Navy officials told FoxNews.com that the railgun, which relies on magnets rather than explosives to fire bullets at several times the speed of sound, had blasted through budget constraints that are leaving federal research programs in Washington at the drawing board.
“I think it is a great example of how our naval science and technology — in these tough fiscal times — can be responsive to the military’s emerging needs,” said Adm. Matthew Klunder, Chief of Naval Research for the Office of Naval Research (ONR), which has been developing the electromagnetic railgun since 2005.
He insisted that not only will the railgun fire projectiles faster and farther than any weapon now known to man, but “in these fiscal times of belt tightening … [it’s] a more cost-effective system.”
How so? For one, because the gun and the storage of its projectiles (which are not incendiary, and weigh about 40 pounds each — smaller and less expensive than today’s missiles) ultimately will take up less space than traditional weapons systems.
In addition, rather than relying on chemical propellants like gunpowder, the railgun uses an electromagnetic pulse to create strong magnetic fields that propel the conductive bullet on a sliding metal sled and out of the barrel — at 4,500 to 5,000 miles per hour and as far as 100 nautical miles away in about 5 minutes, with possible future expansion to 220 miles, according to ONR.