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Navy fires first electromagnetic railgun in test (VIDEO)

The new railgun, years in the making, uses an electric current instead of gun powder or chemicals to fire rounds seven times the speed of sound.

Navy RailgunEnlarge
The US Navy is testing an electromagnetic, shipboard railgun that is capable of firing 100 miles at seven times the speed of sound. (US Navy/Wikimedia commons)

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the US Navy is getting closer to developing a powerful electromagnetically-powered gun for warships.

The railgun, as it is known, which is capable of hitting targets 100 miles away at seven times the speed of sound (5,600 miles per hour) was tested Tuesday at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in northern Virginia.

The most powerful and advanced shipboard gun in operation that is used today is a 5-inch, 54-caliber lightweight gun that has a range of about 13 nautical miles, said Fox News.

The US Navy also released a video demonstrating the effectiveness of the new weapon.

The weapon uses parallel rails with a magnetic field and an electric current to send a charge to the barrel that fires 40-pound metal projectiles.

According to Popular Mechanics, the Navy had estimated that the weapon would be ready for installation on warships within ten years. But, according to the project's program manager, Roger Ellis, "naval planners are looking for ways to make that sooner."

The development of the weapon has had its share of problems, according to the Washington Post.

The program was nearly halted in April after coming close to being de-funded by Congress, who were concerned that barrel life may be too short to justify the cost.

The barrel life is still an issue for the gun, which the Navy expects to fire at 10 rounds per minute - rounds it hopes will not disintegrate during the flight, said Wired.

The Washington Post quoted Tom Hurn of General Atomics, one of the prototype makers as saying: “We believe this is definitely a game changing capability that’ll enable our forward presence and freedom of the seas."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/war/120229/navy-fires-first-electromagnetic-railgun-test-video