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U.S Navy rail-gun shows awesome power with record-breaking missile launch

posted 13 Dec 2010, 11:48 by Mpelembe   [ updated 13 Dec 2010, 11:51 ]

The U.S. Navy says it has shattered a record with its futuristic electromagnetic railgun by firing a projectile with enough force to launch 33 Volkswagen beetles 100 miles (160 km) all at once. The railgun is still being tested by the Navy but is intended as a more effective alternative to conventional ship-based weaponry. Video from the December 10 record breaking-shot shows its awesome power.

The U.S. Navy says its electromagnetic railgun is the cannon of the future. On December 10, 2010, the gun launched a non-explosive missile at 33 megajoules, tripling the record it set in January, 2008.

The record-setting shot followed similar tests at 33 megajoules on December 2.

An electromagnetic railgun uses a massive surge of electricity to create an electromagnetic field that propels a projectile along a set of metal rails at several times the speed of sound before launching it.

A megajoule is a measurement of energy associated with a mass traveling at a certain velocity. In simple terms, a one-ton vehicle moving at 100 mph equals a megajoule of energy.

Launching a missile with 33 magajoules of power, the railgun can hit a target more than 100 miles (160km) away in under six minutes with the projectile travelling at seven times the speed of sound. The target is destroyed by the inertial force of the missile - no explosives are necessary.

Besides the extended ranges and killing power, the Navy says the railgun also improves safety its sailors and marines by eliminating the need for a high-energy explosive warhead and traditional gun propellant.

"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," The U.S. Navy said in a statement.

The previous record, set in January, 2008, hurled a missile with a power of 10 megajoules. The Navy says the latest test shows researchers are steadily progressing toward developing a gun that could hit targets almost 20 times farther than conventional ship combat systems.