiles where they need guns. Want to put lots of bang on a target at 20+NM? use a missile. Want ship defense inside 20NM? Use guns. The Navy has it exactly ass backwards.
    Missiles are relatively slow and need to get up to speed to maneuver. You can put BIG payloads on them. You can make them jink and do radar avoidance. They =can be= relatively cheap with low maintenance. They are great at blowing the crap out of distant targets. They absolutely suck at taking out leakers of the primary ship defense missiles (Standard system) and close-in defense. By the time a leaker is identified, there is time to make one engagement of the target with a missile(s). If you miss, the next fired missile(s) will have just cleared the launcher when the warhead arrives. A shoot-look-shit scenario.
    Guns are quick to aim. The projectile is already up to speed when it leaves the barrel, if you use guided projectiles. You can put multiple rounds on target, vastly increasing kill probability. You can easily choose a proper round & gun for different targets. (Guided/dispensing/HEAP/etc). Guns have a true shoot-look-shoot capability, with real close-in support abilities. The projectiles are very cheap, compared to a missile. Range is limited, although rounds have been developed to go 200NM (The problem is, it then puts its miniscule payload on target. Big whoop). Gun systems are complicated (bigger than a .50cal) and require a lot of maintenance.
    When you want a big bang on target over the horizon, with accuracy and primary outside ship defense: missile. Close-in ship defense and small shore targets: guns. Unfortunately, that’s not the Navy way. Higher-ups want more whistles and bells (so that they can “consult” for the contractors after retirement), not to actually get the job done. It’s been that way for decades.

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