Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Can tractor beams be far behind?

Just a quick post in the vein of  “science fiction got it right for once.” Laser weapons are on the cusp of being reality, for better or worse. Now, it seems, so are electromagnetic rail guns—(that’s Science Language for “gun what uses magnets to shoot real fast.”)

You might recall the U.S. military rail gun project; I could have sworn I wrote about it here, but apparently not. You might also recall the Guass Rifle from Battletech, if you are a huge dork.
The Navy will fire its electromagnetic railgun from a joint high speed vessel in 2016 as part of a broader effort to develop the long-range, high-energy weapon, service officials said.
The weapon will be placed on display this summer aboard the USNS Millinocket, a Navy JHSV which entered service in March. Following the display, the railgun will then be demonstrated on the same ship in 2016.

"We want to get this out on a ship and understand what lessons there are to learn," said Adm. Bryant Fuller, Chief Navy Engineer.
Mounting this thing on a ship is a big step toward making it operational. It could have a huge impact for the Navy, giving it a “deep magazine” (that’s Military Language for “lots of bullets”) and a much lower cost-to-big-explosion ratio. It’s basically using a bullet going at Ludicrous Speed to create damage without any explosives at all.
The railgun uses electrical energy to create a magnetic field and propel a 23-pound kinetic energy projectile at Mach 7.5 toward a wide range of targets, such as enemy vehicles, or cruise and ballistic missiles.

Due to its ability to reach speeds of up to 5,600 miles per hour, the hypervelocity projectile is engineered as a kinetic energy warhead, meaning no explosives are necessary, said Fuller and Klunder. 

"You have 23 pounds going Mach 7, you don't necessarily need an explosive detonation to create damage," Fuller said.

However, different combinations of high-tech materials called energetics could be used to increase lethality or impact.
And if that doesn’t sound impressive enough, here’s video that shows earlier testing of the two competing designs:

So although the basic idea of a fighting vessel remains similar to what it has always been, a floaty thing that holds sailors and guns, the nature of how it can perform in combat continues to evolve. And that apparently means becoming closer and closer to something William Gibson would have dreamed up.

No comments: