A U.S. Navy Admiral is so gung-ho about the military branch’s in-development electromagnetic railgun that he hopes to bypass creating a prototype and instead mount the gun on a destroyer ship that is set to hit the water in 2018.
The Navy’s new Zumwalt-class destroyers are being constructed in Maine. The futuristic railgun is undergoing separate testing in preparation for placing a prototype on a different ship in 2016. Navy Director of Surface Warfare Adm. Pete Fanta thinks it might be better to forgo the model and instead place the weapon on the USS Lyndon B. Johnson, according to the Associated Press. The last of three Zumwalt-class destroyers, the USS Lyndon B. Johnson is scheduled to begin service in 2018.
“The Zumwalt-class is one of a number of options being explored for the electromagnetic railgun,” Lt. Cmdr. Hayley Sims, a Navy spokesperson, told the Associated Press. “Due to the size, weight and power requirements, some platforms will be better suited for the technology than others.”
Railguns don’t use gunpowder like traditional guns. Instead the weapon uses strong electromagnetic pulses to shoot projectiles at six to seven times the speed of sound. The kinetic energy created by the firing is enough to destroy a target. Electric guns and other laser weapons are exciting options for the military because they could potentially be much less expensive than missiles or smart bombs.
“The Navy is determined to increase the offensive punch of the surface warships,” said Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, according to the Associated Press. “To do that with a limited budget, it needs to look at everything from smart munitions to railguns to lasers.”
The notion of placing the railgun on the USS Lyndon B. Johnson and other Zumwalt-class destroyers has been discussed before. The destroyers are a solid candidate for hosting the weapon because they possess a marine turbine that is capable of helping to produce up to 78 megawatts of electricity, which can be used for propulsion, sensors, and weapons like the railgun.
Though the Navy hasn’t made a final decision to move on from its plan to test the railgun prototype on a vessel this year, the Associated Press reports that there are concerns that the testing might have to be delayed until 2017.
General Dynamics subsidiary Bath Iron Works is building the USS Lyndon B. Johnson. Matt Wickenheiser, communications manager for Bath Iron Works, declined to provide Product Design & Development with a comment.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense