The U.S. Navy is pursuing several programs aimed at developing next-generation approaches to shipboard defense and naval fires. Two of them — an electromagnetic railgun and hypervelocity projectile — could make a big difference in future naval engagements. The range and rate of fire against remote targets would greatly increase, while the cost of each round would be a small fraction of what a missile typically costs. The onboard safety of sailors would be improved while logistical requirements would be reduced. The hypervelocity round could also be used in existing naval guns, but mated to a railgun, it would be able to hit targets over 100 nautical miles away with pinpoint accuracy. As testing progresses at the Dahlgren, VA surface warfare center, the question isn’t whether a railgun will work — it’s whether funding will be provided to keep the program on track. Railguns and hypervelocity rounds may be essential to the Navy’s survivability in the Persian Gulf and Western Pacific by mid-century. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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