Railgun Platforms. Thinking Caps On!

Discussion in 'Multi-Domain' started by Falcon, Jan 25, 2016.

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  1. Falcon

    Falcon Major Staff Member Social Media Team

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    Before we all get too excited we should remember some of the key disadvantages of railguns. They are high maintenance as the rails warp after some firing even though cooling technologies have been developed, and they require high amounts of energy to fire. Conventional guns can keep up much longer rates of sustained fire.

    Mike Fredenburg lists out the disadvantages here but we are talking about what platforms could a railgun be realistically used on.



    My 2 cents:

    Naval Platforms as is being done now.Maybe on submarines too.

    ORD_Rail_Gun_on_DDG-1000_Concept_lg.jpg

    Rail based railguns similar to the German Big Bertha of World War 1.

    Bertha_gun006.jpg

    A big railgun mounted on a TEL type vehicle that would normally carry Ballistic Missiles.

    Screen Shot 2013-03-29 at 6.50.00 PM.png

    A rail gun can be placed on a satellite type spacecraft. The gun would be placed in outer space over certain areas of interests, it would have a geostationary orbit. The UN will be forced to come up with laws for outer space territory.

    railgun-6.jpg

    As railgun technology advances they could be placed on airplanes and smaller land vehicles but I have a gut feeling that traditional gunpowder weapons, lasers, and missiles will dominate those platforms.
     
  2. Technofox

    Technofox That Norwegian girl Staff Member Ret. Military Developer

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    Railguns of today require a lot of power:

    That's understandable. A railgun system needs 25 megawatts of energy flowing through it, and according to Captain Michael Ziv, the Navy's program manager for rail guns and energy weapons. Most currently serving destroyers don't have more than nine megawatts of electricity that they can shift around.

    This is why they are being proposed as shore bombardment alternatives to expensive cruise missiles and smart bombs, and are to be components on future warships. But if we're going a bit hypothetical, like with satellites, which could use Radioisotope thermoelectric generators - a type of nuclear battery, usual found on deep-space probes, but sorely lacking in the power requirement criteria:

    RTGs have been used as power sources in satellites, space probes, and unmanned remote facilities such as a series of lighthouses built by the former Soviet Union inside the Arctic Circle. RTGs are usually the most desirable power source for unmaintained situations that need a few hundred watts (or less) of power for durations too long for fuel cells, batteries, or generators to provide economically, and in places where solar cells are not practical.

    [​IMG]

    How about a return to a 1950's concept - the Nuclear Tank? The working model of the time was the Chrysler TV-8:

    The Chrysler TV-8 was an extremely strange-looking medium tank concept which was developed in the 1950s. But if it’s appearance was odd, it was nothing compared to the proposed power source, a nuclear fission-powered vapor-cycle power plant located towards the rear of the main compartment!

    The TV-8 was presented in a proposal by Chrysler Corporation subsequent to the ASTRON meeting. Using an unconventional tank design, the proposed tank located the entire crew, engine and ammunition storage within a pod-shaped turret mounted above a lightweight chassis which could be separated for air shipment. The total weight of the tank was approximately 25 tons, with the turret weighing 15 tons and the chassis weighing 10 tons


    [​IMG]

    Modern miniature reactor designs have progressed quite a bit since the days of the 1950s, though the hazards remain as pronounced as ever. Still, it has the power requirement met and such a system, modernized for today's conflicts, could be a potent anti-everything weapon system.

    ...

    Or how about man portable:O---:?

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2016
  3. Falcon

    Falcon Major Staff Member Social Media Team

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    A nuclear tank!!!%^(

    Hmmm. For satellites solar energy could be built up and stored in a battery.Still we are bogged down in power and energy issues.:confused: This paper says that you need 4.8 acres of solar panels to get one Megawatt. I would guess that solar panels could absorb more energy in outer space meaning that you wouldn't need a terrible amount of outer space real estate to power one these babies:/--0. I dunno how long it would take to charge a battery like that but it could be an option in the future.|Astronaut|

    The railgun small arm could be an effective anti material or sniper rifle.:O---:

    Lookin like gunpowder will rule for another 100 years at least. Still the most cost effective and reliable system out there.
     
  4. Technofox

    Technofox That Norwegian girl Staff Member Ret. Military Developer

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    It too has a big power problem:

    “Its basically just a big four foot long railgun. It just plugs into a 220v outlet and charges up a capacitor bank. I’m not sure if the neon gas is actually ionized into plasma or not since I can’t see it in flight. But ionizing gas into plasma isn’t too uncommon, just shooting it is (since plasma dissipates instantly unless contained within a vacuum or magnetic field). So I don’t know how exactly its penetrating the metal (plasma burning through it or the copper sleeve just blasting through it) but ya, I’m sure railguns will be more and more portable and powerful over time, it’s just hard to store enough energy to fire multiple shots or have it compact.”

    :eek: For comparison, a Prius hybrid battery pack weighs 330lbs and has 345.6 Volts.

    Now the capacity and expenditure of each system's battery is different, one for long-continual use and one for instantaneous, high-capacity discharge, so that'll effect the size of the battery and also their capacity and if the railgun's battery is smaller, because it doesn't need to hold a charge for a long period, as does a car, then it'll weigh less, but also require more frequent charging. That make's it impractical. Large batteries = heavier, but also greater number of shots per charge. The converse is true too, and more likely as lugging around heavy equipment is dangerous for warfighters, but it dooms the portable railgun until higher capacity batteries or lower expenditure railguns are made.

    220v is no small amount and would require something like a battery backpack to make effective battlefield use... only much heavier than the current models

    Still, it looks cool and easily penetrates metal plates, though range and penetration versus existing anti-material rifles is a big question mark.



    Sure, it seems stupid, and to be honest is, but once upon a time it was a realistic proposition. What doomed the TV-8 wasn't the threat of being roasted to death by a reactor that was damaged, but rather that a nuclear propulsion device didn't offer any tangible benefits over existing tank engines.

    If there is a tangible benefit, like a railgun and its power requirements, maybe a re-look at the idea is worth having.

    It's still stupid though, and this is why railguns are being proposed as ship-mounted shore bombardment weapons.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2016
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  5. Falcon

    Falcon Major Staff Member Social Media Team

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    Agree agree agree. Current technology prevents rail guns from being used on smaller platforms and infantry. Rail guns are decent for coastal bombardment if you are targeting critical assets but the guy in the article I posted says that they can't provide sustained fire to support marines storming a beach. Thats probably why we don't really see pictures or artist impressions showing ships with only rail guns.
     
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  6. Pathfinder

    Pathfinder Lieutenant Colonel

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    Truck mounted and train mounted rail guns seem to be the most effective options right now. Permanently emplaced rail guns can also be used to protect cities. I would be interesting to know if rail gun tech can eventually be used in an anti air role similar to how anti air artillery works.
     
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  7. Technofox

    Technofox That Norwegian girl Staff Member Ret. Military Developer

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    Don't see why not. Calculating firing trajectories and times, for interception, seems no different from existing algorithms that are used on hit-to-kill vehicles like those on PAC-3 or SM-3, so that problem already has either a solution or at least a precedent to build off of.

    ...

    What I'm interested in is velocity though. Missiles like SM-3 have ultra-high altitudes and ultra-long ranges because they have a constant source of momentum - their motor (and a booster for an initial kick). Gun type devices lack this constant momentum and thus both their range, speed, and accuracy as their speed drops off, are diminished. Even for railgun that have greater initial momentum.

    But even here there's a precedent that shows guns can have ultra-high altitudes and ultra-long ranges; the accuracy remains in question. This precedent is Project HARP for altitude:

    On November 18, 1966 the Yuma gun fired a 400 lb (180 kg) Martlet 2 projectile at 7,000 ft/s (2,100 m/s)[1] sending it briefly into space and setting an altitude record of 180 km (590,000 ft; 110 mi); that world record still stands as of 2013.

    [​IMG]

    It was marketed as an alternative to rockets, but ultimately lacked the necessary speed to reach orbit:

    While the speed was not nearly enough to reach orbit (less than half of the 11,200 m/s delta-v required to reach Low Earth Orbit), it was a major achievement at much lower cost than most ballistic missile programs

    The range precedent is Project Babylon or any other large caliber gun, like the Gustav or Nazi-Era Germany:

    [​IMG]

    They achieved their range and altitude with longer barrels and greater charge size. Railguns would still need longer barrels, especially for accuracy, short barrels limit accuracy at greater ranges, but also would need more power to ensure greater speed - and thus range and accuracy.

    ...

    Is this a second-tier weapon? Against missiles or aircraft that escape THAAD, SM-3 or GBI and before lasers and point-defense missiles like PAC-3 come into play? If so would railguns have the range, altitude and speed needed for interceptions of high-speed missiles and aircraft, missiles like China's WU-14 (technically an HGV):

    [​IMG]

    And here's another important question; guns, especially anti-aircraft guns are fast firing and fast loading, can a railgun reload and re-engage fast enough? Seems we'd need better capacitors for that as the existing ones run out of energy too quickly to sustain rapid fire.

    With a higher exit velocity railguns would likely have a longer range and higher altitude then "conventional" guns, if you can call super-guns such, and even if they lack long range or high altitude such would be designed with a longer barrel and high energy output... though that could warp the gun too.

    Even if they are second-tier weapons, supporting GBI, THAAD or SM-3. they would be one heck of a defense that couples accuracy, speed and cost-effectiveness into a single package.
     
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  8. Pathfinder

    Pathfinder Lieutenant Colonel

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    Too much knowledge!!! :0?:

    lW9YLko.gif


    Right, it looks like rail guns don't have the necessary power to be effective against ballistic missiles or other aerial targets. What if you could use a rail gun that fires a a "rail gun shell" that has a small rocket motor on it that is used to reach its target at the ending stage of firing. For example a radar would detect where the missile is and where it is going then it would calculate where to fire the rail gun. After firing the shell reaches the area where the missile is expected to be then the rocket on the small rocket motor kicks in and finishes off the target.

    This method would propel the shell 100-200 miles away and then the motor kicks in. This system would have superior range to the Patriot we are using now.
     
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  9. AMDR

    AMDR Captain Staff Member Administrator

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    Notice the top right picture. Pellet round for anti-air. This should bolster the anti-air capability of rail guns in a terminal phase intercept.

    railgunresearch.png
     
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  10. Technofox

    Technofox That Norwegian girl Staff Member Ret. Military Developer

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    Hmm, I'm still not convinced for ABM purposes. Didn't the US find out that blast fragmentation warheads, or pellets, aren't good at defeating ballistic missiles in Desert Storm when PAC-2 intercepted some Al-Hussein missiles? Sure they were downed, but largely intact:

    [​IMG]

    Hit-to-kill buses, like those on GBI, THAAD or SM-3 literally vaporize their targets. but by running into them, not exploding near a target. Some like PAC-3 also have a "lethality enhancer" - or a small explosive charge, to help finish off any remaining fragments, but the hit-to-kill bus is still doing the heavy lifting, not the explosive.

    If a railgun is going to be used for ABM, maybe dust off another old program - the Homing Overlay Experiment? This used a lattice to make the hit-to--kill contact point larger and increase the odds of hitting the target missile:

    [​IMG]

    But blast fragments, or pellets in the graphic, against aircraft? Oh yes!!! That'll do just fine:

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2016
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