Monday, 22 February 2016

Rail Gun-The Future Weapon Of War

Rail gun is a weapon capable of launching projectile without the usage of explosives or propellants, but, are launched at extremely high velocities, mach 7 (at sea level) or more. Capability of launching projectiles at velocities higher than guns and cannons makes rail gun hit targets at greater ranges capable of hitting the target with extreme speed and accuracy thus nullifying the escape factor of the enemy platform or an approaching projectile. With the usage of rail gun the hazards of usage of explosives and chemical propellants are evaded as well.

In a conventional gun system gas expansion resulting from the usage of explosives and chemicals prohibits launching a projectile to velocities greater than 1.5 km/s and also limits the range to 80 kilometers. Ballistics of a rail gun far outperforms the efficiency of conventional cannons/gun system. Provisioning of one million amperes of current will create a tremendous force on the projectile thus accelerating it to a speed of many kilometres per second . A rail gun can hit a target 250 miles away traveling at a speed of around 16,000 meters per second in 6 minutes. Such a typical rail gun power supply may require a launch current of 5 mega-ampere for a few milliseconds.
Rail guns are being examined by US navy to be used for land bombardment and as anti-aircraft weapons to intercept air threats, particularly intercepting anti-ship cruise missiles.

Hazards of Operating A Rail Gun:

The heat generated from the propulsion of the projectile is enough to erode the rails rapidly.Under high-usage conditions, rail guns would require frequent replacement of the rails until high grade rails capable of producing the same effect without frequent replacement are introduced. A rail gun requires large amounts of power. A power source has to be used that can generate millions of amperes for a rail gun to function. In a traditional battleship power cannot be diverted from the ship’s propulsion system to power the rail gun. So ships with special power systems that can divert the power with required amperage from the engine to the rail gun are required to be designed afresh. US navy’s next-generation battle ship , the all electric DD(X) are designed to produce such currents. Currently only Zumwalt-class destroyers of US navy are capable of producing such power.

Testing OF Rail Gun:

On 31st January 2008 U.S. Navy tested a rail gun that fired a projectile at 10.64 MJ with a muzzle velocity of 2,520 m/s. The required power was provided by a new 9-megajoule capacitor bank using solid-state switches and high-energy-density capacitors and an older 32-megajoule pulse power system from the US Army’s Green Farm Electric Gun Research and Development Facility. The rail gun is expected to be ready for deployment between 2020 to 2025.


With the advent of rail gun as a weapon owing to its ultra high speed and accuracy which will allow for a abysmally small reaction time to evade its projectile, all airborne battle platforms like fighter jets and sea faring battle platforms like aircraft carriers and large ships will theoritically become outdated and will run the risk of unavoidable destruction once detected and targeted by the radar of the launching ship or platform harbouring the rail gun. Guided rail gun projectiles are also being thought of to be developed.

It seems that future warfare attack as well as defence systems will have to depend on radars and launch platforms having the ability to respond within extremely small scope of reaction time and having the capability to launch hypersonic projectiles/missiles and ultra high energy DEW within that time to counter launches from platforms such as the rail gun. With such lethal launching platforms of weapon the launching platform which will detect and launch an attack first will hold a great advantage over its adversary.

Written By Debojyoti Kumar

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