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

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First Successful Tests of Guided Railgun Hypervelocity Projectiles for US Navy Hailed as a Breakthrough

Air defense

(Photo : ONR) Hypervelocity projectiles

Guided hypersonic projectiles (HVPs) for electromagnetic railguns being developed for the U.S. Navy were successfully tested during multiple firings, a breakthrough that allows railguns to shoot down Russian and Chinese aircraft and cruise missiles in large numbers.

The success was reported by General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS), the railgun developer. GA-EMS said that its smart hypersonic projectiles with enhanced Guidance Electronics Units (GEUs) were successfully tested during multiple firings from its three megajoule (3 MJ) Blitzer railgun system.

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The enhanced GEU containing a new battery configuration and running GA-EMS developed Guidance, Navigation and Control software completed testing at launch accelerations over 30,000 gs at the U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground in Utah.

"We're continuing to test at an impressive pace, building on the successes over the past year to advance both our Blitzer railgun systems and hypersonic projectile capabilities," said Nick Bucci, vice president Missile Defense and Space Systems at GA-EMS.

"We are on track to conduct another series of tests using the Blitzer 10 MJ railgun system later this year. With each new firing, we continue maturing the technologies and performing risk reduction toward a multimission railgun weapon system that supports future operation on land and at sea."

The GEU tests also successfully demonstrated a continuous two-way data link between the in-flight projectiles and the ground station over the Dugway Proving Ground open range. In addition to the GEU, a new lightweight composite sabot was tested, demonstrating successful sabot separation and in bore structural integrity at the high acceleration levels.

GA-EMS has internally funded the Blitzer railgun systems and hypersonic projectile development.

The successful trials for guided HVPs will give the U.S. military the long sought after capability to use HVPs as anti-aircraft ammunition for both it railguns and conventional guns.

In October 2016, the navy and the U.S. Army said they will use HVPs designed originally for their railguns as missile-killing ammunitions for their conventional naval guns and ground artillery systems.

Studies by the Department of Defense have revealed that HVPs fired from 5 inch (127 mm) Mk-45 guns aboard U.S. Navy warships such as the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers, and the 155 mm guns aboard the Zumwalt-class destroyers can neutralize anti-ship missile (ASM) salvoes that will be the chosen mode of attack by China and Russia against Navy warships, especially aircraft carriers, in any future conflict.

DoD noted that "if we can close the fire support with a controlled solution," HVPs will be able to shoot down most of the anti-ship missiles in a 100 ASM attack.

When fired from conventional 5 inch guns, HVPs achieve a speed of Mach 3 (3,700 km/h), half the speed it achieves when fired from a railgun, but more than twice the speed of a conventional high-explosive round.

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