One of the most anticipated weapon systems of the last quarter century looks like it is nearly ready for action. The Electromagnetic Railgun made its public debut this week at the Navy's Future Force Science and Technology Expo in Washington D.C. and it is literally a BIG hit.
Even though the EM Railgun looks massive to spectators, the truth is that it is finally in a size that will make it applicable to the Navy's inventory of surface combatants. With this in mind, the Railgun is set for sea trials aboard the Joint High-Speed Vessel USNS Millinocket in 2016, although this will not be a permanent installation. There is some serious talk about integrating the weapon onto the third DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class Destroyer, DDG-1002 USS Lyndon B. Johnson.
The Zumwalt Class, with its twin 155mm cannons enclosures, ridiculous amount of power generation capability and its shore bombardment mission is the perfect candidate to introduce the the mach 7 projectile flinging Railgun to the fleet. The system can also be used for air defense as well, which is a good thing considering that these ships will be fighting closer to enemy shores than any other.
The realization of the EM Railgun into a reliable and field-ready weapon system clearly has the Navy in a whirl, and rightfully so. This technology could revolutionize warfare, and to be perfectly honest, it marks the return of really big ass guns to US Navy surface combatants. Who knows, it could even lead to a new "Electric Battleship" capable of slinging high-volumes of guided shells hundreds of miles in rapid succession. The sky is truly the limit.
Then again, maybe it's not, as a Railgun anti-satellite or anti-ballistic missile projectile sure sounds enticing...
Tyler Rogoway is a defense journalist and photographer who maintains the website Foxtrot Alpha for Jalopnik.com You can reach Tyler with story ideas or direct comments regarding this or any other defense topic via the email address Tyler@Jalopnik.com