From Way Downtown…Bang!

Via Spencer Ackerman at the Wired Danger Room, the United States Navy has three words for you:  Working. Railgun. Prototype.

The idea behind the Electromagnetic Railgun is to fire a bullet at hypersonic speeds using dozens of megajoules of electricity. The Navy wants it to guard the surface ships of the 2020s, unsubtly boasting to adversaries that messing with the ships will lead to bullets shooting across hundreds of miles of ocean in mere minutes. The Office of Naval Research says it will give sailors “a dramatically increased multimission capability,” like fire support for land strikes over long, long distances beyond the reach of enemy defenses, and defense against “cruise and ballistic missiles” that target ships. No wonder the railgun’s official motto is “Velocitas Eradico” — “Speed Kills.”

Lab tests have pleased the Navy, if not Congress. In December 2010, the Office of Naval Research fired a shot with 33 megajoules of energy, a world record, sending a 23-pound bullet 5500 feet in a single second. The Senate Armed Services Committee still found the science too impractical, and recommended killing the railgun, until a Navy congressional counterstrike revived the program.

Now that the Navy has an actual prototype railgun to shoot, the plan is to hook it up to sensors and cameras to test its performance at 20 and 33 megajoules’ worth of energy. Its goal is produce accurate shots from 50 to 100 nautical mile distances, which the Navy wants by 2017.

Sadly, we don’t have 80-ton mechs to mount one of these on yet.  There are also other umm…”technical drawbacks”:

Even railgun advocates concede there are a host of other challenges the hypersonic weapon will have to overcome. Its barrel will have to withstand repeated fires without wearing out. (The Navy wants to up firing rates to 10 per minute.) It’s got to fire smart bullets without frying the guidance systems during a blast. (The Navy says both BAE and General Dynamics are starting to design “a next-generation thermally managed launcher.”) And it’s got to be affordable. (The Navy has spent $240 million on the railgun so far, and it expects to spend about as much through 2017 on tests — before buying a single one of the things.)

And yeah, I know, a naval railgun’s gonna be a “real big help” in policing the nebulous Af-Pak border regions and all, but there is a civilian technology upside:

Another big problem: the current generation of Destroyers can’t produce the power to fire the railgun without diverting juice from the propulsion systems. One of the goals of the railguns over the next five years is to create workarounds, so the guns will be relevant to their intended ships. Those include “an intermediate energy store using energy-dense batteries, similar to [those on] hybrid cars,” Ellis told reporters on a Tuesday conference call. “That enables us to put the railgun on ships that don’t have larger power supplies.”

Advances in battery storage technology that could say, make electric cars more widespread with batteries that are cheaper and more efficient wouldn’t exactly be a bad thing.

Also, railgun. Because RAILGUN, that’s why.  Velocitas Eradico, indeed.

110 replies
  1. 1
    PPOG Penguin says:

    “Velocitas Eradico” sounds like a badly named Harry Potter spell.

  2. 2
    scav says:

    @PPOG Penguin: Indeed, although I’m also deflected into Velociraptor.

  3. 3
    Urza says:

    my Daishi has been sitting idle in the garage for years waiting for this ;p

  4. 4
    jo6pac says:

    Yep money to kill but nothing for the dieing Main Streets around the world.

    Everything is on schedule, please move along.

  5. 5
    scav says:

    If we combine the two, and say it properly, we might find ourselves in either a dino-free or Veritas-free thread. I’m not sure what the do with the Daishi in this case, there’s always a part left over . . .

  6. 6
    Anoniminous says:

    … the current generation of Destroyers can’t produce the power to fire the railgun without diverting juice from the propulsion systems.

    Thermodynamics. Annoying ain’t it?

  7. 7
    mdblanche says:

    Shouldn’t that be “Velocitas Eradicat”?

  8. 8
    Short Bus Bully says:

    If there is enough awesome in hellaciously wasteful military spending then count me the fuck in. There appears to be sufficient AWESOME in that there story.

    And hey, if this shit is the only way the U.S. can fund real R&D to help with energy and environmental problems…

    Carry on fuckers.

  9. 9
    gene108 says:

    Yeah, like our Navy really needs more toys.

    There are 21 aircraft carriers in the whole world. The U.S. has 11 of them.

  10. 10
    Schlemizel says:

    Wish I could find the story now but the US could have had this years ago. There was this guy that built a better cannon. The Army test fired it against established competition & it out performed in every way. But pentagon politics gave the contract to the established company. He was contacted by “some group” that set him up in business of making these better guns. He ran into trouble because he was selling the to South Africa (and others but at the time SA was sanctioned). His buddies at this “group” abandoned him to the criminal justice system.

    He ran to the Netherlands & sold cannons to anybody with the money. Saddam became a huge fan, as did Israel. If you remember at the time of Desert Storm it was public knowledge that Iraq had better artillery than the US (longer range, better accuracy).

    He was in the process of building some “super guns” for Iraq when 2 Mossad agents gunned him down outside his apt.

    He could have been building those rail guns for us back in the 90s

  11. 11
    trollhattan says:

    Sooo, how much can Foxconn knock these babies out for, each?

  12. 12
    Zandar says:

    @Short Bus Bully: History is pretty much filled with “We only dumped enough points in research on this to get cool weapons out of it, but here’s some civilian applications for it”, in particular the last sixty-five years or so.

  13. 13
    Satanicpanic says:


    There are 21 aircraft carriers in the whole world. The U.S. has 11 of them.

    Yes, but none of them are in Wyoming

  14. 14
  15. 15
    Suffern ACE says:

    You can have shields. You can have a cloaking device. You can have warp speed. You can fire your phaser canons. But not all four at the same time.

  16. 16
    gex says:

    Coolest, least effective stimulus package ever.

  17. 17
    James Gary says:

    I think a far more unsubtle boast to our adversaries would be… sharks, with frickin’ lasers attached to their heads.

    (I can’t believe this thread existed for thirteen whole minutes and no one already made that joke. Step it up, people! ;)

  18. 18
    EJ says:


    AFAIK these were just really big-ass conventional artillery, sort of along the lines of the V-3 project the Nazis were working on at the end of the war. Not railguns.

    I wonder if this navy railgun could actually boost stuff into orbit though. That would actually be useful.

  19. 19
    The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge says:

    Railguns are a bad idea, IMO. The arc is always going to erode the rails too quickly. A coilgun or quench gun would be much better.

  20. 20
    Comrade Dread says:

    Okay, as a total nerd, I can get behind this boondoggle.

    Note to the Navy: Work on a Particle Projection Cannon too. I like my mechs configured mostly for energy weapons.

    Also, before I pass on, someone had better invent a lightsaber.

    That is all.

  21. 21
    Anoniminous says:


    That was Gerald Bull. His story goes to show being a homicidal maniac is a job requirement in the International Arms Business.

    ETA: @trollhattan: won the race. (grrrr)

  22. 22
    Poopyman says:

    A couple of points:
    + In the realm of military research, a quarter billion is peanuts.
    + This seems to be a solution without a problem. Also not unusual in the realm of military research.

  23. 23
    third of two says:


  24. 24
    Comrade Scrutinizer says:

    @Schlemizel: Nah. Bull never worked with railguns. He was more into building bigass cannons. Totally different principles.

  25. 25
    canuckistani says:

    The railgun will never live up to its full potential until there’s a railgun on the Moon. Can you guys get Newt back into the race?

  26. 26
    scav says:

    @The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge: Yeah, but Railguns can confuse the enemy into thinking we’ve got RAYguns if we talk really really quickly Other ones just don’t sound as cool. quench gun just might just be a SuperSoaker (Navy appropriate that one, though. . . )

  27. 27
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    We are never going to defeat the Fallen without one.

  28. 28
    Comrade Colette Collaboratrice says:


    If we combine the two, and say it properly, we might find ourselves in either a dino-free or Veritas-free thread.

    But in my case that would leave me with a pie-free thread, which would make me very sad indeed. Pittas Eradicat? or Carpe Pittem?
    @mdblanche: You sound like someone who could help with this problem.

  29. 29
    Jon O. says:

    God damn! I am a pacifist generally and moreover an opponent of wasteful military spending. But you know what? Fukken’ RAILGUNS.

  30. 30
    David Koch says:


  31. 31
    KG says:

    two thoughts:

    1. I read RAILGUN and have the Simpsons monorail song come to mind for some reason.

    2. Can I have one, please?

  32. 32
    rea says:

    A railgun? Are rails really that big a problem for the navy?

  33. 33
    Gin & Tonic says:

    Gerry Bull, the cannon guy, was from just over the VT/Quebec border, and IIRC did some of his testing there, in Glen Sutton. I actually know that area pretty well.

  34. 34
    Chyron HR says:

    This thread is disgustingly full of Railgun Democrats.

  35. 35
    trollhattan says:


    I have over-the-horizon response powers. ;-)

  36. 36
    clone12 says:

    Sadly, we don’t have 80-ton mechs to mount one of these on yet.

    Did you just out yourself as a battletech geek?


  37. 37
    trollhattan says:

    @Chyron HR:

    Painful, but you are awarded thread win nevertheless.

  38. 38
    kindness says:

    I want one of these. I’ll mount it on my Toyota and clear the damned Hummers in my path. A liberal’s revenge.

  39. 39
    Comrade Scrutinizer says:

    @Anoniminous: I wouldn’t call Bull a homicidal maniac. He wanted to pursue the idea of gun-fired satellites, and the only way he could get funding after Project HARP closed down was through Saddam Hussein, who wanted such a satellite, but also wanted improved targeting on his SCUD missiles. Enter the MOSSAD.

    Bull crawling into bed with the Iraqis was the same thing as von Braun crawling into bed with the Nazis, and then crawling into bed with the US Army. Both were interested in other projects, and were swallowed up into military projects, but that’s the only way they could get money. That’s what happens with a lot of researchers in the US now—their research winds up being done for different DoD projects. The work I did on mapping cell viscosity using fluorescence anisotropy was partially funded by a DoD grant. Go figure.

  40. 40
    Amir Khalid says:

    if the Pentagon, or or that matter the US Navy, wanted to fund battery research, it could do so without having to develop a new weapons technology. There so many other things the Navy already has that could run on them. Like, you know, destroyers.

    And has anyone done the math to see if the proposed new technology will be worth its cost? Surely the idea of navy ships as floating artillery platforms went out a long time ago. And he last time I looked, there was no Warsaw pact developing a rival capability.

  41. 41
    scav says:

    Oh help, I’ve misspelled in another direction and am now haunted by a really tall & macho Bob the Builder.

    ETA: HELP! He’s now singing YMCA! I don’t know why!

  42. 42

    I’ll mount it on my Chevy and toast your Toyota. Liberal Michigander’s revenge.

  43. 43
    Aet says:

    Anything that creates incentives for companies to develop better battery technology is a good thing. A company that develops a new and better battery for a naval weapon isn’t just going to leave that technology on the table when they can make money making a better electric car.

  44. 44
    Steve in DC says:

    As a Navy vet this makes me smile. Also a lot of people forget that since the DOD doesn’t care about profit, they can invest money in things that pay off later. The computer, Navy built the first one out of vacume tubes. The internet, that was the military as well. Tons of medical advances, nuclear power, in fact the large presses that make all our civilian aircraft.

    In general the DOD makes a ton of cool stuff that proves useful in other areas later. And it’s only because they operate in the “money grows on trees, and who cares about profit or practical use” that they can create such things.

  45. 45
    Comrade Scrutinizer says:

    has anyone done the math to see if the proposed new technology will be worth its cost?

    Who cares? RAILGUN!

  46. 46
    jl says:

    @rea: Rails are quick little buggers. Mach 8 projectile speed still leaves a railgun gap! What a Roadrunner cartoon, and you will see the problem.

  47. 47
    trollhattan says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    Not to worry, we’ll always find a new skeery enemy to chew our nails and build kewhl weapons over. Today my money’s on the Taliban and Wyoming.

    “Railguns for Peace!”

  48. 48
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @Amir Khalid: We’re not getting the railgun because they are advancing battery technology, it’s the other way around. Having been in the Navy, they don’t do new stuff unless there’s a reason, and they’ll stick a reactor in a destroyer before they would decide to invest in batteries. They already use room sized batteries for backup anyway.

    ETA: I’m surpised they don’t have a room full of stationary bikes as a backup to the backup.

  49. 49
    Linnaeus says:

    @Steve in DC:

    This is exactly why I point out that, contrary to conventional wisdom, the US has had an “industrial policy” for years. We just didn’t call it that.

  50. 50
    Mino says:

    Wyoming will adapt one for its carrier.

  51. 51
    trollhattan says:


    You need last weekend’s earworm thread.

    “Two songs enter, one song leaves.”

  52. 52
    Carnacki says:

    @gene108: Is that counting Wyoming’s?

  53. 53
    Martin says:


    I wonder if this navy railgun could actually boost stuff into orbit though. That would actually be useful.

    No, but it could help. Escape velocity is 11,200 m/s. The railgun above is going at a bit under 2,000 m/s. Getting it up to 11,200 isn’t the issue, though. The issue is the acceleration rate and the amount of distance you need that railgun to operate over in order to reach that speed – without accelerating so fast that you destroy that which you are trying to get into orbit.

    You could try and build the equivalent of a railgun rocket sled with a gentle ramp at the end, but you need to be traveling at Mach 35, which is almost impossible to do in the thick atmosphere at sea level.

    The best this could do is to give a payload an initial upward trajectory, then light your rockets and save yourself having to carry at least that initial amount of fuel – which is not an insignificant benefit, but is really tricky to pull off.

  54. 54
    jibeaux says:

    Railgun makes me think of a nailgun, except it hammers down railroad tracks. That’s prolly not what it is.

  55. 55
    scav says:

    @trollhattan: But will it get rid of Bob? He’s really rather alarming in a staypuff kind of way.

  56. 56
    Carnacki says:

    @Jon O.: I know, right? I kind of had the same reaction. Then I began hearing All Along the Watchtower played on piano. What’s up with that?

  57. 57
    mdblanche says:

    @Comrade Colette Collaboratrice: I’m afraid ancient Rome was also pie-free. There doesn’t seem to be a Latin word for pie. “Pitta” only works if you want a pizza pie.

  58. 58
    John Casey says:

    @gene108: That 11 out of 21 really understates the USN superiority in aircraft carriers. All 11 US carriers are Nimitz class or Ford class super-carriers, with an aircraft capacity of about 90.

    The non-US carriers have capacities from 20 to 40, with most of those being helicopters. Oh, and 1 of the 10 is in the Thai navy, which has at the moment exactly 1 serviceable aircraft.

  59. 59
    Steve in DC says:


    Indeed, which is why I’m not all that upset with military spending on research and other insane projects like this. Next up, rods from god, which is a ChAir Force project. There is also the Navy’s gigantic field distruptor, magnetic whatever up in Alaska to control the weather that they keep mucking around with.

  60. 60
    Brandon says:

    Am I the only one who was thinking “Star Blazers” when reading about this. Seriously.

  61. 61
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    Post needs a new tag: Assault and Battery, or how I learned to stop worrying and love the Railgun.

  62. 62
    currants says:

    @rea: oh noes! the purple gallinules!

  63. 63
    scav says:

    @John Casey: And isn’t the UK doing something odd with theirs so they have to rent space from the French or something? Didn’t they scrap the boats but kept the planes? Something from the Now Show with great hilarity and bad accents swept past during the last 6 mo.

  64. 64
    trollhattan says:


    Can you do it?

    Yes, you can!

    I suffered (yes, a public confession) from earworms on backpacking trips and found I could only reliably get rid of them with first, a teeny radio and finally, an ipod. The second is a little more dependable, since I’m picking the music. It’s the one thing I must thank St. Steve for.

  65. 65
    wrb says:

    Are they really robbing trains again?

  66. 66
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Steve in DC:

    n general the DOD makes a ton of cool stuff that proves useful in other areas later. And it’s only because they operate in the “money grows on trees, and who cares about profit or practical use” that they can create such things.

    This. The thing is, the actual military NEED for a railgun is, well, non-existent, because we already have a military technological superiority over every other military on the planet, particularly in surface naval warfare. Now, on the other hand, the other guys are going to be smart and invest their few naval bucks into submarines, which can take out those humongous carriers without too much difficulty.

    This is a cool technology they’re working on, but the actual stated weapon is just a solution looking for a problem in a lot of ways. I agree that the energy storage capabilities could have much wider payoffs that are unforeseen right now. After all, remember as Steve in DC mentioned, the Intertubes themselves were something the private sector dismissed as impossible some 40 years back.

  67. 67
    Amir Khalid says:

    Another thing: I don’t know that this technology is going to pan out. They haven’t actually tested the railgun’s range and accuracy, have they? That 10kg aluminum railgun bullet burns in the air as it flies, according to the Wired story. In real life, wouldn’t that change the thing’s shape and mass in flight, affecting its aerodynamics and ballistic behavior in unpredictable ways?

  68. 68
    Librarian says:

    And how long will it be before local police departments have this thing?

  69. 69
    Soonergrunt says:

    @Schlemizel: He wasn’t building rail guns. His name was Gerald Bull, and his ultimate goal was to build a cannon that could launch a satellite into low earth orbit.
    Great concept with a lot of conceptual benefits, but since the guy had no company and no manufacturing base, the US military wasn’t interested. The US Army buys artillery pieces by the hundreds and thousands, not the hand-made ones and twos.
    So Bull took his dream to the guy who would throw money at him, who happened to be Saddam Hussein and wanted a gun that could throw shells at Israel.

  70. 70
    MikeJ says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    because we already have a military technological superiority over every other military on the planet, particularly in surface naval warfare.

    Pre WWII there were a lot of countries with some pretty nifty battleships. The point of military R&D isn’t catching up with what other people are doing.

  71. 71
    gnomedad says:

    Now all we need is a war to fight with it. Perhaps someone has suggestions.

  72. 72
    Mino says:

    @scav: @scav: They sold the Harriers to us.

  73. 73

    “Velocitas Eradico” — “Speed Kills.”

    Not even good Latin. Velocitas Eradico literally is “High speed I wipe out”.

    They want Velocitas Eradicat, or Necat, or CaeditEradico is a first-person singular form.

  74. 74
    Mino says:

    High speed I wipe out”. Truth.

    I like eradicat. High speed wipes out cat.

  75. 75
    Soonergrunt says:

    @Amir Khalid: Yes to all the above, and some of those problems will, no doubt, be corrected and some of them might never be.
    Whether its military research or civilian research, most of the real advances required real risks.
    We’re still using a 50-year-old technology in Infantry battle rifles in the US military because nothing we’ve found since then is a big enough difference to change the entire supply system to support a new weapon, and we’ve been looking off and on for a replacement to the M-16/M-4 family almost since initial adoption in 1960.

    On another note, explosively formed projectiles tend to have much better ballistics and armor penetration than solid-metal slugs.

  76. 76
    Anoniminous says:

    @Comrade Scrutinizer:

    The “homicidal maniac” was supposed to be a reference to the people who gunned him down. Not Dr. Bull hisself.

    Granted, I didn’t make it clear.



  77. 77
    redshirt says:

    Scaled up Rail Guns could be used to shoot satellites and what not into space very cheaply as compared to today’s launch costs.

    Mount it on a mountain in Arizona and start blasting the supplies up to build a real space station, then, when all is waiting, send up the puny humans in a normal rocket to start the construction.

  78. 78
    Keith G says:

    @Steve in DC: Don’t you know that it is a BJ Kool Kidz right of passage to be automatically dismissive of such things.

  79. 79
    MobiusKlein says:

    @EJ: escape velocity from Earth 11.2 km/s == ~6.96 mi/s about 7 times too slow so far
    eta: that’s to get all the way out. Orbit is less, but needs some added thrust to enter new orbit.

  80. 80
    slightly_peeved says:

    @Steve in DC:

    The computer, Navy built the second one out of vacume tubes.

    FTFY. But your point stands; the first one, Colossus, was built at Bletchley Park by the British codebreakers.

  81. 81
    Cassidy says:

    I make my mechs for close in fighting. This is still awesome.

  82. 82
    Steve in DC says:

    @Keith G

    I guess. But let’s be honest, a lot of military R&D is just “science, cause that’s why, now hold my beer and watch this” which is cool, in it’s own way.

  83. 83
    azlib says:

    Ah yes! More weaponized Keynesian stimulus!

  84. 84
    Gravenstone says:

    @Urza: Stinking Clanner!

  85. 85
    Robert Sneddon says:

    Air resistance goes up as the cube of speed. At 2000 m/s the projectile from a railgun is a) slowing down quite dramatically due to air resistance and b) melting or burning as it heats up. To get any sort of range it needs to be fired in a high arc to get it out of as much of the atmosphere as possible as soon as possible just like battleship shells and howitzer rounds do. This extends the total distance the projectile needs to travel resulting in a much longer time-to-target. A missile or aircraft-delivered ordnance will easily outrange any railgun projectile and it can be guided to target no matter how much the enemy manoeuvers.

    The SR-71 spyplane could fly at Mach 3, about the same speed as this railgun’s projectiles can achieve but only at 25km altitude and 1/30 sea-level air pressure at which point the leading edges of the wings were glowing cherry-red from air friction. Concorde had similar problems with hull heating and it was only flying at Mach 2 20km up.

    I don’t really hold out much hope for railguns as practical pieces of weaponry on ships at sea-level unless lower projectile speeds are acceptable, perhaps coupled with a very high rate of fire and powered by nuclear reactors.

  86. 86
    moderateindy says:

    @Comrade Scrutinizer:
    Also, RAILGUN!!!!

  87. 87

    Also, Velocitus Eradico is my porn name.

  88. 88
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @slightly_peeved: The Z-3 Turing-complete computer was built out of relays, not valves but well before Colossus and the US Navy’s machine.

  89. 89
    slightly_peeved says:

    @Robert Sneddon:

    Wow. Didn’t know about that one – thanks.

  90. 90
    marcopolo says:

    @Robert Sneddon: This. The physics surrounding railguns means they just ain’t that great operating in any kind of reasonable atmosphere. However, they are the bees knees as you move from atmospheres towards vacuum. As someone mentioned, a railgun on the Moon would rock out either as a weapon or even better as a platform to send materials mined from the lunar surface into LEO or Mars or wherever we wanted to build something.

    Of course, all this makes you wonder how much progress the military is making at building gauss rifles. Or PGMP 15s, if anyone catches those references.

  91. 91
    James B Franks says:

    One of the big advantages of rail guns is that you do not have to store a chemical propellent. That’s one less explosive on the ship that could explode internally.

  92. 92
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @marcopolo: You can buy gauss rifles and even handguns already. They’re not much use though — slow rate of fire, bulky, heavy, and low projectile speeds compared to regular firearms. Very skiffy though.

  93. 93
    bootsy says:

    Betcha Wyoming could mount it on that Aircraft Carrier they’re gonna buy. The Dick Cheney Halliburton Memorial Library must be protected at all cost!

  94. 94
    Steve in DC says:


    Yeah I caught the gauss rifles. Frankly though I want my railgun, plasma cannon, and lightning gun, shock rile while you’re at it please.

    I’m sure there are uses for a railgun and the tech around it. Let’s not forget computers and the internet were considered amazingly dumb ideas at the time as well.

    Military spending is a great thing. And the only “it’s too much of the budget” issue would go away if you know… people paid a proper amount of taxes. But as things are, military spending is about the only “spend money on science” half our population would agree with.

    I’d wager the Navy, at the rate they are going, will have lab grown meat served on green powered warships with freaking railguns before the private sector wakes up. Just how they built the computer before anybody realized such things had uses.

  95. 95
    Billy Beane says:

    Cool, another thing for Cole to be obsessively paranoid about and scream “we need to end all wars now and forever” whenever it’s in the news.

  96. 96
    John Casey says:

    @scav: According to Wikipedia, the UK’s only in-service carrier, HMS Illustrious, has been converted to helicopter-only operation, as the jump-jet Harriers have been retired. And Illustrious is scheduled for de-commisioning in 2014. So the UK will have no carriers at all until later in the decade when two 40 aircraft capacity supercarriers are due to enter service.

    Personally, I’ll believe that when I see it; the UK has a history of starting carrier programs and then cancelling them when the bills start to come due.

  97. 97
  98. 98
    bago says:

    Sir Isaac Newton is the deadliest son of a bitch in space!

  99. 99
    Dude in Princeton says:

    @mdblanche: Yes, it should be. “A people called the Romani, they go…house”, anyone?

  100. 100
    Barry says:

    $240 million doesn’t sound that high, considering that this is basically developing the next century of naval cannon.

  101. 101
    daryljfontaine says:

    Perhaps they’ll listen to Reason.


  102. 102
    Lurking Canadian says:

    Being able to launch satellites into space without rockets would be awesome.

    Having new generations of high-density batteries would also be awesome.

    However, I do not see what use this device has as a weapon. The US Navy can already fire autonomous, semi-autonomous or teleoperated missiles at you from well beyond visual range. If they like, they can put nuclear warheads on the end of those missiles and fly them in nape-of-the earth so your radar can’t see them until it’s too late.

    This thing just throws a little metal slug on a parabolic trajectory? I mean, yeah, it’s cool, but is it better if your goal is to crush your enemies and see them flee before you?

  103. 103
    HobbesAI says:

    The gun seems to have a motto, but not a nickname.
    I’d like to suggest Mikoto, although I’m open to Reason as well.

  104. 104
    Bill D. says:

    “The physics surrounding railguns means they just ain’t that great operating in any kind of reasonable atmosphere. However, they are the bees knees as you move from atmospheres towards vacuum.”

    Possible solution for shooting payloads into space (not orbit, but rather escape velocity):

    1. First, build a space elevator. OK, minor technicality here. ;-) The space elevator should be dedicated rather than used for any other purposes, in case of a malfunction in the railgun or barrel.

    2. Attach a barrel with internal magnetic repulsion capabilities along the length of the space elevator. The barrel will need to be lightweight and this could be the downfall of this idea. The concept is that a ferrous metal projectile can proceed at extremely high speed along the length of the barrel without ever touching its internal surface, which would be catastrophic. The barrel will not accelerate the projectile but will gently guide it straight up without touching it. (Add counterweight to the space elevator as needed to keep it stable due to the increased weight.)

    3. Attach a railgun to the base of barrel, in an airtight container.

    4. Evacuate the atmosphere from the barrel and the railgun container. Of course both have been designed to withstand any expected pressures from the atmosphere or from operation of the railgun.

    5. Voila! Have at it. :-)

    6. Oops… reliable aiming may be difficult. But at least your payload got out of the Earth’s gravitational grasp.

  105. 105
    Bill D. says:

    Or maybe just do things the easy way and put the railgun at the top of the space elevator so it can be aimed. Duh…

  106. 106
    Bubba Dave says:

    @marcopolo: Don’t you need battledress if you’re going to be firing a PGMP-15? And THAT would be useful in AfPak as well….

  107. 107
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @John Casey: The two Queen Elizabeth-class (QE) carriers being built for the Royal Navy are probably going to be completed. The first hull is being assembled a few miles from where I’m sitting, in Rosyth dockyard. Various segments of the ships are being built in other places and shipped to the dockyard at great expense. Rosyth just happens to be in the constituency of the former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown whose Labour government took the decision to build them. Funny that.

    Aircraft for them is another matter. THhy were originally going to carry the US Marine STOVL version of the F-35 so they weren’t designed with catapult systems. The STOVL F-35 project is dragging on and on and it might be necessary to refit the QE carriers with catapults for a conventional air wing. Since they’re gas turbine-powered they don’t have steam plant to power regular catapults so they’d need electromagnetic catapults like those being fitted to the new US Fleet carriers. Unfortunately those catapults need a lot of electrical power which the nuclear US carriers can easily supply but which wasn’t included in the original QE design spec. The result is extra battery storage or generating capacity has to be squeezed into the existing hull layouts raising costs and reducing other functionality.

    It’s possible one of the QEs will be sold after completion although the number of buyers for such a large carrier would be very limited and the lack of catapult gear would limit its desirability even further.

  108. 108
    Draylon Hogg says:

    Why not just dig the blueprint for Tesla’s peace ray out of the FBI archives? Given that the US military is notorious for friendly fire and collateral damage I’m not sure hyper sonic projectiles are a good idea. Like the gunnery sergeant says in Mass Effect 2 “If you fire this thing, somewhere, sometime you are going to ruin someone’s day”

  109. 109
    BruceK says:

    “Intermediate energy store” actually sounds like the way to go – banks of batteries or other high-density rapid-discharge energy storage systems. In a much smaller way, it’s how hybrid cars work , after all.

    (And I’ve probably been playing too much Eve Online, but my first thought was “duh, cap is life; if you’re going to use railguns, you need as much capacitor as you can get.”)

  110. 110
    Collin says:

    Isn’t a railgun one of those devices that was supposed to be impossible according to electrodynamics?

    Fuck the military. This is physics! For many years crackpot adjustments to electrodynamics have been proposed. Now we finally have a chance to get rid of the crackpots and find out what the real adjustments are.

    I don’t think we’ll find anything like the crackpots’ claims of free energy, but we might be able to save the world a huge amount of money in another way. Really going out on a limb here, but … with this new physics we might be able to prove that the Higgs particle doesn’t exist, and they can shut down the LHC!

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