After 15 years and $500m, the US Navy decides it doesn't need shipboard railguns after all

Pentagon feels it can counter Chinese electromagnetic projectiles with stuff it already has or will have shortly


After more than 15 years of R&D, and half a billion dollars of funding, the United States Navy has decided to give up on the prospect of mounting enormous railguns on its ships. For the moment, at least.

The project was intended to produce a mighty weapon which could fire projectiles at Mach 7 at targets over 100 miles (161km) away, using electromagnets rather than chemical reactions to propel them. But fresh from deliberately creating a 3.9-magnitude earthquake 100 miles (161km) off the coast of Florida to rattle the windows on its latest aircraft carrier, the Navy has decided it can no longer spare the money for continued research.

"Given fiscal constraints, combat system integration challenges and the prospective technology maturation of other weapon concepts, the Navy decided to pause research and development of the Electromagnetic Railgun [EMRG] at the end of 2021," it said.

Despite producing a weapon that undoubtedly worked to some extent, the programme had been plagued with technological and practical difficulties (see video below).

Youtube Video

While formidable, the weapon never managed to reach its promised range and its prodigious power requirements meant that at the time the programme was suspended, of its current fleet only the US Navy's three weird-looking Zumwelt-class stealthy destroyers generated enough electricity to power the EMRG.

The project had also faced declining funding and cancellation of the Gun-Launched Guided Projectile steerable ammunition which was being specially built for it. Its capabilities also unhelpfully fell somewhere between advanced ammunition for conventional weapons and those of a number of new, longer-ranged hypersonic missiles currently in development.

A report from Popular Science also noted that "developmental challenges included the stalled development of a universal common mount," meaning that despite its lengthy and expensive gestation, the Navy had not even got so far as creating a way of fitting the weapon to a ship yet.

Ultimately, despite its promise, the US Navy has seemingly lost patience and dumped the EMRG into the "valley of death", the gap between development and actual use that can befall promising technology which faces major practical challenges, funding problems or research issues. Or, as in this case, all three.

The cancellation of the EMRG does not mean that naval railguns are impossible, however. China has already conducted sea trials with a shipboard railgun mounted on a Type 072III-class landing ship as far back as 2018, a fact which had been spurring US railgun development along. Now it seems the US Navy, at least, is content to counter the prospect of a Chinese naval supergun with other projects and capabilities currently in development.

For those who continue to yearn for huge seaborne electromagnetically propelled projectiles – and let's face it, who doesn't? – there is still the prospect of the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System fitted to the USN's new Gerald R Ford-class aircraft carriers. These use linear motors for cheerfully slinging both naval aircraft into the air and unsuspecting trucks into the water at high velocity. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading
  • Big Tech loves talking up privacy – while trying to kill privacy legislation
    Study claims Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, Microsoft work to derail data rules

    Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft often support privacy in public statements, but behind the scenes they've been working through some common organizations to weaken or kill privacy legislation in US states.

    That's according to a report this week from news non-profit The Markup, which said the corporations hire lobbyists from the same few groups and law firms to defang or drown state privacy bills.

    The report examined 31 states when state legislatures were considering privacy legislation and identified 445 lobbyists and lobbying firms working on behalf of Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft, along with industry groups like TechNet and the State Privacy and Security Coalition.

    Continue reading
  • SEC probes Musk for not properly disclosing Twitter stake
    Meanwhile, social network's board rejects resignation of one its directors

    America's financial watchdog is investigating whether Elon Musk adequately disclosed his purchase of Twitter shares last month, just as his bid to take over the social media company hangs in the balance. 

    A letter [PDF] from the SEC addressed to the tech billionaire said he "[did] not appear" to have filed the proper form detailing his 9.2 percent stake in Twitter "required 10 days from the date of acquisition," and asked him to provide more information. Musk's shares made him one of Twitter's largest shareholders. The letter is dated April 4, and was shared this week by the regulator.

    Musk quickly moved to try and buy the whole company outright in a deal initially worth over $44 billion. Musk sold a chunk of his shares in Tesla worth $8.4 billion and bagged another $7.14 billion from investors to help finance the $21 billion he promised to put forward for the deal. The remaining $25.5 billion bill was secured via debt financing by Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Barclays, and others. But the takeover is not going smoothly.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022