Saturday, 2 February 2008

Navy's futuristic railgun displays potential in test

The Navy has amorphous developing a affected “hypercannon” that could anytime hit a ambition added than 200 afar away, application technology that may be added accustomed to acceptance of science fiction than avant-garde argosy weaponry.

Known as an electromagnetic railgun, the weapon uses electricity instead of armament to blaze projectiles.

In a affecting aboriginal step, the Office of Argosy Research said bygone that it accursed the electromagnetic gun application an aberrant beating of activity in a analysis captivated Thursday in Dahlgren, Va.

During the test, the gun about anon propelled an aluminum bang belief hardly added than 7 pounds to Mach 7 – or added than seven times the acceleration of sound.

The railgun has the abeyant to blaze a projectile 230 miles, a aisle that would booty aloof seven minutes. By contrast, a accepted 5-inch argosy gun array can blaze a carapace 20 miles.

With such technology, a warship off the bank of San Diego could blaze a projectile as far as Bakersfield, or about two-thirds the ambit to Phoenix.

After watching Thursday's demonstration, the arch of argosy operations, Adm. Gary Roughead, alleged the abstraction a “revolutionary access to argosy warfare.”

The arc of the projectile's aisle would accelerate it about 95 afar high, able-bodied aloft the Earth's atmosphere. The projectile would use a satellite-based advice arrangement to acclimatize its re-entry, application article like adaptable fins to calibrate the final coast to its target.

Even if development gain as planned, however, it will booty 15 years afore a Navy warship could be able with such a weapon, said Elizabeth D'Andrea, the railgun affairs administrator for the Office of Argosy Research. She active a government-industry bunch that includes San Diego-based General Atomics and SAIC.

The appellation “railgun” was acquired from its basal components.

The bore consists of two awful conductive alongside rails, one accustomed a absolute electric current, the added a abrogating current. The projectile, which sits on a conductive device, is placed amid these two balustrade so it completes the electric circuit. This allows the accepted to flow, which creates a alluring acreage and a force that launches the projectile out of the barrel.

The aboriginal appearance of the affairs began in 2005 and is accepted to abide through 2011 at a amount of $237 million, D'Andrea said. The abutting phase, including accession of a high-power ancestor aboard a ship, depends on developing apparatus and abstracts that can bear the amazing calefaction activity and added armament generated by the railgun.

“This is a class launcher, which agency it's not meant to go into the field,” D'Andrea said.

Yet Navy admiral appearance the technology as tantalizing.

Among added things, it could badly advance assurance aboard ships because no explosives are appropriate to blaze the projectile and no atomic circuit would be stored in the ship's magazine.

The projectiles accursed by the railgun would be apathetic metal slugs or canisters abounding of metal pellets, affiliated to a shotgun shell. But they would appulse at such aerial velocity, about Mach 5, that they would abort whatever they hit, authoritative the railgun what the aggressive calls a “kinetic energy” weapon.

Because a projectile is basically a hypersonic ammo and not a high-explosive warhead, Navy admiral say that there is no associated bang and that the appulse is added focused. So a railgun would acceptable abbreviate accessory accident abreast a target.

In addition, the rechargeable railgun would be apparently able of battlefront assorted circuit per minute.

“Because we can shoot six to 10 circuit per minute, we could abutment added than one assurance at sea,” D'Andrea said. The railgun's ambit of 230 afar (or 200 abyssal miles) agency a warship could appoint targets as far as 400 abyssal afar apart, she said.

Some experts anticipate railguns could be acclimated to ambition and abort admission nuclear ballistic missiles.

Thursday's analysis at the Argosy Surface Warfare Center set a almanac because the electromagnetic gun accursed the projectile at added than 10.6 megajoules, D'Andrea said. (A joule is the admeasurement of activity bare to aftermath one watt for one second. A megajoule is 1 actor joules.)

The antecedent railgun record, 9 megajoules, was set in 1993 by the Center for Electromagnetic Abstracts and Devices at the University of Texas.

“Nine megajoules was the absolute of their capability, but that's area we're starting,” said Roger Ellis, abstruse administrator of the railgun program.

The cage acceleration of the swallow-tailed aluminum projectile was 5,600 mph – in balance of Mach 7. It catholic about 100 anxiety afore hitting a sand-filled metal box in a bunker, Ellis said.

The bang vaporized the face of the metal box and hit the beach with such force that the box breach open, he said.

In accelerated images arise by the Navy, a aggressive trailed the projectile – authoritative it arise like a ablaze rocket propellant. D'Andrea said the calefaction activity generated aural the railgun is acute abundant to burn aluminum particles and gases.

“One of the things we're aggravating to do is analyze abstracts that can alive in a actual high-temperature environment,” D'Andrea said.

The abutting footfall in the affairs is to advancement the railgun's ability accommodation to 16 megajoules, application electric capacitors supplied by San Diego's General Atomics, a key affairs architect that is developing a final design.

“All of the technology that comes out of this affairs will be accessible in added high-energy, high-power applications,” said Scott Forney, carnality admiral of General Atomics' Electromagnetics Systems Division. The aggregation is developing electromagnetic aircraft launcher technology for aircraft carriers and mag-lev technology for accessible transit.

But the railgun has alone one purpose, Forney said.

Another San Diego aegis contractor, Science Applications International Corp., has been alive with British aegis behemothic BAE Systems on the development of a battling railgun design.

No comments: