back to article US Navy coughs $34.5m for hyper-kill railgun that DOESN'T self-destruct

BAE Systems has been handed a $34.5m contract to design a new version of a potentially game-changing weapon of the future. The US Office of Naval Research gave BAE the cash to build a new railgun prototype which is capable of firing up to 10 shots a minute, while staying cool enough that it doesn't blow up like previous …

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  1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  2. Mike Richards

    Excellent - it's BAE

    Anyone want to hazard how much it's going to cost before they finally realise it doesn't work?

    1. rcorrect
      Happy

      Re: Excellent - it's BAE

      "Anyone want to hazard how much it's going to cost before they finally realise it doesn't work?"

      How much you want to bet that information will be withheld in the name of national security?

      1. Cliff

        Re: Excellent - it's BAE

        According to Mark Thomas, we as taxpayers already subsidise every BAE employee to the tune of ~£13k/year, so I doubt this will tip that balance. Not sure how current those figures are, mind.

      2. Kharkov
        Facepalm

        Re: Excellent - it's BAE

        Ha! Shows what you know.

        When it doesn't work, we'll build it anyway and install it everywhere!

        Otherwise the terrorists win, or something...

    2. Frankee Llonnygog

      Re: Excellent - it's BAE

      Our strategy is to bluff our enemies to death. A few $billion is a small price to pay for the ability to work voodoo magic.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Excellent - it's BAE

      BAE = Billions Above Estimate

  3. jai

    Game changing?

    I dunno about game changing. I always preferred the wide area splash damage of the red rocket launcher in Q3A to the railgun. Always too difficult to hit the target when moving at speed - plus, you can't rocket jump with the rail gun, you just end up gib'ng yourself if you accidentally shoot your own foot...

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: Game changing?

      everyone knows that rail arena was where the big boys played. Although rockets on Q3DM17 were always funny.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Grave

        Re: Game changing?

        all hitscan weapons are easily botted, and require only good aim

        now rockets on the other hand, that takes some real skills, aim, prediction and movement :)

    2. phr0g
      Thumb Up

      Re: Game changing?

      The rail gun was king in Q2 though (Which was "my" game) :)

      1. cbf123

        I loved railgun in Q2...nothing like jumping off a ledge and nailing someone off in the distance while you're falling.

        Of course it was also fun in the early days of high-speed DSL--20ms ping times and minimal congestion were sweet.

  4. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    Revolutionise what?

    ...revolutionize naval warfare...

    Naval warfare, such as fighting Somalian pirates?

    I'm not so naive to believe naval warfare (more than deploying aircraft to remote places) is only a thing of the past. But I haven't seen much serious naval warfare lately.

    1. Tim Jenkins
      Mushroom

      Re: Revolutionise what?

      Just you wait; PRISM is due to uncover the location of the Al-Qaeda Navy any day now

      (right after the NSA is done choosing the coolest fly-in transitions for their PowerPoint slides)

    2. Ru

      Re: Revolutionise what?

      But I haven't seen much serious naval warfare lately.

      No, but there's been plenty of sabre rattling regarding the straits of Hormuz, and then there's the whole Taiwan thing, too. The US's ability to project force is heavily dependant on its carrier battlegroups, and it is clearly prepared to spend crazy money to keep that ability.

      1. lightknight

        Re: Revolutionise what?

        Lol, pity it hasn't thought of the submersible carrier yet. Now there's a project that could keep the military fed for decades, even without fighting. Well, supposing we ever fix the economy (about that...).

        1. Suricou Raven

          Re: Revolutionise what?

          It's been done. Japan and France have used them. The planes are tiny, and used folding wings to fit into the bay. They weren't used for combat, but reconnaissance. Obsoleted by improvements in radar and sonar tech.

        2. Christoph Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Revolutionise what?

          We don't need submersible carriers. We already have the solution.

          Pykrete!

          1. Chemist

            Re: Revolutionise what?

            Ah, yes. Pyke, The Unknown Genius - think that was the name of the book

        3. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Happy

          Re: Revolutionise what?

          "Lol, pity it hasn't thought of the submersible carrier yet. Now there's a project that could keep the military fed for decades, even without fighting. Well, supposing we ever fix the economy (about that...)."

          Has actually been tried.

          In the 30 at least one sub was built with a (small) aircraft hangar. It leaked. Not a good thing in a sub.

          In the 1950s at least one sub was built for (IIRC) the Regulas cruise missile, which having fixed wings needed a bit of a takeoff run to get it up to flight speed.

          A true aircraft carrier sub would be obscenely expensive.

          So perfect BAE project.

          1. Vic

            Re: Revolutionise what?

            > In the 30 at least one sub was built with a (small) aircraft hangar.

            HMS M2 was launched in 1919. She sank in 1932. It is believed that the hangar door was opened before she was fully clear of the water.

            She iles in about 35m of water just off Portland. A nice dive the last time I was there...

            Vic.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Revolutionise what?

        @Ru has it. Ignore all the shore bombardment or (traditional) ship on ship bollocks.

        The rail gun is being developed as a counter for the Chinese kinetic carrier-killer.

    3. Suricou Raven

      Re: Revolutionise what?

      With a 200-mile range, I'm thinking shore bombardment. Easier than shelling logistically, and none of the risks of flying bombers.

      1. Christoph Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Revolutionise what?

        Back to the good old days of "Natives restless. Send Gunboat."

        Anyone living within 200 miles of the sea had better get ready to bend over for Uncle Sam.

        1. Grave

          Re: Revolutionise what?

          if there was only naval warfare available, russia would be on the top with their supercavitating shkval torpedoes. how do you defend against 370km/h torpedo when yours only go 80km/h, it would be like shooting fish in a barrel :)

          1. mmeier

            Re: Revolutionise what?

            Simple - you buy a GERMAN supercavitating torpedo that actually can change course (Barracuda) and the problem is solved. Like the US buying the mature Gepard AAA turret instead of developing their own AAA tank...

            1. Grave

              Re: Revolutionise what?

              can you actually buy it? because last i read it was only rd and wasnt used in service anywhere (usa tried to develop these but it went nowhere, even after stealing some of the russian designs :)). shkval can change course too and its been in service for decades, newer versions rumored to go 560km/h

          2. Ru
            Black Helicopters

            Re: Revolutionise what?

            if there was only naval warfare available, russia would be on the top with their supercavitating shkval torpedoes

            Interestingly, the Iranians appear to have reverse-engineered the Shkval and made their own. No idea if it actually works, of course.

            The important thing to note is that the Shkval was designed as a defensive system, and has a relatively short range... ~12km or so. That's pretty close to a carrier battlegroup that'll have a screen of antiair and antisubmarine stuff out around it to a reasonably large distance... it would be tricky to get close enough to make a kill with a Shkval without being spotted.

            By comparison, the Sunburn/Moskit missile has a 120km range, and doesn't require a submarine force to launch it from.

          3. Tom 13

            Re: how do you defend against 370km/h torpedo

            That's what the water-cooled railguns below the waterline are for.

            Now where are my sharks with their frickin laser beams?

        2. MJI Silver badge

          Re: Revolutionise what?

          Good job we have the best subs

    4. Boothy

      Re: Revolutionise what?

      Useful for ship to ship, but more likely to replace trying to drop bunker busters from carrier borne aircraft and ship launched cruise missiles. Very useful for taking out enemy radar and SAM installation etc. Without risking your pilots. Or costing you too much,

      Faster, cheaper, no effective means to intercept (yet) etc.

      Anyone know what the effective accuracy is over 200 miles? Taking into account wind etc.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Re: Revolutionise what?

        Back when we recommisioned the battleships in the 1980's, they were playing around with 16" shells that consisted of an 8" warhead with rocket assist as the payload, and it was supposed to have this kind of range which is really interesting. Anyway, terminal guidance was supposed to use a laser designator in the hands of a US Navy SEAL team or from a drone, or even aircraft if you were really hard up. Basically an 8" version of a Copperhead shell. Nice to see the idea get some play again even if it'll probably cost (literally) tons of money.

        Betcha they install it first on the LCS's (Littoral Combat Ships). Look real cool up on the foc's'le.

      2. Jaybus

        Re: Revolutionise what?

        The difference is in the velocity. The projectile is moving far faster than any other canon, and so it is a kinetic weapon having no need for expensive and dangerous explosive projectiles. The projectile is travelling at least 2,300 m/s or about a mile and a half per second. This gives it a huge advantage in deployment. Time of flight for a 180 mile shot is just 2 minutes. Even the permanent air cover fighters that all carriers deploy could not possibly cover a 180 mile radius area and respond so quickly. So the rail gun is much more advantageous as a quickly deployed defensive weapon. There are already plenty of good options for offensive weapons.

        1. Chemist

          Re: Revolutionise what?

          "no need for expensive and dangerous explosive projectiles"

          Depends what the target is. A conventional shell with proximity fuse could destroy a target that you didn't hit - this is the likely scenario given the range, however with a railgun a soft-bodied target might simply be holed and without any significant mass to deliver the kinetic energy to it would be like a rifle-bullet hitting tissue paper unless it hit something heavy or vital.

          Anyone know what the likely velocity is at ~300kms ??

        2. Robert Sneddon

          Air friction and Battleships

          Straightline flight of a railgun projectile at sea-level (well it is being fired from a ship) will result in a cloud of molten metal a couple of clicks from the railgun's muzzle. The projectile is already bloody hot from the millions of amps passed through it as it accelerates between the rails, the air friction from travelling at Mach 7 would finish the job. Even if by some miracle it did survive it would lose a lot of its velocity due to the aforementioned air friction so it would still take a lot more than 2 minutes to go 200 kilometres.

          The battleship solution is to fire a shell from a gun in a high parabolic arc so most of its trajectory is in thin air and it will retain most of its initial speed and not melt or overheat on the way. That takes even longer to get to target, of course; a 15" shell from a British WWII battleship could take 90 seconds to cover 30 kilometres with a muzzle velocity of about 750 m/s, just over Mach 2. Firing railgun projectiles in the same high ballistic arc would double or triple their time-to-target.

          Like battleship shells railgun projectiles don't have terminal guidance so with wind drift, irregularities in the firing system etc. the circular error at the target 200 km away would probably be a few hundred metres. If the target is a vehicle like a tank it may not even be in the same country when the projectile arrives. If the aim is to hit a stationary building or structure then it's rare that it has to be destroyed right now and a Tomahawk or two will do the job nicely -- see the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in the recent past to show just how precise that sort of targetting can be done.

          Railguns might, just might be useful for close-in defence of major warships, able to hit to a line-of-sight threat before it comes in too close but scaling them down to something the size of a Phalanx is not going to be easy.

    5. streaky Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Revolutionise what?

      "I'm not so naive to believe naval warfare (more than deploying aircraft to remote places) is only a thing of the past. But I haven't seen much serious naval warfare lately."

      You've seen plenty of naval warfare lately, think bombardment of Libya, the pounding of Baghdad amongst others. Even land-locked Afghanistan was hit from the sea directly back in 2001.

      The whole dreadnaught thing is nonsense of course - the more armor you put in front of one of these the bigger the internal shockwave and spalling.

  5. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    How effective are they...

    against a clapped out old fishing boat, with a bust engine,packed with refugees (including lots of children), wallowing in the swell and drifting in towards the side of the new dreadnought?

    Oh, did I mention the hold full of explosives...?

    Ah, the joys of asymetric warfare

    Doesn't the US Government have enough ways of killing people yet?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How effective are they...

      If you engage from over the horizon, your government has plausible deniability that anyone knew about the civilians on the target vessel.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: How effective are they...

        At least my tinfoil hat has a radar signature

      2. Tom 13

        Re: If you engage from over the horizon,

        If you have that kind of over the horizon capability, nobody believes you when terrorist blow up their own people and blame it on you.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      Re: How effective are they...

      "Doesn't the US Government have enough ways of killing people yet?"

      It's the military.

      There are never enough ways to kill people or vehicles (and of course the ones you most want are never around when you need them)

    3. boltar
      Facepalm

      Re: How effective are they...

      "with refugees (including lots of children)"

      Fire off with a Think-Of-The-Children argument immediately. Yes, that really makes you out as a critical thinking who doesn't bleet along with the rest of the groupthink herd. Not.

      "Doesn't the US Government have enough ways of killing people yet?"

      I'm pretty sure quite a number of idiots with zero foresight have said pretty much the same throughout history when someone invented the sword (whats wrong with a rock?) or gunpowder (whats wrong with a sword?) or the air force (whats wrong with the navy?). Congrats on joining such an august line of fools.

    4. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: How effective are they...

      Did we mention the skiffs and other small boats that come standard on most Navy warships, including carriers? After the Cole incident, SOP is to inspect ANY watercraft coming within a radius. Your bomb boat would be spotted from a distance and approached by small craft long before it got close.

  6. M7S

    Cooling

    Are the large amounts of seawater, which IIRC from school have a large heat capacity, that one presumes will be available to ship mounted weapons any use or is there a good reason why not?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cooling

      The sea might be a nice heatsink, if you can get over the detrimental effects of salt water on machinery and a need to keep important bits of the ship sealed against NBC threats.

      1. fix

        Re: Cooling

        Salt water should not be a problem.

        You don't pump the sea-water directly through the weapon, you would use some other liquid that transfers heat well and doesn't cause corrosion, and pump that through a nice big heat sink, say the hull ?

        1. Thomas Whipp

          Re: Cooling

          I would imagine not - weapons tend to be designed in a modular fashion both for maintenance and the ability to retro-fit. The lifespan of a vessel (multi-decade) is much greater than the lifespan of its individual systems.

          I therefore suspect that any design will have to be pretty self contained and not require extensive modifications to the platform its mounted on.

          very few weapon systems are designed on the basis that you build the platform around them - the only one I can think of easily is ICBM nuke submarines.

          Plus, I doubt you'd want to be using your hull as a heat sink (lovely big IR signature against a cold background)

          1. Interceptor

            Re: Cooling

            "very few weapon systems are designed on the basis that you build the platform around them - the only one I can think of easily is ICBM nuke submarines."

            The A-10 (GAU-8A Avenger), the F14 (AIM-54), battleships of all types, etc. etc. Lots of systems.

            1. LDS Silver badge

              Re: Cooling

              The F-14 wasn't designed around the AIM-54, although it was designed to use them (as the F-111B was). It was designed as a long-range fighter to be able to intercept Russian bombers well before they could fire their weapons against the carrier group - that's why it needed a powerful radar, a lot of fuel, and long range missiles.

              Anyway, in combat it uses more AIM-7 and AIM-9 missiles than AIM-54s, which are not the best weapon to down other fighters.

              1. TheWeenie
                Pint

                Re: Cooling

                The Tomcat and F111-B were designed around the AWG-9 radar set, which worked with the AIM-54.

                Beautiful plane, the F14. I vaguely remember hearing that the AIM-54 was a bit of a turkey though - and the only recorded kill of an adversary was by an Iranian airframe, not the USN. No idea how accurate that is though. No doubt that's classified. Or I just made it up.

          2. Joseph Eoff

            Re: Cooling

            The A-10 was built around a cannon designed to knock out tanks.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A-10_Thunderbolt_II

          3. Tom 13

            @Thomas Whipp

            Also, I believe most of the paints etc. they use to protect the hull from the corrosive effects of the sea also have the effect of being insulators instead of conductors. Not enough to matter for typical running conditions, but when you are trying to dump massive amounts of heat not the sort of thing you want between you and the big dump.

          4. cbf123

            Re: Cooling

            The A10 warthog was pretty much designed around the gun.

        2. annodomini2

          Re: Cooling

          @fix,

          All you are doing is moving the corrosion somewhere else.

          Then, as has been stated, creating the issue that the ship needs to be designed around the weapon and not the other way around, allowing installation on existing vessels.

      2. PlacidCasual

        Re: Cooling

        I'm fairly sure this problem has been solved since we have salt water condensers on nuclear power stations, nuclear aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines all of which have steam turbines and auxiliaries requiring cooling.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cooling

      The sea is somewhat useful as a heatsink, but the problem is the timescales the heat is generated over - the heat of a railgun firing is generated in milliseconds, mostly in the rails themselves. The problem is keeping the rails from vaporizing, melting, or even just deforming before you can get the heat out of them into something else.

      And the temperatures are much higher than the temperatures of burning gunpowder.

      1. Ru

        Re: Cooling

        very few weapon systems are designed on the basis that you build the platform around them - the only one I can think of easily is ICBM nuke submarines.

        Aircraft carriers, perhaps? Old-school big gun battleships certainly were, and anything with railguns as its primary armament will be reaching back to that era.

        1. Thomas Whipp

          Re: Cooling

          I did consider air craft carriers - but what they have is a certain flight deck size and arrestor wire setup. Aircraft are then designed to fit these parameters so in reality these become a modular weapon.

          The A10 and tanks are good examples - but they are much smaller units, the service life of the unit will principally be the service life of their main weapon.

          I accept that the navy *could* build warships designed entirely around railgun technology, I just dont think they will. If you consider it from their perspective would you like a system that requires you to build a new fleet or one that you can selectively refit your existing fleet over a decade? Which option has lower risk, capital cost, lead time, etc... and which provides the greatest projection of power at the earliest window.

          I would expect early rail guns to be a modular unit that replaces a current turret mount - once they've been in service for a while (10+ years) I can imagine someone saying why not scale this up for the next major battleship (presumably nuke powered). But this wont be the way that they are intially deployed.

      2. Steve I
        Go

        Re: Cooling

        "The heat of a railgun firing is generated in milliseconds, mostly in the rails themselves. The problem is keeping the rails from vaporizing, melting, or even just deforming"

        Couldn't you employ lots of poor people to blow on them?

    3. Petalium

      Re: Cooling

      Why not use magnetic force and suspend the projectile in the air while it travels through the gun, or is that the way it works already?

      1. wilber

        Re: Cooling

        I would imagine that a majority of the heat would come for the several Meeelion Amps flowing through the rails for a few milliseconds.

      2. Miles Dyson

        Re: Cooling

        @Petalium - It is the current moving through the conductive projectile (or possibly a sabot or armature holding a projectile) that generates the Lorentz force that it propels along the rails, and that it why contact is necessary. A coilgun does not need contact with a magnetic projectile to accelerate it, but they have other limitations and would likely need much longer barrels to obtain the performance that has been demonstrated by rail guns.

        1. M7S

          Re: Cooling - Thank you all.

          Some informative answers to my original question, exactly what I had hoped for from this forum

      3. theOtherJT

        Re: Cooling

        That would be more akin to a coil-gun. Railguns use the projectile itself to close the circuit between the rails, turning it into a linear motor, where the projectile is free to move.

    4. Flashy Red
      Coat

      Re: Cooling

      I find that "Controlled Bursts V" helps.

    5. Tom 13

      Re: Cooling

      You forget our Navy, except in time of actual combat, is now run by Greenpeace.

      They can't even engage in live fire training if there's a chance a dolphin or seal will die. And don't even ask about what the civy test teams are going to have to do with sequestration now in effect. They're only allowed to work four 8 hour shifts per week even if they're the only guy available to run the data station during that 12 hour period.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Damn right it's game-changing!

    How's the Ark Royal going to trump that?

    Good old Displacement, that's how!

  8. Derpity
    Thumb Up

    Nifty

    Even though you may not agree with its current use, or the sponsor, its still pretty cool technology. If they can make it more reliable it should lower the overall cost and then lead to non-military use, just like everything else.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nifty

      Like a railgun handgun.

      1. Keith Smith 1
        Thumb Up

        Re: Nifty

        Arnie / Eraser

    2. Death_Ninja
      Boffin

      Re: Nifty

      Civvie use?

      1) Putting the cat out

      2) Imroving the England cricket teams batting capability

      3) Upgrading airsoft nerf throwers

      4) A better mousetrap?

      1. Suricou Raven

        Re: Nifty

        5) Winning the pumpkin-launching competition.

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Nifty

          5) Winning the pumpkin-launching competition.

          Anvil-launching. Pumpkins don't conduct very well.

  9. knarf

    Pizza ?

    Mach 7 pizza delivery would be cool and it would self heat with air friction, they could even be fired frozen and heat/cook en-route.

    1. Ru
      Flame

      Re: Pizza ?

      Pizza? Tricky... the toppings would all get blown off. Calzone on the other hand...

    2. James Hughes 1

      Re: Pizza ?

      I think you would lose too many anchovies during the inflight cooking.

    3. James O'Shea Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Pizza ?

      Mach 7 is too slow. And faster methods were thought of a Long Time Ago. <http://www.the-whiteboard.com/autowb026.html>. Note the time and date stamp on that strip...

      And, as for frozen pizza... the likes of _you_ are why railguns were invented.

      <exit, stage left, mumbling about whether it would be better to shoot those who advocate frozen pizza with a railgun, or just to shoot them out of a railgun.>

  10. Z-Eden
    Holmes

    Hmmm, wonder if the US are planning to put these things in orbit...

    1. Otto is a bear.

      Now there is

      A sensible question, throwing well targeted high velocity rocks at your enemy is a lot cleaner than nukes. I think it was Arthur C Clark who said warfare will revert to throwing rocks at each other, all be it shaped magnetic ones.

      1. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: Now there is

        I think Robert Heinlein also mentions chucking rocks down a gravity well, anyway quite a useful weapon if you can scrounge all the space junk floating around up there and deliver it to your favourite enemy instead of expensively sending up rocks from down here to then throw back down.

        Thinking about it; as this is an over the horizon ballistic shell or bomb or what have you it should be smart even at mach 7 it's handy to know exactly where you are going and to have the means to steer a bit so as to get there.

      2. Steve 13
        Thumb Down

        Re: Now there is

        Newton might have something to say... Throw a magnetic rock (whatever that is) out of a railgun in orbit and you just changed the orbit of the railgun. Now use chemical rockets to put it back in position (or ion thruster at best) and what did you really gain? Might has well have stuck the rocket motor on the rock in the first place!

        Also, rocks would need balancing precisely, machining to fit the rail gun and covering in something conductive. Again, might as well just stick a rocket motor on the rock, it's easier.

        1. Tom 38 Silver badge
          Alert

          Re: Now there is

          Newton might have something to say... Throw a magnetic rock (whatever that is) out of a railgun in orbit and you just changed the orbit of the railgun.

          Split rock in half. Fire one half towards the target, fire the other half in the opposite direction. Where is the railgun now? Action, reaction.

    2. Kharkov
      Flame

      Hmm, probably not in the next 10 to 20 years.

      Power generation - can enough juice be generated?

      Heat dissipation - melting important bits of your satellite weapon would be embarrassing.

      Political Reaction - the rest of the world (Russia, China and these days, the EU) would be super p*ssed...

      Hang on, the US has a long-standing tradition of not caring much about that stuff so yeah, they'll probably do it...

      1. Tom 13

        Re: so yeah, they'll probably do it...

        Well, given the right mess you lot have left for us to clean up, it helps to ignore it when the job has to be done.

        And yeah, when you're at the wrong end of the gravity well and we aren't it won't matter all that much.

  11. RISC OS
    Unhappy

    Where are the green vapour circles?

    Like arnie had in erazor? Aren't rail guns supposed zo futuristic weapons... that looked like something from the 60s

  12. tirk
    Mushroom

    The new "Nintendo Effect"....

    Admirals wanting the weapons they played with on their games consoles. I guess it's one way to use up the bloated budget.

    1. The Serpent

      Re: The new "Nintendo Effect"....

      Why not? It worked in Formula 1 with all this KERS bollocks - I'm just amazed they didn't make them drive over some kind of 'superturbopower' icon painted on the track. What used to be a steering wheel now looks more like a dual shock controller - the playstation generation is established and inflicting their ideas on us right now!

  13. Tapeador

    Erm, curvature of the earth, anyone?

    Surely if you shoot something for 200 miles the curvature of the earth will preclude straight-line firing, not to mention the position of the earth changing during the projectile travel?

    1. tony2heads

      re: next disaster will be:

      200miles cannot be straight line- the horizon for a ship will only be about 20-30 depending on the deck height.

      The system will be sub-orbital. Mach 7 is about 2km/s ; escape velocity 11km/s and orbital is round 7km/s

    2. detritus
      WTF?

      Re: Erm, curvature of the earth, anyone?

      *facepalm*

    3. Boothy

      Re: Erm, curvature of the earth, anyone?

      Kind of the point, fire at them while you are still out of sight. Using spotters to identify the targets (Spy sats, aircraft, drones, grunts on the ground etc.). Just like an arti barrage.

      Bear in mind these are ballistic, so you'll be aiming the gun above the horizon, not through it.direct at the target.

      It might be going quickly, but it's still not going to beat the pull of good ol gravity.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Erm, curvature of the earth, anyone?

      The projectile would still follow a parabolic flightpath, albeit a flatter one than slower moving traditionally fired projectiles. As long as there's nothing in the way, hitting something over the horizon should "merely" be a matter of aiming & accuracy.

    5. ratfox Silver badge

      Re: Erm, curvature of the earth, anyone?

      At Mach 7, the rotation of the earth would not be much more than what they already need to take into account while firing normal shells… That is two minutes and a half.

      Some guns in WW 2 had their projectiles staying 2 minutes in the air already,

      1. mmeier

        Re: Erm, curvature of the earth, anyone?

        As early as WWI guns with a > 100km range where used (Paris gun / Kaiser Wilhelm Geschütz) so the math can be done even without a computer. Using one will make the difference between hitting Paris and hitting the Arc de Triomphe.

      2. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Erm, curvature of the earth, anyone?

        "At Mach 7, the rotation of the earth would not be much more than what they already need to take into account while firing normal shells… That is two minutes and a half."

        I've been made aware that Snipers sometimes have to account for rotation of the earth when making shots of over a couple klicks. I believe this comes most into play when the gun is being fired ACROSS the rotation (meaning to the north or south) since the target in this case will move laterally just a smidge.

        It's not the speed of the projectile that affects this but time of flight. Those sniper bullets I mentioned would be in the are for a noticeable fraction of a second. It will have a greater influence on a projectile with a two-minute time of flight (and this time, even shots with or against rotation—to the east or west, respectively—need to account for this)

        1. Robert Sneddon

          Bullet speeds

          Typical sniper bullets like the .338 Lapua Magnum have a muzzle velocity of about 880 m/s so a bullet travelling over a distance of 2km will take over three seconds to reach its target allowing air resistance -- by the time the bullet has gone 300 metres it's already lost 130m/s according to the ballistics charts I've read.

    6. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Erm, curvature of the earth, anyone?

      Modern warship never used straight-line firing like tanks usually do. Most engagements in WWII happened at several miles distance which requires a non straight line firing, and projectiles too needed to be designed not to break when they hit targets at different angles (penetra . German long range cannons could hit target well beyond the horizon. Sure, you have to take into account winds, air density (which also changes with altitude...), target speed and direction, etc. etc. Battleship had analog computers to perform this kind of computations.

      Why ENIAC was built? To compute firing tables... before missiles becomes the main weapons.

      Anyway today there are also guided projectiles, that can adjust their trajectory while flying, like guided bombs do.

  14. Zmodem

    railguns are not coventional guns

    www.adina.com/mesh_pipe.gif

    and more graphite

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Ah, it's zmodem again

      Thank you, Captain Obvious.

  15. 1Rafayal

    thermo-nuclear rail gun ammo anyone?

    Surely a projectile armed with a tactical warhead would be very hard to intercept, let alone track. Would it be possible to detect a launch if it is fired by electromagnetism?

    (I borrowed most of this post from Metal Gear Solid)

  16. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    FAIL

    check the numbers. $34. 5 to *Billions* Above Estimate.

    Do you really need a time machine to how this will turn out?

    But the powerpoints will be astonishing

    1. Zmodem

      Re: check the numbers. $34. 5 to *Billions* Above Estimate.

      railgun projectiles create plasma, plasma is 12,000c or something, a inner barrel with plenty of vents would cool off while graphite is the heat sheild on the nasa shuttle

      metal would just fracture if cooled to fast

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: check the numbers. $34. 5 to *Billions* Above Estimate.

        Zmodem, please shut your trap until you know that you know what you're talking about.

        (which is, by current estimates, a couple of million years from now)

        1. Zmodem

          Re: check the numbers. $34. 5 to *Billions* Above Estimate.

          a platform being pushed along by ring magnets would`nt cause a gun to explode, the youtube videos of the US navy railgun shows all the plasma coming out of the barrel in slow motion

          plasma drop in temperature soon after the core of the burst, as its not proper fire or something along the lines

          having a inner barrel to mount the platform and magnets with plenty of vents, would give the plasma that little bit of time to cool, and have the real cooling system inside of the outter barrel

          toughened graphite is used on most expensive things instead of metal because its man made and does what its made to do

          1. Zmodem
            Gimp

            Re: check the numbers. $34. 5 to *Billions* Above Estimate.

            yeah,........ init

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The definitive anti-windmill weapon!

    take em out from 200 miles away. I want one.

  18. a_mu

    stealth boat

    put this on a stealth boat,

    now that would be a game changer.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2185831/Declassified-170million-Cold-War-Stealth-boat-snapped-2-5million-condition-scrap-parts.html

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: stealth boat

      "http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2185831/Declassified-170million-Cold-War-Stealth-boat-snapped-2-5million-condition-scrap-parts.html"

      OMG it's Elliot Carvers "yacht" from Tomorrow Never Dies."

      14Knots, invisible on radar and with lots of interior cargo space. What's not to like?

      Psychotic blonde henchman not included.

  19. Mr Young
    Thumb Up

    Ye, railgun, ye

    A continent length one has always sounded cool - 0 to blah mph before flying to orbit!

  20. Tunny

    Value for money

    In Pentagon terms anything with only six zeros after it must automatically be good value whether it works or not. Lets face it the million dollar loo seats worked.

  21. Camilla Smythe

    Vid Shows....

    In amongst the ablative gun destroying stuff an ablative gun destroying projectile with the external aerodynamics of something that might be an an ablative gun destroying projectile internal to the gun...

    Just a moment!!1!!

    "BAE Systems has been handed a $34.5m contract to design a new version of a potentially game-changing weapon of the future."

    That's a tenth of what Phorm, including lying bastard Kent, has pissed away to date.... notwithstanding someone else having to scrub the piss off the walls and the opportunity to Boff, old crusty, Girlies up to the top of Everest.

    Rah Rah Rah. Jolly HockeySticks.

    Gosh... Really helped the niggers out with that one.

    Yes!! The locals do do some nice stuff. Food wise.

    I'm orf to ride my Horse.

    Well done. Tra Lah Lah.

  22. shawnfromnh

    EMP

    I know small scale is possible "seen plans to make one for $100 online" so wouldn't it be a problem is a very large electro-magnetic pulse was release at the barrel while it was firing causing the mass being fired to jump and make the barrel explode.

    I can't see this being used for anything but very long range targets for that reason.

  23. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

    Aim?

    How do you aim these things?

    Also if you were picking a fight with the likes of China "ten rounds a minute", send 11 cruise missiles in a minute. Game over.

    1. Mr Young
      Thumb Up

      Re: Aim?

      You climb in and aim away from this planet! Dials at 11 and pray etc;

  24. Wupspups

    Dont use one set of rails!

    Use 10 set of rails. Each rail set firing once a minute. Would give the cooling system a chance to work. if they could get enough juice they could even do salvo firing. Better chance of hitting something if you fire a salvo at it.

    Plus there is the "My willy is bigger than your willy" boasting factor

  25. TeeCee Gold badge

    "..the railgun could usher in the second era of the dreadnoughts.."

    I seriously doubt that.

    Building a railgun equipped humungo-battleship is all well and good, but has a slight snag. One good shot from someone else's railgun and that's a lot of investment down the tubes. Armour has a way to go here.

    I'd have though that small, fast and cheap ships with railguns would be the way to go. All the railgun punch, none of the irrelevant armour, speed makes them more difficult to hit at long ranges and the low cost/simplicity makes them simple and quick to replace.

    You have to remember why Dreadnoughts went the way of the Dodo in the first place. It was nothing to do with any limitations in the armament, it was because all it took to ruin one's day was a dive bomber in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    1. Steve 13

      Re: "..the railgun could usher in the second era of the dreadnoughts.."

      Small ,cheap, fast and with a nuclear reactor to provide power?

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: "..the railgun could usher in the second era of the dreadnoughts.."

        There's also the matter of recoil (railguns DO NOT make any attempt at bypassing Newtonian physics). Like it or not, you're going to need some mass to absorb all that kick or a broadside shot is going to seriously list (if not capsize) the platform on which it's mounted.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Be fascinating to find out a little more...

    There's some impressive engineering going on somewhere behind the scences

    Be interesting to know the launcher type and material choices. i.e. is it a railgun with a solid armature or a plasma armature, or is it a coilgun? All of them have their drawbacks, and I'll be impressed if you can get anything like the number of shots prior to barrel failure that you can with conventional big guns.

    10 shots per minute probably means several barrels, to avoid overheating problems. It also means that someone thinks they've made a reliable pulsed power source, capable of taking on perhaps 10MJ or so of energy and releasing it again in the appropriate timescales.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Boffin

      Re: Be fascinating to find out a little more...

      Might I suggest the even years of the IEEE Trans on Magnetics.

      IIRC Jan or Feb is their railgun / coilgun special edition conference proceedings.

      Happy reading.

  27. Imsimil Berati-Lahn

    Sea Snake torpedo anyone?

    "Delve special". Series 2, episode 1: A rocket for defence.

    or for the more visual amongst you

    "This is David Lander". Series 1, episode 5: The rocketing cost of defence.

    Both as true today as they ever were. Truer, even.

    Trouble with parody these days is that it's difficult make fiction more absurd than the reality it is mocking.

  28. Dropper

    Love of Weaponry

    I've always maintained that men's love of firearms isn't really a love of firearms. We just want better fireworks than the guy living next door..

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