Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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Production of US Navy Railgun to Begin in 2019


(Photo : General Atomics) General Atomics railgun firing.


(Photo : General Atomics) Railgun APFSDS round destroying armor plates.

After 10 years of development and painstaking tests, the United States' first production electromagnetic railgun -- the 10 megajoule (MJ) Multimission Medium Range Railgun Weapon System (MMRRWS) -- will see production starting in 2019.

MMRRWS is a self-funded project of the Electromagnetic Systems Group of General Atomics (GA-EMS). GA-EMS is reported to have invested over $50 million to develop and test MMRRWS, which will arm U.S. Navy warships.

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MMRRWS will complement or replace the navy's 5-inch guns arming many of its major surface warships. GA-EMS' MMRRWS has been designed to intercept missiles and aircraft. It can also bombard enemy warships and shore targets in support of amphibious assaults by the U.S. Marines.

Defense sources said the navy railgun will have a caliber of either 90 mm or 100 mm.

The railgun relies on electromagnetic forces to fire armor piercing fin stabilized discarding sabot (APFSDS) rounds at 1,600 meters per second, or about Mach 5. The massive kinetic energy generated by railgun-fired APFSDS rounds is more than sufficient to destroy targets without the rounds being armed with high explosive warheads.

The railgun will also fire more powerful hypervelocity projectiles (HVPs)

The navy is testing the ability of a railgun firing HVPs to hit surface warships beyond the horizon. Because they streak towards a target at speeds of up to Mach 6 (7,400 km/h), railgun-fired HVPs can destroy targets much faster than existing long-range weapons.

This advantage also makes HVPs ideal for intercepting incoming cruise missiles and ballistic missiles. Using GPS technology will make it possible for the railgun to destroy moving targets with guided HVP rounds.

A railgun generates 1,200 volts in a 10 millisecond timeframe, enough to accelerate a mass of 20 kg from zero to 8,000 km/h in one one-hundredth of a second, said the navy.

HVPs tear towards a target at speeds up to 2,000 meters per second, which is about three times that of most existing weapons. The rate of fire from a railgun is 10 rounds per minute. 

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