With electromagnetic railgun systems (EMRS), “faster than a speeding bullet” takes on new meaning. The 32-megajoule – a measurement of power applied over a period of time, in this case equivalent to about nine kilowatt-hours – railgun in its second phase of testing by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) can fire a projectile at seven times the speed of sound (Mach 7), almost three times faster than an M16 rifle bullet. What’s more, the weapon achieves this blistering speed without the need for volatile, expensive, and heavy chemical propellants like gunpowder.
This technology has attracted U.S. military planners’ interest. ONR tests of the 32-megajoule railgun at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Site in Virginia are aimed at eventual deployment of the weapon on new vessels like the Zumwalt-class destroyer, which produces the energy necessary to power the weapon.