The Railgun May Soon Be Obsolete

Discussion in 'U.S. Navy' started by Falcon, Jun 6, 2016.

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  1. Falcon

    Falcon Major Staff Member Social Media Team

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    The Navy’s futuristic electric cannon, or railgun, received yet more hype this weekfor its ability to fire a shell at up to 5,600 miles per hour, and do it far more cheaply than a missile. But there’s a daunting reality behind the hype: the Pentagon is already looking past the railgun to a less power-intensive, more easily deployable alternative. The railgun rounds can be fired from more conventional cannons, giving the same capability sooner and cheaper.

    The Pentagon loved the idea as a cheap alternative to missiles for targets 100 miles away and getting dangerous gunpowder off of ships. Over the course of a decade, the U.S. has spent more than a half a billion dollars on the program. The gun is supposed to be deployed on the new Zumwalt class destroyers since the Zumwalt is basically the only ship that generates enough juice, 78 megawatts, to power the gun. But the military is making just three of the ships.

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    In 2012, the Pentagon realized that they could fire the railgun’s projectile out of the 5-inch powder guns on existing ships. No, it wouldn’t hit speeds of Mach 7 (topping out closer to Mach 3), but that’s twice as fast as a normal round fired from a 5-inch powder gun.

    Pentagon leaders who vaunted the program recently started talking it down. “We thought railguns were something we were really going to go after, but it turns out that powder guns firing the same hypervelocity projectiles gets you almost as much as you would get out of the electromagnetic rail gun, but it’s something we can do much faster,” Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work told Congress in May. The Pentagon will now spend an additional $800 million, through the secretive Strategic Capabilities Office, on developing a defensive capability for the gun (meaning less power to shoot at shorter ranges) and also adapting the Navy’s other guns to shoot the railgun’s projectiles. “We are going to say … ‘Look, we believe this is the place where you want to put your money, but we’re going to have enough money in there for both the electromagnetic rail gun and the powder gun.’ So if the new administration says ‘No really the electromagnetic rail gun is the way I want to go,’ knock yourself out, we’ve set you up for success,” said Work.

    Vice Adm. William Hilarides, commander of Naval Sea Systems Command, said last year that, because of the railgun’s high power needs, it will be at least 30 years before the Navy considers removing powder guns from the fleet.

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    In the meantime, slightly less powerful versions of the railgun could be key to making it more relevant to the Navy. “You may not always need a 32-megajoule railgun and this [pulse power system] scales completely with that,” Wheelan said. “If you wanted to take a lower energy shot, you would need less of these containers to power it.”

    But there are still problems with the railgun concept as conceived, according to University of North Carolina physicist Mark Gubrud, who says that for the gun to hit targets at vast distances, the Navy is going to have to put at least 32 megajoules into each round—and probably more. You can make that more efficient in terms of energy loss but that’s only part of the problem. The act of firing the gun with that much power destroys the gun’s rails very quickly, limiting it’s use.
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    In other words, no matter how much you improve the power source, the gun will still face limitations.

    Rest of it:

    http://www.defenseone.com/technology/2016/06/can-navys-electric-cannon-be-saved/128793/?oref=d-river
     
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  2. Technofox

    Technofox That Norwegian girl Staff Member Ret. Military Developer

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    Well this stinks:eek:!!

    Is this a reason why we're seeing a focus on alternative shells like the common guided artillery round?

    [​IMG]
     
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  3. Pathfinder

    Pathfinder Lieutenant Colonel

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    I had a feeling that this technology would be out of reach for a while especially because of the power concerns. Another concern was the technologies ability to provide long sustained rates of fire which isn't going to happen with current rail gun technology. Perhaps Rail Guns can be used elsewhere for the time being. I would hate to see all of that time and money go to waste. I think land forces could make good use of them, they would be static and could be used in countries like Afghanistan.
     
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  4. AMDR

    AMDR Captain Staff Member Administrator

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    Like it said in the article, the HVP will get us what we need faster and cheaper than the railgun right now. While we get that out into the fleet, keep maturing railgun tech all throughout the 2020s and try to push that barrel life limit as much as possible. The Arleigh Burke and LCS replacement classes will start being built around 2030, and both are expected to be built with an insane power system first pioneered on the Zumwalt-class. So I think that will be prime time for the first serious railgun installations.
     
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