A railgun is the stuff of science-fiction and video games. Instead of firing an explosively fired projectile, a railgun uses an electromagnetic current to accelerate a non-explosive bullet to several times the speed of sound. On Friday, at 11 AM today, the Navy set a record, by producing a 33-megajoule firing, more than three times the previous record it set in 2008.
Rear Adm. Nevin Carr, chief of naval research, said in a Navy report on the test:
"The 33-megajoule shot means the Navy can fire projectiles at least 110 nautical miles, placing sailors and Marines at a safe standoff distance and out of harm's way, and the high velocities achievable are tactically relevant for air and missile defense. This demonstration moves us one day closer to getting this advanced capability to sea."
Compare that distance with the capabilities of the Iowa-class battleships, the last great battleships of the U.S. Navy. These could hurl an armor-piercing shell 24.06 miles.
Friday's test was run at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, VA, the same place where the prior record was set. Without the need for explosives to propel the shells, life on a Navy ship would be a lot safer. The Navy still many issues to overcome. However, the Navy expects fully functional railguns on the decks of U.S. Navy ships in the 2025 timeframe.