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Navy tests first of two railgun prototypes

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Posted at 6:20 AM, Feb 29, 2012
and last updated 2012-02-29 10:35:15-05

DAHLGREN, Va. (WTVR) – The first of two new prototype railguns is now firing bullets, moving the Navy’s long-held dream of fielding an electromagnetic weapon a step closer to reality.

The 32-megajoule “prototype demonstrator” has already been fired six times in a week officials said during a Feb. 28 teleconference.

The Navy wants the railgun to be able to fire projectiles at ranges of 50 to 100 nautical miles, with an eventual range up to 220 nautical miles.

The new gun, delivered to Dahlgren on Feb. 6, will be followed in April by another prototype from General Atomics.

BAE and General Atomics are engaged in a competition to develop guns able to operate from Navy warships.

General Atomics already has invested about $20 million in internal funding to build a sub-scale prototype, said Tom Hurn, the company’s railgun programs director.

The Navy has long discussed putting the railgun on DDG-1000 Zumwalt-class destroyers, 15,000-ton ships now under construction at General Dynamics Bath Iron Works. Those ships — which do not now have the weapon — are designed with an integrated power system able to funnel much of their electrical power to a specific need, such as a railgun.

But the Navy and its developers also are looking at the viability of putting the weapon on other classes of ship.

The railgun program continues as a research and development effort, and eventually should transition into an acquisition program to develop and field real weapons.