Office of Naval Research May Set Record, Showcase Railgun Applications in Test

Story Number: NNS101208-06Release Date: 12/8/2010 11:22:00 AM
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By Geoff Fein, Office of Naval Research Public Affairs

Arlington, Va (NNS) -- Senior Navy leaders will be on hand Dec. 10 at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) for a record-setting test of the Office of Naval Research's (ONR) experimental Electromagnetic Railgun, the service's effort to evolve surface ship weapons.

With the latest demonstration, the Navy will fire a 32-megajoule muzzle energy shot, and attempt to set a new world record for the Railgun program. A megajoule is a measurement of energy associated with a mass traveling at a certain velocity. For example, a one-ton vehicle moving at 100 mph equals a megajoule of energy.

The test will also show the tactical relevance of the technology.

"The importance of the 32-megajoule demonstration is the feasibility of the system at an energy level that has military significance," said Roger Ellis, ONR Electromagnetic Railgun program manager.

In terms of capability, a future tactical Electromagnetic Railgun will hit targets at ranges almost 20 times farther than conventional surface ship combat systems. A 32-megajoule shot, for example, could reach ranges of more than 100 nautical miles with Mach 5 velocity, said Dr. Elizabeth D'Andrea, ONR Electromagnetic Railgun program strategic director.

Additionally, the two industry competitors, BAE Systems and General Atomics, will showcase their advanced composite prototype Railgun launcher systems at NSWCDD, a tenant command to Naval Support Facility.

The goal of the Electromagnetic Railgun program is to develop a new surface ship weapon that will use a projectile driven by kinetic energy. This new munition will eliminate the need for a high-energy explosive warhead and traditional gun propellants, ONR officials said. Removing explosives and chemicals will improve safety for Sailors and Marines and reduce the munitions logistics chain.

The Railgun is being developed for use on a wide range of ships, whether the vessel has an integrated power system, such as DDG 1000, or a non-integrated power system, such as a DDG 51, ONR officials said.

The system would be capable of a rate of fire of six to 12 rounds per minute and guided to targets with a high degree of precision. Improved accuracy should result in minimizing collateral damage, ONR officials added.

The Department of the Navy's Office of Naval Research (ONR) provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps' technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 70 countries, 1,035 institutions of higher learning and 914 industry partners. ONR employs approximately 1,400 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel, with additional employees at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C.

For more news from Office of Naval Research, visit

12/13/2010 10:59:00 AM
Ok, when this goes live, isn't this rail gun the perfect excuse to bring back the battleship?

12/11/2010 8:56:00 AM
On a carrier if you add one piece of a huge energy user, you weaken another part of the ship. Reactors are restricted in steam production. A cruise missle is much more than a million, but when you add catapults and rail guns, that takes energy and they don't make capacitors that large and step up transformers only can do that much. The only solution is of course steam driven generators that do fail. Look into the facts, and you will see lunacy.

12/10/2010 5:49:00 PM
Steam works after an EMP.

12/10/2010 2:51:00 PM
Wow, we could have used that up in the I-Corps of South Vietnam near Laos. China would not be were they are today if we had that thing to disrupt the trails near Laos - a lot better than night inserts and chasing them down afoot. Sighting and observing them was just not all it took.

12/10/2010 11:49:00 AM
The ships survivabilty is what we are talking about here. The Sailors safety has never been the driving force in a U.S. Navy warship, so don't give me anything about a steam line rupture. There are several ways get steam to catapults and have never heard of one failing for lack of steam. You have a line from the reactor to the catapults with valving for any unforseen event. Now you are going to put a turbogenerator in the middle which produces the needed 60 MW for this new catipult? Dumb.

12/9/2010 3:51:00 PM
Well, gosh, I hate to disagree with the previous writer, but I see huge potential here. It seems it's not only safer for our Sailors, but it looks from the description that it's pretty darned lethal! With Tomahawks at more than $1 million each, I'd say this technology is a winner for the American taxpayer and the Sailors on the ships upon which it will ultimately be deployed. Wow, 100 miles at +Mach 5? I'm impressed!

12/9/2010 10:22:00 AM
We're moving away from steam, because, among other reasons, if a steam line ruptures it'll injure anyone in the space. As for the gun, longer range, faster round, less highly explosive stuff to work around - sounds good to me.

12/8/2010 7:29:00 PM
Tax dollars at waste is what I say. Are we not content that we can do the same with a cruise missile? It seems like there is no end to this lunacy. It is very similar to the catapults they are coming up with for the new carrier. The ship has steam and the present catapults really have no problems. Send that same steam to extra generators needed to produce the power these new catapults require and that is 60 megawatts. It takes a whole lot of steam to produce 60 megawatts. Brilliant!

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Photograph taken from a high-speed video camera during a record-setting firing of an electromagnetic railgun (EMRG) at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren, Va., on January 31, 2008.
080131-N-0000X-004 DAHLGREN, Va. (Jan. 31, 2008) Photograph taken from a high-speed video camera during a record-setting firing of an electromagnetic railgun (EMRG) at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren, Va., on January 31, 2008, firing at 10.64MJ (megajoules) with a muzzle velocity of 2520 meters per second. The Office of Naval Research's EMRG program is part of the Department of the Navy's Science and Technology investments, focused on developing new technologies to support Navy and Marine Corps war fighting needs. This photograph is a frame taken from a high-speed video camera. U.S. Navy Photograph (Released)
January 31, 2008
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