Russia Conducts Another Test Firing of its Electromagnetic Railgun

By | Jan 11, 2017 05:20 AM EST
Railgun target

Effect of the impact of a plastic bullet fired by a Russian railgun during a test in 2016. (Photo : Russian Academy of Sciences )

Russia's baby steps to develop its own electromagnetic railgun took another baby step forward with the announcement of another successful test firing of the weapon, but this time at far lower speed.

Scientists at a branch of the United Istitute of High Temperatures at the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) outside Moscow fired a 15 gram plastic bullet that penetrated an aluminum plate several centimeters thick. The railgun developed a speed of 3 kilometers per second, which the Russians said is powerful enough "to cut through any type of armor existing today."

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The Russians also claim their railgun will have non-destructive uses such as shooting cargo capsules to the International Space Station.

In contrast, the United States, which leads the world in the military applications of railgun technology, has built far more powerful and larger weapons.

The U.S. Navy has railgun cannons that can fire hypervelocity projectiles at speeds up to Mach 7.5 (9,100 km/h) to a distance of some 400 kilometers.

"The railgun is a big boost to our study of high energy physics as we are now ready to build apparatuses working at speeds exceeding 4.5 kilometers a second," said Alexei Shurpov, director of the Shatura Institute.

The Russians, however, admitted their railgun program has not produced any military breakthroughs yet. They did note that other countries are working on a new type of a multi-mission railgun capable of detecting, tracking and engaging ballistic missiles and air and watercraft threats.

They said the problem with U.S. railgun design is it requires a tremendous amount of power to operate, over 25 megawatts per shot.

Another problem is that the longer the distance to the target, the weaker the impact of railgun round as air resistance keeps slowing the projectile down as it travels to its target.

The Russians first tested their railgun in July 2016, also at Shatura.

The team reported firing projectiles at a velocity of 11 kilometers per second, enough to overcome gravity and reach Earth orbit. RAS President Vladimir Fortov said the railgun will help Russian scientists study matter at extremely high temperatures and pressure and understand how the Universe is organized.

The railgun fired a projectile weighing 2 grams at a velocity of 3.2 km/s. Russian scientists are preparing the railgun to fire projectiles exceeding hypersonic speeds, or speeds in excess of Mach 5 (6,000 km/h).

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