China’s Railgun Development Moving Forward

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China's railgun has been spotted and they have clearly been watching the US program...

Photos posted by a Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) observer show what appears to be an electromagnetic railgun being affixed to a PLAN tank landing ship, the Haiyang Shan . The LST is being used to test the weapon because its tank deck can accommodate the containers for the gun's control system and power supply, according to comments from a former PLAN officer translated by " Dafeng Cao ," the Twitter handle of the anonymous analyst.

What Exactly Is A Railgun ?

"A railgun is a linear motor device, typically designed as a weapon, that uses electromagnetic force to launch high velocity projectiles. The projectile normally does not contain explosives, instead relying on the projectile's high speed, mass, and kinetic energy to inflict damage.[2] The railgun uses a pair of parallel conductors (rails), along which a sliding armature is accelerated by the electromagnetic effects of a current that flows down one rail, into the armature and then back along the other rail. It is based on principles similar to those of the homopolar motor.[3]"...

China's Railgun Development Moving ForwardFor nearly a decade, the US Navy's Office of Naval Research  (ONR) and various contractors worked to develop a railgun system for US ships . A prototype weapon was built by BAE Systems. Testing at the US Navy's Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Virginia was deemed so successful that the Navy was planning to conduct more testing of the gun at sea aboard a Spearhead -class Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV).  The program promised to deliver a gun that could fire projectiles at speeds over Mach 7 with a range exceeding 100 miles. The 23-pound hypervelocity projectile designed for the railgun flying at Mach 7 has 32 megajoules of energy—roughly equivalent to the energy required to accelerate an object weighing 1,000 kilograms (1.1 US tons) to 252 meters per second (566 miles an hour).

But the program has been largely shelved because of the Department of Defense's ongoing budget problems and the loss of interest at DOD's Strategic Capabilities Office in funding further development. The continued "sequestration" of the DOD's budget has forced the Navy and ONR to shift development focus away from the long-term goal of the railgun toward the more short-term goal of using the hypervelocity projectile (HPV) the railgun fires within more conventional US Navy gun systems.

China's Railgun Program

China has clearly been watching the US program with interest, and the PLAN reportedly began working on its own electromagnetic gun system about five years ago, according to Dafeng Cao's ex-PLAN officer source. Now the PLAN is preparing to take its tests to sea, making the 20-year old Haiyang Shan the first ship to ever be armed with China's railgun.

The Haiyang Shan is part of China's East Sea Fleet (and over the past two years a frequent visitor to the artificial islands being constructed by China in disputed waters of the South China Sea). It is not a terribly modern warship—but it does have the advantage of a large dry deck to accommodate the hardware needed to generate the high voltages required by a railgun. That dedicated power system is essential, because even more modern Chinese warships lack the electrical generation capacity to power a railgun. In fact, only the US Navy's Zumwalt class destroyers have enough generation capacity to power one, as they were designed with future directed energy weapons in mind. While nuclear aircraft carriers certainly have reactor power, they don't have the electrical distribution system needed to power China's railgun.

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