The Navy has been working on perfecting the nonconventional railgun for more than a decade now. These guns fire non-explosive projectiles through the use of electricity rather than chemical propellants—but what makes them so deadly is how damn fast the projectiles travel after being shot.
How fast, you ask? We’re talking about speeds of up to Mach 6, or around 4,600 mph, according to the Office of Naval Research.
The screengrab above is from a video of a test fire of the BAE Systems-built weapon conducted in November of last year and released this week.
As our friends at Popular Mechanics point out, the railgun was supposed to be tested at sea on the USNS Trenton this year, but that’s been delayed. The futuristic USS Zumwalt, which supposedly is capable of accommodating a gun that powerful, has been having problems of its own with its fancy-pants gun system and outrageously expensive ammunition.
The railgun has been heralded as the future of the Navy’s ship-destroying capabilities, but it comes with tremendous downsides as well. Besides its gargantuan size, there’s also the fact that it could require as much as 25 megawatts of power—which could power almost 19,000 homes—to operate, hence why it has to be on a destroyer in the first place.
That could get better over time, but the railgun’s sheer power, range and the fact that it does not require explosives aboard a ship to use make it apparently worth the Navy investing in.