[News Today] WHY RAILGUN IS A GAME CHANGING TECH & HOW CLOSE U.S IS TO HAVING AN OPERATIONAL ONE?
After more than a decade, the U.S Navy. is making slow but steady progress on its futuristic Railgun.
If the program can produce a functional and cost efficient weapon, it could give the US Navy ships a deadly new way of attacking enemy vessels and forces ashore, as well as defending against aircraft and fast-flying missiles.
In this video, Defense Updates looks at why Railgun is a game changing tech and how close US is to having an operational one?
A conventional cannon has some type of shell in a tube. The shell is then launched by the expansion of exploding gunpowder.
The traditional guns have three major limitations:
1. Gunpowder must be carried with the projectile, making the entire round heavier.
2. Ordnance based on gunpowder is volatile, and so difficult to handle and transport. Their presence also makes the ships vulnerable, as the ammunition containers can explode even with a single direct hit form a torpedo or anti ship missile, resulting in grave damages.
3. The muzzle velocity of projectiles propelled by gunpowder is generally limited to about 4,000 feet (about 1,219 meters) per second or 3.5 Mach.
A railgun is an electromagnetic projectile launcher. A railgun uses a pair of parallel conductors, or rails, along which, a sliding armature is accelerated by the electromagnetic effects of a current that flows down one rail, into the armature and then back along the other rail.
Railguns use neither explosives nor propellant, but rather rely on electromagnetic forces to impart a very high kinetic energy to a projectile. Their projectiles can reach speeds of more than 7 Mach.
The absence of explosive propellants or warheads to store and handle, as well as the low cost of projectiles compared to conventional weaponry comes as great advantage.
Making an operational rail gun is easier said than done. Here are some challenges:
1. The rail guns rely on electromagnetic field to propel the projectile and for that lot of electricity is required. This is one of the major reasons that US is replacing some of Nimitz class super carrier with Ford class carrier. Ford class has newly designed reactors. 2 Bechtel A1B nuclear reactors are installed on USS Gerald R. Ford. Each one these are capable of producing 300 MW of electricity, triple the 100 MW of each Nimitz-class.
2. In current designs of Railgun massive amounts of heat are created by the electricity flowing through the rails, as well as by the friction of the projectile leaving the device. This causes three main problems: melting of equipment, decreased safety of personnel, and detection by enemy forces due to increased infrared signature.
3. A system like this needs time to cool down, so the gun cannot be used in bursts, to fire lots of rounds in small duration of time.
4. The current designs are huge in size; they take a lot of space. This makes them hard to accommodate in ships or transport them like modern howitzers.
The U.S. Navy plans to integrate a Railgun that has a range of over 160 km (100 mi) onto a ship by 2020. The US experts want the rounds to weigh about 10 kg (23 lb), around 18 inch (460 mm) in diameter and have a speed of around Mach 7.
The US Navy is pursuing development of the launcher system through two industry teams — General Atomics and BAE Systems – to reduce risk in the program, and to foster innovation in next-generation shipboard weapons.
In 2012 BAE Systems demonstrated a 32-megajoule prototype at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Va.
In March this year, the U.S. Navy Office of Naval Research has released new video of a test of BAE Systems’ electromagnetic Railgun that has a maximum range exceeding 100 miles.
Capable of accelerating a projectile from 0 to 6 Mach in just 10 milliseconds, the test videos have shown it to cut through over 6 sheets of steel plating like butter.
General Atomics committed more than $50 million in internal funding last year for railgun development in hopes of attracting renewed Army and Navy interest in the technology.
In March 2017, General Atomics proudly announced it had built a new high-energy pulsed-power container (HEPPC) for its Railgun variant, which h
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