In the United States, funding for the development of an electromagnetic gun, the so-called railgun, which has long been considered a potentially revolutionary weapon system, has stopped. Its development was carried out for 16 years, but for the first time in the draft budget of the Navy for the 2022 fiscal year, two articles related to the money for the railgun disappeared.
What is a railgun?
With the help of electromagnetic installations, the Americans were going to accelerate the projectiles to hypersonic speeds, they planned to use them in the air defense system of ships. The railgun technology was based on the use of an electromagnetic force, known as the Lorentz force, to rapidly accelerate and launch the projectile.
Since 2005, the U.S. Navy has tested at least two different railgun designs, one from BAE Systems and one from General Atomics. More than $ 200 million was invested in these projects.
Both railguns functioned in roughly the same way, firing projectiles using powerful electromagnetic fields. In 2017, during ground tests, the BAE Systems railgun was able to throw projectiles that accelerate to a speed of more than six Mach numbers. The kinetic energy of the projectile in contact with the target is incredibly large, it was compared to the energy of a golf-class car rushing at a speed of 160 km/h. It was planned that the ammunition would be able to hit targets in the air and at sea at a range of about 260 kilometers.
Why did you cancel the project?
However, as time went on, the status of this program and any results it might have achieved became increasingly hazy. If in 2014, representatives of the US Navy claimed that in the near future they would get an electromagnetic railgun, gradually they began to forget about this project. Many experts initially criticized the idea of railcars. They drew attention to the fact that at the current level of technology development, it is impossible to create an electromagnetic accelerator of the necessary energy.power in dimensions acceptable for a warship, even an aircraft carrier. To generate the necessary energy, in addition to the electromagnetic cannon, it takes an entire power plant to supply it with energy. It is no coincidence that the tests of the railgun were constantly postponed and postponed. In recent years, more and more information has also emerged indicating that the US Navy is close to canceling the railgun program. Nevertheless, funding continued at a relatively stable level until this year.
But new local successes in testing the railgun did appear. In September 2020, the Weapons Of World channel published a video on Youtube of a US Armed Forces exercise in which a 155-millimeter Advanced Gun System (railgun prototype) mounted on an M110 Howitzer self-propelled howitzer intercepted a BQM-167 Skeeter air target that mimicked a Russian cruise missile. In the same year, tests showed thatthere is a possibility of multiple firing from a prototype rail gun from BAE Systems. It was reported that in the future, these systems will be able to hit targets of various types-from ships and coastal objects to enemy aircraft and guided missiles – at a distance of up to 100 miles. Then, inspired by the results achieved, the US Navy even hastily stated that they expect to receive serial samples of these weapons by 2025.
It is obvious that the US Navy is not going to completely abandon the technology of the electromagnetic gun, using the obtained technologies, work is underway on the project of the Hyper-Velocity Projectile (HVP). But the development of the railgun itself is planned to be postponed for some time. The US Navy says it will keep the equipment, technological developments and documentation related to the long years of work with railcars, in case it wants to revise this concept in the future. Perhaps the developers expect new technologies that will allow them to advance in the creation of a railgun.
The head of the Center for Military Forecasting Anatoly Tsyganok believes that the creation of a railgun is a prospect of the distant future, no country in the world has yet advanced in this.
“Developers quite often get a negative experience when creating new types of weapons, this is a common practice when huge amounts of money are wasted. Apparently, at present, the technology has not reached the level where it is possible to create such a type of weapon as a railgun. But in any case, the United States has significantly advanced in technology in the design and testing of promising weapons, ” the expert concluded.