LAST UPDATE: April 8, 2014
SPECIFICATIONS PHOTOGRAPHS (Click on the pictures for an enlarged photo)

Caliber: Various (30mm, 57mm, 155mm)
Muzzle Velocity: Mach 7.5+
Energy: 35+ mega-joule
- Fire Support: 100+ NM
- CIWS: 12+ NM
Fire Rate:
- Fire Support: 10 RPM
- CIWS: 60 RPM
- DDG51 (Arleigh Burke Flight IIA and Flight III)
- DDG1000 (Zumwalt class destroyers)

ONR Electromagnetic Railgun

The Electromagnetic Railgun project was initiated in 2005.

The goal during Phase I was a proof-of-concept demonstration at 32 mega-joule muzzle energy demmonstrator which was achieved. This was demonstrated through numerour firings, first in lab, and then extending outdooors onto various gun rangess. This launch energy had the advantage of stressing many components to evaluate full-scale mechanical and electromagnetic forces, which it did

A future weapon system at the 32 Mega-Joule energy level would be capable of launching a 100-nautical mileprecision guided projectile. An ultimate goal of 200NM ranges is desired.

Phase I was also focused on the development of launcher technology with adequate service life, development of reliable pulsed power technology and component risk reduction for the projectile. All of these goals were achieved by 2012.

Phase II, started in 2012, to advance the technology and transition from a purely research, development and testing phase to a final testing, acquistion, and deployment phase. Phase II technology efforts will also concentrate on demonstrating a rep-rate fire capability. Thermal management techniques required for sustained firing rates will be developed for both the launcher system and the pulsed power system.

The railgun is a true warfighter game changer. Wide-area coverage, exceptionally quick response and very deep magazines will extend the reach and lethality of ships armed with this technology in all of the following areas:

  • Anti-ship and cruise missile defense.
  • Ballistic missile defense.
  • War at sea and anti-ship capabilities.
  • Fire support of land based forces.

Current plans now call for a 2016 live fire test aboard a US Navy ship at sea. Production planning is targeting initial deployment on the first US Naval vessel in the 2018-2020 time frame.

Technical objectives for the Electromagnetic Railgun:

  • Advanced thermal management techniques for long slender metal rail structures
  • Extended service life for materials and components in harsh environment
  • High-strength, dielectric, structural materials
  • High-speed, high-current metal-on-metal sliding electrical contact
  • System interfaces between high-power loads and platform power distribution
  • Compact pulsed power systems and power electronics
  • High-conductivity, high-strength, low-density conductors
  • Repetitive rate switches and control technologies
  • Aerothermal protection systems for flight vehicles
  • High-acceleration tolerant electronic components and structural materials
Most of these objectives have already been met in the lab and in land based firing range tests. Extending these objectives into the at-sea environment will ensure that the resulting weapons system is reliable, accurate, and able to operate with precision in the naval warfighting environment.
General Atomics 2013 Test with Aerodynamic Projectile

ONR Rail Gun commissioning Test Firing - February 2012
The Blitzer Rail Gun 2009-2011


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Jeff Head is a member of the US Naval Insitute who has many years experience in the power, defense, and computer industries. He currently works for the federal government helping maintain regional infrastructure. He is the author of a self-published military techno-thriller called, "Dragon's Fury," that projects a fictional third world war arising out of current events. Learn more about that series by clicking on the picture of the novel cover below:

DRAGON'S FURY-World War against America and the West
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