The Navy came very, very close to losing its futuristic gun that shoots bullets with a giant electric charge. But while a congressional committee recommended axing the Electromagnetic Railgun in June, the program survived — even if it’s still got to clear lots of technical hurdles before it can launch bullets from ships at hypersonic speed. And it’s not the only high-tech Navy project that looks like it (mostly) dodged the budget axe.
After years of testing a lab model at the Navy surface warfare center in Dahlgren, Virginia, the railgun — a gun without moving parts that fires a round through a big burst of electricity — is finally moving into a prototype phase. Next week, BAE System’s version of the railgun should arrive at Dahlgren for tests, followed in April by General Atomics’ version.
Meanwhile, Raytheon is developing the central nervous system of the railgun — the battery package that stores and then blasts the energy to send a bullet through the barrel. A shipboard demonstration should be ready, tentatively, by 2019.