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“Just when you thought we’d nailed the art of firing chunks of metal at each other at immense speeds,” snarks, “a US weapons firm has shown it can do it faster. An electromagnetic railgun has been tested firing bullets at Mach 6 – six times the speed of sound. Designed by San Diego-based General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS), the Blitzer railgun uses electromagnets to send its projectiles hurtling off at thousands of miles per hour.” That would be six times the speed of sound. The main advantages over traditional explosives are stated as improved safety – due to less explosives on board – and could drastically reduce the costs.” Reduced costs. Sure.

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    • It’s your browser settings. IE, Chrome and Firefox all have settings that prevent autoplays. You can look up the procedures online or in the browser help functions. I used to get autoplays on this and other sites, but no more.

  1. “The main advantages over traditional explosives are stated as improved safety – due to less explosives on board – and could drastically reduce the costs.”

    Offsetting that, if the huge capacitor banks they use are damaged in combat, you have the potential of a *massive* energy release inside your hull.

  2. Um what happens when these ships have an electrical outage? Also how long before these make their way into the civilian market? Similar to the ones in Eraser?

    • Handheld and effective rail guns may never exist. There is no current way to store high enough levels of electrical energy in something small enough to be man portal or powerful enough to give it any advantage over conventional guns.

      What happens when there is an electrical outage? the same thing that happens to any ship, it becomes a disabled drifting hulk. Conventional cannon can no more be used without electricity than a rail gun. All the targeting, aiming, lights, fans etc required to run then still need electricity even if the propellant is chemical.

      • All true, but, with no explosive warhead, don’t this just become a line of sight weapon of sorts? Kind of hard to lob projectiles over a hill or something with something moving that fast. “There is no current” isn’t that the point? At this time, what will happen in a few years when all of our ships have these?

        • You may have a point about it being line of sight, I don’t know how much arc you can get with these and still maintain enough velocity.

          But its probably not a problem, missiles, drones, smart bombs etc have replaced at lot the things artillery used to be used for. These guns won’t do everything conventional cannon did, but they will do some things better.

          And as far as current technology goes, there are certain limits. There is a reason smart phones are now much much more powerful than they used to be, but their batteries are only slightly better. Some technologies have reached their peak or near to it. Without a breakthrough in physics it seems unlikely that handheld high power rail guns will ever be a thing. Sure, breakthroughs do happen but we aren’t talking just small improvements here, we are talking sci-fi levels here, things we don’t even have a theory for yet.

        • It is a kinetic energy weapon, and as long as it retains velocity, it retains its destructive potential. I believe all of our big guns have been retired, and even then, the 16″ guns had a max range of approximately 25 miles (which is pretty amazing, given that the projectile weighed a ton). To give you an idea, the video above resulted in
          the projectile being able to travel an additional 4.3 mi downrange after penetrating a 1⁄8 inch (3.2 mm) thick steel plate–when the gun was fired horizontally. The navy version rail gun has an estimated range of 100 miles, at which can sink a ship (none of which are heavily armored any more). I believe that one of our standard tank rounds is a titanium rod kinetic energy weapon that can, even at fifteen or more miles, penetrate 16 inches of armor.

        • These things could fire a guided projectile half way into space, I don’t think the problem will be in getting enough elevation on the warhead. And yes, we have guided artillery shells, so I don’t forsee a problem in making guided shells for these weapons in the future.

        • Twit with phone/pen has decreed that thinks that explode are icky and hurt the feelings of muuhamad.

        • That’s not true.
          30 years ago, it was quite apparent that sometime relatively soon, handheld computers would exist.
          Computers have always gotten smaller and faster, soon, you’ll have a computer the size of a pea.
          The problem with energy is that it doesn’t get smaller or even that much more efficiently stored and utilized.
          A certain amount of energy will be required to move a mass to a certain velocity, F=Mass * Acceleration.
          The greater the mass, the greater the acceleration, the more force is required and delivered.

          • >> The problem with energy is that it doesn’t get smaller or even that much more efficiently stored and utilized.

            First of all, long-term energy storage (which is what’s hard) is not relevant to this particular application. They use a nuclear reactor to charge up a bank of supercapacitors, and then unload that. Nothing particularly fancy there.

            And yes, this is, in fact, a very active area of research, and so further improvements are highly likely.

            Speaking of which, the same is true of long-term energy storage – i.e. batteries. Here’s the energy density chart for Li-Ion batteries over the past 25 years:


            Note how it has more than doubled – and the trend is still up.

        • THC, Perhaps you have been asleep for the last 3 decades. Or you’re 12 and don’t know any history. Or you’re a new arrival from some horribly backward s-hole. Welcome!

          Like many tens of thousands of others I had one of these 23 years ago…

          That platform started development almost 30 years ago.

          Let me provide the next revelation – we all know that self-driving cars are going to mass market within 10 years. We all knew this was coming as soon as computing got powerful and cheap enough. We have known this (realistically) since the 1980s when MBZ started putting serious effort into it. So don’t you be surprised that they’re here.

    • These really make most sense when combined with nuclear propulsion. If you have an electrical outage on that kind of vessel, you have bigger problems to worry about.

      • “These really make most sense when combined with nuclear propulsion.”

        I’m gonna disagree about that.

        The first of these are going on Arleigh Burke class destroyers, they are powered by 4 airliner-sized gas turbine engines. This vid is an Arleigh Burke engine room, it would drive me nuts working in such a loud, shreiking environment:

        As I understand it, gas turbines are more easily (and quickly) throttled than nuke steam turbines. They ‘match up’ to electric generators better than nukes. The next generation destroyers will be all-electric, but that will be years down the road at this rate…

  3. Why is the robo-chick’s script written to suggest that traditional gunpowder has somehow been the bane of human existence? “We’re *finally* moving beyond gunpowder…. *sniff*. Now the suffering can end.”

    • Maybe its just because everything else has advanced so much but we are still using 100 year old propellants in our weapons.

      • The point is that black powder has been used for centuries, smokeless for a bit over a century, and we are just now finding a replacement. It was not an anti-gun statement.

    • I think you are reaching with this. She’s eluding to the fact that it is old technology. At least that’s the impression I got.

  4. I just need one phased plasma rifle. Something in the 40 megawatt range. Is that too effing much to ask?

    • Apparently that and sharks with frickin’ laser beams on their heads. How can we claim to be an advanced and civilised nation without either?

      • You can start by dropping the tea & crumpet English and use murcin English on a murcin website. There ain’t nothin civilized about spelling civilized w/ an “s”. What’s next saber w/ a flipped around “re”? If we get this right Santa might upgrade us to railguns, lazer endowed sharks, enchanted shuriken, and war chimps with ballistic knives.

  5. Does this thing have a guidance system? Or is this hunk of metal just a fast bullet? Over penetration much?

      • A VERY FAST bullet. The Blitzer currently runs at 5200 fps, with projections of over 8000 fps. (It is all a question of juice and rail length.) I am not sure of the projectile weight, but I think it is two kilograms.

      • That’s a focus of the engineering right now – the projectile. Can it be used cross platforms, what method to guide it, etc.

        Lobbing DU or tungsten at something, however fast is hardly the end of the product development.

    • When we’re talking about velocities that high, penetration mostly becomes fragmentation. That’s why they’re making the “bullet” so dense (depleted uranium, usually) – it’s got to stay more or less in a single chunk for a short while to actually get inside, before all that energy gets dumped into disintegrating the projectile and everything around it.

    • Not a true guidance system, but a sophisticated computer aiming system, and those have gotten pretty darn accurate. Also, a nextgen version could easily have a home-on-laser-designation steering system. An aircraft, or even a satellite, with a laser designator could stand off and pinpoint targets and the projectile would go right to it. An advanced version of what we did when I flew the A-6 Intruder in the Navy.

    • The sabot is just a chunk of tungsten, and the rails are just energized magnets. The rest of the power delivery is aboard a nuclear powered cruiser. Our military ships are hardened against such threats, since they rely on radars, radios, computers, and very sophisticated electronics to operate the weapons systems.

      • Actually, the gun is being installed on the Lyndon Johnson, which although it can generate around 80MW, is not nuclear powered.

        As to the EMP hardening, that’s just wishful thinking. The military long-ago abandoned that program (I forget the initiative’s name). If they really care about it, it’s in the Cheyenne Mountain complex, or a bunker at Greely in AK. Besides, a well-placed space-based blast or three will kill GPS, and enough relevant satellites to move us back to the early 1800s. Fortunately, it will have the same effect on everyone else, so the risk of a major power doing it is *about* zero. Russia, China, even North Korea needs satellite tech to survive. The only significant threat comes from a non-state actor like ISIS (yeah, I know “state” is in the name, but it’s not really a state…).

        Unless it’s in a Farady cage, it’ll be affected. Complex tiny circuits that make up the majority of electronics? Don’t stand a chance. If Starfish Prime was repeated today? Perish the thought.

      • Except we have no nuc ships other than subs and carriers. All of the cruisers were cut into scrap metal and the reactors decommissioned and sent to Hanford, WA.

  6. My understanding is that, safety aside, the ammo for this thing is much more compact, since you only need the projectile and not the propellant (and energy is supplied by the nuclear reactor, which is already there, and has plenty of juice to spare). So you can load a lot more on the same ship.

    Going back to safety, because the powder is gone, you can just stack them wherever it’s convenient, without fear of what happens if enemy fire hits that spot (as compared to traditional ships, which have to put heavy armor around).

    • Store the rounds in the right spots and they become armor of a sorts for the ship. Like the coal bunkers in the old days.

    • What enemy? Who has ships besides us that would square off in the open sea? Short answer, nobody. I dare say we have ruled the oceans since 1945. Unless there were some mega sea battles in Vietnam,Korea, the gulf that I missed?

  7. Always piles of money for BS pie in the sky “R&D” but little for purchase of tools that work or for training and maintenance.

  8. I smell boondoggle. Chemical propellants are damn efficient and the guns that fire them are relatively cheap. The railgun is touted as being cheap because it can effectively fulfill the roles of multiple existing weapons systems–however it’s still an all-eggs-in-one-basket proposition.

    • Smoothbores were “cheap and efficient” too. Right until the moment where they became obsolete.

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