The US Navy is currently considering installing an operational railgun, as opposed to a prototype, on its latest Zumwalt-class destroyer within the next two years. According to the Tech Times, the idea to bypass a prototype came from Admiral Pete Fanta, the director of surface warfare for the Navy, since development of the weapon has already included strenuous testing. Instead, the Navy will go straight to mounting the gun on the USS Lyndon B. Johnson, which is currently in construction. The railgun will replace one of the destroyer’s forward 155mm turrets.
“The Zumwalt-class is one of a number of options being explored for the electromagnetic railgun,” Lt. Cmdr. Hayley Sims, a Navy spokeswoman, told the Associated Press. “Due to the size, weight and power requirements, some platforms will be better suited for the technology than others.”
You can see the Navy railgun prototype in action below:
No final decision has yet been made, and the Navy is still moving forward to test a prototype in 2017. The electromagnetic railgun currently under development by the US Navy is a long-range weapon that fires projectiles using electricity rather than gunpowder, like traditional guns. Strong magnetic fields created by electric currents are capable of launching projectiles at over 4,500 mph. This allows the Navy to conduct precise surface fire support, or gives any ship with the weapon a significant advantage in naval combat. It also reduces the risks of having highly explosive ordnance on a ship.
The Zumwalt-class destroyer itself is also a highly advanced warship and the subject of some controversy. The program to build the destroyer originally planned for 32 ships with a budget of $9.6 billion. However, the price of the advanced materials and technologies aboard the destroyer raised costs, and the program was later shrunk down to three ships for about the same budget, leading many critics to call the destroyer class prohibitively expensive.
What makes the destroyer so expensive? The Zumwalt-class ships have a significant stealth ability, which some Navy officials have said makes it up to 50 times harder to spot than a regular destroyer on radar. The ship also boasts a tumblehome hull form, and advanced gun system, advanced radar capabilities and significant automation, which results in a smaller crew. The USS Lyndon B. Johnson is the third ship of its class in construction, along with the USS Michael Monsoor and the USS Zumwalt.
The Navy is also looking into laser and smart munition weaponry as part of its push to increase the power of surface warships.
Image courtesy US Navy