US Navy Confirms Test of Rapid Fire Railgun in 2018

Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The U.S. Navy has confirmed plans first revealed last May it will test a rapid fire electromagnetic railgun capable of firing 10 rounds a minute in 2018.

A 32 megajoule (MJ) railgun under development by British defense firm, BAE Systems, will be the test bed for this first-of-its-kind trial, said Thomas Beutner, Naval Air Warfare and Weapons department head at the Office of Naval Research (ONR).

He also said the Navy will hold its first-ever hypervelocity projectile flight demonstration in 2019. Also in 2019, the Navy will test different railgun barrels to determine the best one for deployment aboard warships such as the Zumwalt-class destroyers and the USS Gerald R. Ford-class nuclear powered aircraft carriers.

Last May, it was reported the Navy’s Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) in Virginia tested a new BAE 32 MJ electromagnetic railgun with the aim of making this weapon fire rounds in rapid succession.

Experimental railguns being tested have a paltry rate of fire of about a round a minute. The aim of both NSWC and BAE Systems is to build a 32 MJ railgun capable of firing non-explosive, kinetic energy rounds at a rate of 10 rounds per minute.

Navy sources said the NSWC/BAE Systems team can now get its BAE Systems railgun to fire multiple shots per hour. Once they’ve reached the 10 rounds per minute rate, the NSWC/BAE Systems team will focus on increasing the railgun’s barrel life. Experimental railguns often wore out their barrels with a single shot a decade ago.

The Navy is evaluating two EM railgun models. One is a 32 MJ prototype built by BAE Systems. The other is the 32 MJ Blitzer developed by General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems or GA-EMS.

ONR will end its railgun program at the end of fiscal year 2019. Naval Sea Systems Command’s program executive office for integrated weapons systems has a directed-energy program office will then take over and determine the path ahead for the railgun system.

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