Navy wants electromagnetic railgun to pump out 100s of rounds per minute

Navy taps industry expertise for the high-energy power needed to drive multi-shot electromagnetic railgun

us navy
The US Navy wants to develop the power system necessary to get its prototype electromagnetic railgun to fire hundreds of rounds per minute rather than the single shot it is capable of today.

The electromagnetic railgun is a long-range, high-energy gun launch system that uses electronic pulses to launch projectiles at targets more than 200 nautical miles away.  

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"Of the different pulsed power technologies, one based on capacitor energy storage are considered the most appropriate for the Navy mission. This type of PPS currently operates at the appropriate energy level in Railgun laboratory facilities, but is larger than required, and operates in single-shot mode (relatively low average power)," the Navy said.  Raytheon recently won a $10 million contract to build what's known as a pulse-forming network that stores electrical power for the gun and converts it to the pulse that fires the projectile.

The Navy apparently wants to take the system a step further and develop a high-average-power pulsed power system able to store up to 200MJ of energy and deliver this energy to the launcher at a rate of once every 6 seconds (10 rounds per/minute), for bursts of 100's of shots.

"The system must also include all the required ancillaries (prime power, charging, cooling, and controls) and must be modular and transportable. System must be scalable - a fraction of the total system can operate independently and the energy capability can be increased/decreased by adding/subtracting modules as necessary. Reducing system volume is important, but this has to be balanced with system fault tolerance and cost. The energy density goal for the pulsed power component (excluding bus-work to launcher) is 1 MJ/m3 or better," the Navy stated.

The Navy noted too that this announcement is purely a Request for Information (RFI) to gage capabilities. It also noted that an RFI was previously posted as "Compact Rep-Rate Pulsed Power for Driving Railguns" by the Department of the Navy Office of Naval Research in November 2009. "Numerous responses were received at the time, primarily from US sources, and as a result the state of the technology and various approaches have been identified within the US Pulsed Power community. "

In 2010 the Navy said it fired off what it called a world-record, Mach 5 velocity shot of its high-energy electromagnetic railgun.  The record was the fact that the gun generated 33 megajoules of energy upon firing, the Navy stated.  A megajoule measures the amount of energy associated with a mass traveling at a certain velocity, the Navy stated. A one-ton vehicle moving at 100 mph equals a megajoule of energy.

Railgun systems have a number of advantages.  First they let a ship stand further offshore to deliver ordnance, protecting sailors.  Onboard, the system doesn't require ordinary shells, nor explosives, further boosting safety.

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