As the Obama administration is actively talking about the need to prevent all wars, much of the rest of the US Military sees the need to remain ever vigilant. With preparation in mind, the Navy has been hard at work on railguns, and says the first ones should be on board ships this summer.

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Rail guns propel projectiles with electromagnetic force, which means there’s no need for gunpowder or explosives. This is a logic la technology for ships, especially, as they won’t have to carry anything but the means to produce the electrify and the projectile itself.

And if the latest test from the US Navy are any indication, this is going to be a formidable weapon. The gun is capable of hurling a 25 pound steel projectile at speed greater than Mach 6. That’s 4,500 MPH. 6,600 feet per second. So pretty fast. More than a mile per second?

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The speed is much better than what can currently be achieved with gun powder. And it is the speed that makes the terminal ballistics so impressive. The projectiles punch through armor, which should make the navies of the world’s more ambitious super-powers more than a bit nervous.

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That’s what this is about–a new arm’s race. “I can’t conceive of a future where we would replicate Cold War forces in Europe,” said Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work, “but I could conceive of a set of railguns that would be inexpensive but would have enormous deterrent value. They would have value against airplanes, missiles, tanks, almost anything.”

The railgun isn’t just for punching holes in ship, which it will do very well. It also has the potential to shoot missiles out of the sky. That’s the hope, at least.

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“This is going to change the way we fight,” said U.S. Navy Adm. Mat Winter, the head of the Office of Naval Research.

As for me, I’m waiting for the hand-held version.



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