Scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) hit a materials research milestone in the Office of Naval Research’s (ONR) Electromagnetic Railgun program when they fired a laboratory-scale system for the 1,000th time.
“A significant amount of development has been coming out of NRL to support the program,” said Roger Ellis, ONR’s Electromagnetic Railgun (EMRG) program officer. “It’s a key piece of making railgun successful.”
The EMRG is a long-range weapon that launches projectiles using
electricity instead of chemical propellants. Under development by the
Department of the Navy (DON) for use aboard ships, the system will
provide Sailors with multi-mission capability, allowing them to conduct
precise naval surface fire support, or land strikes; cruise missile and
ballistic missile defense; and surface warfare to deter enemy vessels.
“The weapon does all its damage because of its speed,” said Dr. Roger McGinnis, program executive for ONR’s Naval Air Warfare and Weapons Department,
which oversees EMRG. Launched at 2 to 2.5 kilometers per second (4,500
to 5,600 mph) without using explosives, the projectile reaches its
target at speeds that require only a small charge similar to that found
in automobile airbags to dispense its payload, eliminating the objective
through the inherent kinetic energy.
“EMRG will provide the Department of Defense with an advantage in
future conflicts by giving troops the ability to fire weapons
inexpensively against targets,” McGinnis said.
As part of the EMRG development program, ONR and NRL co-funded
scientists at NRL to build and operate a 6-meter long, 50 mm diameter
railgun as a subscale experimental lab at the Materials Testing Facility
(MTF). Researchers fired the first shot in March 2007. After improving
the gun’s sliding armature and rails, the lab has fired an average of
300 shots per year since 2008.
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