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Navy Tests Mach 8 Electromagnetic Railgun

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the do-not-look-at-with-remaining-eye dept.

The Military 440

hargrand writes "Wired magazine has a story and publicly released video of the Navy test firing of a 32 megajoule electromagnetic railgun: 'Reporters were invited to watch the test at the Dalghren Naval Surface Warfare Center. A tangle of two-inch thick coaxial cables hooked up to stacks of refrigerator-sized capacitors took five minutes to power juice into a gun the size of a schoolbus built in a warehouse. With a 1.5-million-ampere spark of light and a boom audible in a room 50 feet away, the bullet left the gun at a speed of Mach 8.'"

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Range (1)

galvitron (1540437) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522140)

100 mile range? Put these on every U.S. Naval vessel within 20 years and we will have Oceanic Hegemony! Hahaharrr!

Yay! (5, Funny)

Rix (54095) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522168)

You'll finally dominate the USSR militarily, ending the Cold War.

Re:Yay! (1)

galvitron (1540437) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522218)

More like attack enemy fleets from out of aircraft range, but I like your nostalgic attitude. Yarrrr!

Re:Yay! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34522388)

If not the USSR, what enemy fleet do you imagine having to attack from beyond aircraft range? North Korea? They've got a couple of frigates, a bunch of submarines, and a lot of fast patrol boats. Venezuela? A half dozen 30-year-old frigates. Note the distinct absence of "enemy" aircraft carriers.

The US is clearly still in an arms race, but no one else is running.

Re:Yay! (4, Interesting)

galvitron (1540437) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522416)

China has a fast growing nuclear submarine fleet, each armed with multiple ballistic missiles. If U.S. recon picks up a surfacing sub within 100 miles of the gun, we could get a shell there within 8 minutes...maybe fast enough to get 'em before they triple check the orders, launch codes, go through launch procedure, et al. Maybe not.

China also has a fairly large surface fleet, rivaled by only a few countries.

The race never stops, it just has clear leaders at certain points in history.

Re:Yay! (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522428)

Think any nuclear sub stays up for 8 minutes? Let alone long enough to be detected + 8 minutes? Cool tech, but no real use for it. You guys could wipe the floor with the Chinese navy as is, anyway.

Re:Yay! (4, Informative)

bcmm (768152) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522482)

Submarines don't surface to launch ballistic missiles. They come near to the surface, communicate using an antenna on a small buoy, then launch from just below the surface. See this this pic from Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Yay! (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522724)

modern ballistic missiles, and cruise missiles are launched underwater. nuclear subs only have to surface for food, and fun.

Re:Yay! (1)

Entropy98 (1340659) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522424)

China is catching up on us fast. They're building aircraft carriers, fighters, you name it.
--
windows media codec pack [filefishstick.com]

Re:Yay! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34522472)

gism-powered nuclear bagel slicers? Imagine a war fought with those.

Re:Yay! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34522498)

Exactly, if they are talking 2025-2030, this will see general deployment around 2050-2060, which is about when we will probably about the time the Chinese Cold War starts becoming legit.

Re:Yay! (4, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522358)

You know, I am all for world peace. I really want us all go just get along. But we are humans. Some of us are passive. Some of us are not. Turns out, the passive end up serving the non-passive and we end up fighting over "stuff." This will never end so long as we are human. No one is "equal" so long as I think I am better than you and the resources you have should be mine.

So while the USSR failed, Russia and the remnants of the USSR's resources still exist. Also, China is showing itself to be a much larger threat than the USSR ever was. (Plus they "look different from us" and so it's much easier to make them an enemy!) There WILL be some serious conflict with China in the near future. Whether it is cold or not remains to be seen, but it is clear that things are changing much faster than we know in Asia. China's influence is moving at an amazing pace and we had better be prepared to defend ourselves. Using powerful, non-nuclear weapons is an important way to prepare.

Re:Yay! (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34522526)

The USA worries me often. Or to be precise, the US government does. I'd like to believe that they'll use those guns for a good cause, such as against a rogue country who would suddenly decide to conquer the world. But we're in a time where enemy threats are most likely to come in the form of terrorism and nuclear standoffs. The way I see it, there are several reasons why the USA would want to build Railguns:

- They have info that aliens exist and can come to Earth.
- They have confirmation that someone (e.g. China, Iran, North Korea...) really plans to attack the Western World (or only the USA).
- They are planning to conquer the World in the next 10-20 years.
- Or they are really just being careful and making sure they can face the unexpected.

That last option seems to me to be the most reasonable explanation. But there are a few things that bother me:
1) A rogue president (yes, Bush Jr.) had no trouble hijacking the US government, making laws that brought the USA a lot closer to a tyranny*, and manipulating most of the Western World into following him in a criminal war. Bottom line, the US government is vulnerable to hijacking and if that happened again then the world would be in serious trouble if the USA has access to so powerful weapons. Bush did not attack Europe, fair enough. That does not mean the next US president who decides he can do whatever he wants won't attack Europe either.

*Patriot act, Guantano (jail without a trial), use of torture, use of secret evidence in criminal trials, illegal wiretaps and surveillance of citizens, etc. (Note that Obama has added a few more things to the list, like the right to kill people without a trial).

2) The recent leak of diplomatic cables offers more evidence that the USA does not seem to respect it's allies. Like what? You really think France or Germany would attack the USA? Not in 1000 years. Most of Europe is not the military, war-waging type. I have a hard time imagining how the USA can justify spying on these countries and their officials. If even the closest allies of the USA are treated with so little trust and respect, then I'm not certain any country can fully trust the USA.

3) Are the USA planning to share this technology (Railguns) with their allies? Again, I don't see France fighting against the USA in 1000 years unless the USA starts the war. So it would look very suspicious that the USA would not share with them. I also think, as a general principle, that no single country should have far more military power than all others. It's dangerous if a country is so powerful that no other country can stand up to it, even if that country is the USA. I would like to know that should the US government suddenly go rogue and turn against Europe and the rest of the world we stand a chance to fight back. It's too much power for only one country to have.

I think it's very likely that this technology is being developed just to stay on top and be ready in case China attacks. I don't think the USA plans to conquer the World. But there are still reasons to be concerned about the USA having so much power, especially if the rest of the world doesn't have that power. I wish the press would report on what Europe says about these railguns, I'm curious to know what they think over there.

Re:Yay! (4, Funny)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522596)

such as against a rogue country who would suddenly decide to conquer the world.

I fail to see how the US can use this technology against itself.

Re:Yay! (4, Insightful)

The Warlock (701535) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522614)

You're forgetting the obvious explanation: that ever since WWII, we don't know how to run an economy that isn't propped up by military spending.

Re:Yay! (4, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522630)

Option 5: The guns are manufactured in Congressman A's district. Congressman A doesn't really understand them, but will vote against Congressman B's bill unless he is allowed to attach a rider to it funding their deployment, to keep money flowing into his state and buy him the next election.

I've heard that before (4, Informative)

marcovanb (1957070) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522170)

I've heard that before "Rule Britannia, Brittania rules the waves...".

Re:I've heard that before (5, Insightful)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522240)

Sadly I think your joke just hit the nail on the head of one of the things that is seriously fucked up about this country. I mean here we are, factories shuttered all over the place, people losing their homes left and right, over 22,000 factories offshored since 2001, and debt climbing like there is no tomorrow and THIS, this is what we spend our non existent money on? Giant fricking superguns? who in the fuck are we gonna use that stupid thing on? We already have the largest aircraft carrier fleet on the entire planet, our most likely enemies are groups like NK and Iran that would be lucky to come at us with kamikaze speedboats, and THIS is what we add even more debt for?

It just shows old Ike was right all those years ago. Once the military industrial complex got "too big to fail" no matter what is going on with our economy or the state of our enemies we are gonna be handing them ever increasing truckloads of cash. If we had ANY sense at all we'd cancel this crap, along with any new supercarriers being built (we already have 11 carriers for the love of Pete) and cancel that stupid F35 and just stick with the F15,16,18 combo. Oh and kill that stupid Osprey turkey while we are at it. We already have the most tech heavy military on the planet but as we are seeing in Iraq and Afghanistan all that means exactly jack and squat against the enemies of today. quit blowing money on stupid weapons already, Sheesh.

Re:I've heard that before (1, Insightful)

Splab (574204) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522256)

As long as the development of said supergun is in the US, you are doing it right.

Problem starts when mass production starts ordering equipment overseas - development and production of military equipment = jobs which help the economy, where ever it takes place, trick is to make sure you build it in your own garden.

Re:I've heard that before (3, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522308)

As long as the development of said supergun is in the US, you are doing it right.

Problem starts when mass production starts ordering equipment overseas - development and production of military equipment = jobs which help the economy, where ever it takes place, trick is to make sure you build it in your own garden.

Really, is that the depth of your economic thinking, whoever has the biggest guns rules? I'm pretty sure the Soviet Union never outsourced the production of its weapons either.

Re:I've heard that before (4, Insightful)

Xaositecte (897197) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522316)

Y'know, if we hired a little kid to start throwing rocks through windows all over the city, so many that we'd have to open another glass production plant to meet up with the demand for new windows, we'd also help the economy. Especially if we built it here in America.

Re:I've heard that before (1)

PseudonymousBraveguy (1857734) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522354)

This kind of spending is nothing more that a giant stimulus package, but without any hope of secondary beneficial effects. You could simply take all that money and give it to the workers directly. That would be much cheaper,because you don't need to pay fo the materials (not to mention the revenue of the company owners).

Re:I've heard that before (2)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522608)

If you start handing out money you destroy its perceived value. The current understanding is that money is "hard to obtain" and requires effort.

US still has the two G's (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34522380)

As a non-American, I can say the US will remain a superpower as long as it retains the two G's: grain and big fricking guns. Food and firepower and fuel are a war machine's most important components. Of the three, fuel is the one most easily rationed. The US has too many cars, a personal luxury that can be temporarily foregone for more economical modes of transportation like trucks and buses. Were the US to outsource its defense industry and agriculture, it would lose its superpower status within a decade.

Re:US still has the two G's (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522620)

Food and firepower and fuel are a war machine's most important components.

      And what about population? How much food and firepower did the Russians have in WW2? The strategy there was to make the Germans run out of ammunition, and it worked.

Re:US still has the two G's (1)

machine321 (458769) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522688)

Food and firepower and fuel are a war machine's most important components.

      And what about population?

You can use them as food or firepower or fuel as well.

Re:I've heard that before (2)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522430)

No, doing that stuff is a short term stimulus at most long term its a hidden tax on all of us. Using fiat debt money to build a super gun is much different than say building a road. If you build the road the economy continues to extract value from its use.

The gun on the other hand gets taken off to war and sooner or later destroyed but all the money that went into it is still here at home doing its evil inflationary work. The same thing is basically true in a sound money system but there you'd have deflation and and over all slowing of the economy as those dollars would just be gone in that case. Either way there is a trade off between guns and butter and unless you actually need the guns because the enemy is at the gates its not a good one.

The types of wars we are fighting today as other posters have pointed out don't in most cases even provide a target for this contraption. Its a big expensive toy.

Re:I've heard that before (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522742)

Using fiat debt money to build a super gun is much different than say building a road. If you build the road the economy continues to extract value from its use. The gun on the other hand gets taken off to war and sooner or later destroyed

Though this gun probably isn't an example, many fancy new weapons do go on to make money for the US through sales to allies (and even not-so-allies).

American fighter jets and rifles have been bought up worldwide.

Re:I've heard that before (5, Insightful)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522296)

if you're done ranting now... railguns have plenty of non-military uses. The research into how to charge and quickly discharge those huge capacitors alone is very useful. Not to mention the applications for launching stuff into orbit, or in fusion reactors. As weapons they are great for taking down incoming missles. Also, if they were to make portable versions it would eliminate the need to carry dangerous explosives (gun powder, C4, etc..) and the projectile itself wouldn't be a dangerous heavy metal like lead. I'd rather see the military spend their time doing research like this than invading another 3rd world country.

Re:I've heard that before (0)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522438)

Lets see - in your list of possible uses -

Discharing capacitors quickly isn't much of a practical research area. I'm sure there are places where you need to discharge huge capacitors in a short time - but I doubt its going to perk up the economy.
Launching stuff into orbit is a bit weird - You're still going to use a comparable amount of energy in order to do so. And I'm pretty sure accelerating humans that quickly will kill them.
Fusion reactions - I have no idea.

The rest of them are all military uses.

Shouldn't the money being spent on this uber-high tech research, been better used educating youngsters?

Re:I've heard that before (0)

Shadow99_1 (86250) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522624)

I think the US has proved that they aren't very good at 'educating' anything. Should I point you to the wackos who want to make that even worse by teaching things like 'intelligent design' in schools?

We'd be better off if we leaned a little more socialist and offered free money to pay for 4 years of college to kids from families below 100k/year in income. Though mostly due to the fact that companies like to demand Bachelor's degrees for everything these days. Only health care seems to work on an associates degree level anymore, and on the other end of the scale most upper management jobs are starting to 'require' a masters degree... But that would never happen, because 'socialism' is evil...

Re:I've heard that before (5, Interesting)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522322)

We already have the largest aircraft carrier fleet on the entire planet, our most likely enemies are groups like NK and Iran that would be lucky to come at us with kamikaze speedboats, and THIS is what we add even more debt for?

BTW - When we did red vs blue naval wargames a few years back, those kamikaze speedboats kicked the blue team's ass.

It was so embarassing that... [nytimes.com]

When the Red Team sank much of the Blue navy despite the Blue navy's firing of guns and missiles, it illustrated a cheap way to beat a very expensive fleet. After the Blue force was sunk, the game was ordered to begin again, with the Blue Team eventually declared the victor.

The last few meaningful encounters the USA has had with low-tech asymmetric warfare have gone relatively poorly for them.

Re:I've heard that before (1)

Malc (1751) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522324)

The US defence industry is plain and simple a form of welfare, without the "socialist" moniker.

Re:I've heard that before (1)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522456)

The US defence industry is plain and simple a form of welfare

It's true, but not in the way you sophomorically imply. And the people receiving the benefits of the US having to spend that money and do all of that work are the other countries around the world that opt out of having to do it themselves. There's the real irony: actually socialist-leaning countries in places like Europe get the benefit of cozying up to the US via NATO, while letting the US do the heavy lifting when it comes to paying for this stuff.

Re:I've heard that before (2)

ctid (449118) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522476)

I don't understand your argument. So when the US spends government money in the defence industries it's not "socialist" (by your definition) to do that in America but it is "socialist" if "socialist-leaning" countries benefit? Are you serious? If so, I'd love to hear your views on the bailout of Wall Street.

Re:I've heard that before (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522754)

No one is asking you to do the heavy lifting, which is why we resent having it shoved in our faces all the time you stupid American. It's not like you're even doing a good job at it anyway. Then you wonder why everyone hates you. The other day I bumped into an guy with a Canadian flag on his backpack. He left it open on the floor, and my girlfriend asked me if the Canadian passport had an eagle on the cover. You stupid shits are ashamed of your own country when you go abroad, yet you don't stop acting like Americans. Please stop giving others a bad name.

Love,

A socialist-leaning Canadian.

Re:I've heard that before (1)

Wowsers (1151731) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522328)

The politicians and military will tell you military developments will filter down to the consumers in some way eventually. So they will continue to justify the amount of spending going on, while the US economy continues to sink into oblivion. Has it not dawned on people in the US government why China has had enough of buying US debt?

Re:I've heard that before (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522702)

military spending does trickle down. GPS, Apranet, infrared detectors even the new M-25 all have very valuable civilian or police uses that would be possible without some major money funding their initial 20-30 year developments.

If you don't know why the M-25 with vaulable for police, it can fire flash bangs, and rubber bullets instead of bombs. You can flash bang a hostage room from far away on one side, while breaching on the other.

Re:I've heard that before (2)

tebee (1280900) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522352)

Yep, the US military should have watched more Si-Fi movies - then they'd know that the (evil?) empire with all the cool tech always gets beaten in the end by the brave underdog (freedom fighter/guerrilla - take you pick) fighting with whatever old crap they can beg, borrow or steal.

Re:I've heard that before (5, Funny)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522378)

Sadly I think your joke just hit the nail on the head of one of the things that is seriously fucked up about this country. I mean here we are, factories shuttered all over the place, people losing their homes left and right, over 22,000 factories offshored since 2001, and debt climbing like there is no tomorrow and

BOOM

stupid Osprey turkey while we are at it. We already have the most tech heavy military on the planet but as we are seeing in Iraq and Afghanistan all that means exactly jack and squat against the enemies of today. quit blowing money on stupid weapons already, Sheesh.

I'm sorry, I didn't hear you over the sound of how awesome my 32MJ rail gun is.

Re:I've heard that before (5, Informative)

KonoWatakushi (910213) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522386)

While the defense budget is no doubt way out of control, this is not at all the sort of thing that worries me. It has no practical military value in the near term, and at least produced interesting results.

I'm more concerned about other high-tech anti-personel weapons or robots, that will inevitably be pointed at people, possible even at our own citizens before long.

Speaking of waste, and far more disturbing at that, take a look at what the anti-terrorism efforts have spawned [washingtonpost.com] . I really had no idea of the scale of it. Having this turned against our own citizens as the fascism ramps up is truly frightening.

Re:I've heard that before (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34522390)

We already have the largest aircraft carrier fleet on the entire planet, our most likely enemies are groups like NK and Iran that would be lucky to come at us with kamikaze speedboats, and THIS is what we add even more debt for?

Actually, our most likely enemy is China. A country that has more than four times our population, a sustained economic growth rate of 8-9% or so, and a regime that doesn't really care about the rights of people (nor does it have to, there not being anything like the Constitution).

Now China is not a threat today, of course. But what'll happen in, say, 50 years? Where will China be in the year 2060, and where will the USA be? Imagine that China had the ability to invade the USA without meeting much resistance, the way we did in Iraq. Would they?

I'm not saying I agree with any of this or that I think it's realistic, mind you, but this is how the jarheads are thinking and why they want guns like this.

Re:I've heard that before (2)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522448)

And the best solution to this problem is to outsource heavy production to China, and to borrow money from them. The only reason china is becoming a superpower is simply because of all the money the US has been throwing at it. You pay for large factories to get your cheap lead-painted toys - and you're pouring cash into their economy (not to mention infrastructure).

Re:I've heard that before (1)

jace_d (1955838) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522708)

The worst thing that china could do is to actually avoid conflict with the USA,but somehow convince them that they're a threat so that they keep pouring money and effort into developing ever more interesting ways to kill. Although, even without an enemy, I really do think that America has forgotten that war is supposed to be an extraordinary affair,and not a tradition. Looking at this new gun,I can't help but think that they are sure that ze turd will soon hit ze fan. America, do yo know something we don't ? I hope you do,because living in fear is the path to collapse. And how,pray tell, how can American citizens tolerate this ? It is still a democracy,right? I'm sure that if put to referendum, most people would vote to atleast slow down on developing weaponry and to turn focus on problems affecting citizens.

Re:I've heard that before (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34522420)

The country's problem is democracy. 99% people are dumb and the rest 1% don't care. Leaving them to choose your leaders will lead to more stupidity. Case in point: Bush got elected not once, but twice.

Democracy is the easiest form of government that can be rigged by the influentials.

Re:I've heard that before (1)

Dails (1798748) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522460)

Try to think beyond this article for a second. You only complain so loudly against this use of money because you have something physical, or at least easily recognizable, to complain about. There are a thousand other "projects" being funded by the government right now that consume way, way more tazpayer money than this for basically no benefit. Pork projects by themselves are worth billions, let alone the stuff that's around because lawmakers don't want to deal with changing the way they do business (or with whom), overly expensive contracts that will never expire, foreign aid, the list goes on.

As for this project itself, you argue that since nK (North Korea, for those of you speaking with a civilian accent) and Iran don't use anything targetable by this, we shouldn't bother. I would suggest looking into the AEGIS BMD systems. Railguns are the future of mobile ballistic missile defense.

Complain all you like about government spending, it is your money after all, but consider that this project at least (not that it's insignificant) produces a demonstrably useful product.

Re:I've heard that before (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34522496)

They've probably been building this thing for the last 10 years. Shutting it down now is wasteful as so much money has been sunk in this already.

Winding it down gracefully is probably better so they can pick it up later.

Isn't the Osprey in full service now and not sucking so much anymore?

Re:I've heard that before (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34522660)

Isn't the Osprey in full service now and not sucking so much anymore?

Yes, but why do facts need to get in the way of a good rant?

Re:I've heard that before (1)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522508)

until we have to fight China. Its all a matter of time until we get into a giant pissing contest with them over some crap north korea pulls, and get ourselves into good old fashioned war where you get to use things like aircraft cariers and big guns, none of this 'house to house looking for the terrorist' bullroar.

Re:I've heard that before (3, Insightful)

Jaktar (975138) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522556)

Overheard somewhere in Europe 9000BC

"Bejeebus mister Grok. We're out here starvin' and you're trying to fix a piece of string on a flimsy rod so you can what? Shoot projectiles at things?!? We already have a spear and it's worked so well for us. All those animals don't have spears! The best they have are horns! Harharhar Now come help me kill this stupid turkey."

Re:I've heard that before (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522564)

>>THIS, this is what we spend our non existent money on? Giant fricking superguns?

You say that like it's a bad thing. But since the insane awesomeness of a railgun doesn't impress you, let's look at the numbers.

>>(we already have 11 carriers for the love of Pete)

Okay, so you like our carrier fleet?

Railguns are being designed to counter a threat to carriers, namely swarms of cruise missiles. The amount of money they've spent on developing this thing ($211M) is less than one percent of what California spends on K-12 education each year ($36B). Not even counting college education, which is a lot more.

But a carrier... well, that's an expensive investment. If they can protect even a single carrier, it'll have paid for itself. (And if you assume we're NOT going to be having threats from countries that can inexpensively produce lots of cruise missiles, you're crazy.)

Quibble with the article. It said it launched the projectile at 5500 fps, which is... Mach 5, not Mach 8. Based on a rough estimate, I'd say that it'd be Mach 8 only if all 33MJ were translated into kinetic energy at 100% efficiency.

Mach 8 is about 2 to 3 times as fast as a normal bullet, and a 23KG projectile is just insanely large. A .50 BMG is around 50g and flies at between Mach 2 and 3, for a total kinetic energy of 20KJ or so. However, given that it can fire a lot more often than... once per five minutes... it's probably a bit more useful.

Re:I've heard that before (1)

kainosnous (1753770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522586)

While I imagine that a super railgun isn't the best thing to spend money on, I can think of much worse things. Some of the things that would be worse are the things that we have already been spending our non-existant money on like stimulus packages, company bailouts, and more entitlement spending. These things are certain to crash our economy and we're seeing the effects.

Right now, I'm not a big fan of spending anything that we don't have to. With those other things, the only thing that we get from the spending is negative incentives. At least with military spending, we gain a little more firepower. While we are not doing well in the Middle East, the reason is politics and not weaponry. Right now, Russia and China are getting awful friendly and pushing a few buttons to see how strong our resolve is. More firepower is always better. Also, our military spending is a tiny drop in our deficit spending. If we manage to keep the manufacture in the U.S., then we'll have the benefit of boosting the economy a little. Sure, it wouldn't be enough to pay for the expense, but it would be more practicle than spending on "green" jobs.

Overall, I guess that I agree, it isn't a great expenditure. I just think that there are worse things. Really, we aren't too interested in defense right now anyway. Obama is making deals with Russia to make us get rid of our defenses. I'm just praying that we'll make it through the year without too much damage.

Re:I've heard that before (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34522598)

Part of the reason that the MI complex is maintained is that as we learned with NASA and big rockets, once the machines to build machines to build machines (and the corresponding designers) are gone, it is hard to get them back. Granted these figures are from Wikipedia, but the F-35 is $90-100 million vs $60 million for F/A-18E/F, $100 million for the latest F-15 variant. For an aircraft that is a generation more advanced, and significantly more capable, it seems reasonable to replace aircraft with F-35's as needed (replacing older generation F-15/18's at the end of their service lives with F-35's rather than another F-15/18). F-16s are cheaper and as a plane that was not intended to oppose top flight enemy fighters anyway, might make sense to replace with more recent versions of the F-16 at $20 million.

With respect to the railgun, the idea is to have something that has the same ship to shore power as the old 16 in guns from WWII era battleships with considerably more range (200 miles vs 25 miles) without the cost of cruise missiles ($0.5 million each). For instance, aside from topographical obstacles, the pretty much the entirety of North Korea would be within its range for bombardment. If Pakistan allowed overflight for it, there are even parts of Afghanistan that you could hit with such a gun. There is also the fact that as a kinetic weapon, it is pretty much unable to be intercepted (in theory able to be deflected, but at mach 8, targeting would be hard and energy to divert would be significant).

Re:I've heard that before (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522780)

That money is a drop in the bucket compared with the bad debt from lending to developing nations that we like to keep in debt so we always have influence over them. The only reason the dollar isn't behaving like currency in Zimbabwe is because it is the default international currency. Maybe that's enough to keep it up forever, but maybe not. The policy for a long time is have huge debts and loan out money that will never come back and hope the US dollar is too big to fail. While that is going on HUGE military expenses are not so significant, it's like putting thing on the credit card before leaving the country and never paying the bill.

Civilian version? (4, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522180)

I'm still trying to get them kids off my lawn. But kids on bikes are quick, wily and seem to move in Brownian Motion tracks. Mach 8 could give me a good tactical advantage . . .

Re:Civilian version? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34522188)

it would probably dig up your lawn with the shockwave not to mention vaporising kids all in all a win

Mach 8 to Orbit? (1)

AGMW (594303) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522204)

So if they pointed this sucker 'up' would it be able to throw stuff (you don't mind being squashed - a bit!) into orbit?

Re:Mach 8 to Orbit? (5, Informative)

Rakshasa Taisab (244699) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522212)

Mach 8 = 2 722.32 m/s.

Escape velocity being 11.2 km/s, so the answer is no.

Re:Mach 8 to Orbit? (4, Informative)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522246)

Escape velocity is the velocity required to leave orbit, not to maintain a stable orbit. Of course, low Earth orbit is about 8 km/s, so still no.

Re:Mach 8 to Orbit? (1)

DMUTPeregrine (612791) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522282)

I believe the goal is to get the projectile to about 6km/s, which is near ICBM velocity. You wouldn't want an unpowered weapon to be in orbit anyway, it has to come down and hit a target.

Re:Mach 8 to Orbit? (1)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522442)

I wouldn't want a weapon whether it's in or out of orbit. I think the technology is more interesting as a means to launch very simple satellites into orbit. They'd have to be very hardened against both structural and electromagnetic shock, of course.

Re:Mach 8 to Orbit? (3, Informative)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522474)

At a deceleration of a constant 10m/s^2, it would still take 270 seconds to stop going up (the deceleration would actually decrease the higher it goes, but I'm not accounting for drag.. so its a tradeoff) it will have an average speed of 1.35km/s.

Thats 270s * 1.35km/s = a height of 364.5km, so it could conceivably enter into the region we call 'low earth orbit' which is between 160km to 2000km.

I dont know where to begin to calculate the drag as it rises, so I wont bother to calculate the decreasing deceleration either.

Might be able to shoot down satellites .. or throw some stuff up for the International Space Station to catch (347km altitude at perigee)

Re:Mach 8 to Orbit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34522270)

Clearly the answer is bigger gun!

Re:Mach 8 to Orbit? (1)

GNious (953874) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522272)

But if we attach a rocket to the "stuff" we're throwing upwards, could we then reach escape velocity? :D

Re:Mach 8 to Orbit? (2)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522694)

The trick is to accelerate something that is a rocket to Mach 8 in a fraction of a second, and have it remain a rocket and not become an explosion...

wrong (2)

chronoss2010 (1825454) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522342)

As it is defined as a ratio of two speeds, it is a dimensionless number. At Standard Sea Level conditions (corresponding to a temperature of 15 degrees Celsius), the speed of sound is 340.3 m/s[3] (1225 km/h, or 761.2 mph, or 661.5 knots, or 1116 ft/s) in the Earth's atmosphere. The speed represented by Mach 1 is not a constant; for example, it is mostly dependent on temperature and atmospheric composition and largely independent of pressure. In the stratosphere, where the temperatures are constant, it does not vary with altitude even though the air pressure changes significantly with altitude. thus mach 8 at best is an escape velocity of 9800KM/H

Re:Mach 8 to Orbit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34522584)

It couldn't have reached Mach 8, if the projectile weight was 10 kg as stated in the article. That would violate conservation of energy (0.5 m v^2) - the input was only 33 Mjoules. The article also says it travels @ ~1700 m/s, which is more likely. 1700m/s is pretty slow for a rail gun, but it looks like they significantly increased the mass. The electrical to kinetic conversion efficiency would be 43% - respectable, but still has plenty of room for improvement.

Re:Mach 8 to Orbit? (5, Informative)

sulimma (796805) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522258)

If something is thrown or shot, the orbit will go through the point the shot was fired. You have a problem if that is on earth surface. Even if you are fast enough for a stable orbit you need a rocket to shift that orbit away from your starting point.

Re:Mach 8 to Orbit? (1)

dna_(c)(tm)(r) (618003) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522374)

If something is thrown or shot, the orbit will go through the point the shot was fired. You have a problem if that is on earth surface. Even if you are fast enough for a stable orbit you need a rocket to shift that orbit away from your starting point.

Shoot twice, then move gun quickly.

Re:Mach 8 to Orbit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34522280)

When was the last time we could use conventional munitions to down high altitude/low orbit aircraft? Never? Could this be a cost effective AA system compared to missiles? Load up a modified heat seeking Excalibur round? On the other hand, even the Excalibur was barely able to make it through the G-Forces needed to survive the firing sequence. I doubt it would handle the insane G's needed to survive a railgun firing. Interesting concept though.

We might have the makings of a ground based satellite killer. I know it's hard to think vertically when you hear the word railgun. Maybe the ultimate goal is to indeed pick off satellites or worse... an ancient robotic civilization hidden on the moon.

Re:Mach 8 to Orbit? (1)

Dekker3D (989692) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522470)

Any electronics would be fried by the magnetic fields in a spectacular way. "Heat seeking" won't work, I think.

Combine this with... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34522210)

...bullets made out of solidified seawater with a nearly endless nuclear power supply and you got yourself a inexpensive mass weapon platform that just won't stop.

recoil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34522234)

The bolts that hold the gun to the floor look quite impressive in the video, but clearly not impressive enough.
Now they need another year to re-align all the pieces of there gun...

The video is cool, but... (2)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522252)

...I would be also interested to see what the projectile does at the "destination". Time to buy me some kilofarad supercaps :)

The ideal plot for a videogame from the eighties! (2)

pyrotas (862419) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522262)

This might have been the ideal plot for a "survival" game for the 8-bit platforms. The mighty cannon takes 5 minutes to charge...the counter starting from 300 and dropping down...hordes of enemies crowding the cannon, some turrets or else controlled by the player which shoot down the enemies...I can even hear the frenzy music created by the oscillators of the C64 SID...Great plot, indeed.

Re:The ideal plot for a videogame from the eightie (1)

Hamsterdan (815291) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522500)

??? Altough I still own the machine, I don't recall that game...

50 feet away? (5, Insightful)

Sowelu (713889) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522266)

Summary says the boom was audible in a room 50 feet away? If I tip over a chair, it's audible in a room 50 feet away...

Re:50 feet away? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34522344)

You should consider exercise and less food.

Re:50 feet away? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34522464)

Yeah, but would anyone be there to hear it?

Re:50 feet away? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34522466)

You don't even want to be 50 feet away, in a room or not.

Re:50 feet away? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34522532)

FTA - But since there no explosion powering the projectile, why should the railgun have made any noise at all? Answer: the bullet went so fast it released a sonic boom.

So thought process would be that if the enemy didnt hear it they cant be expecting it. Very useful.

Re:50 feet away? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34522578)

A typical assault rifle bullet travels at around 3 times the speed of sound when it leaves the barrel. Even pistol bullets start at 2/3 to 4/3 the speed of sound. Realistically there is no situation in which the explosion propelling the bullet will give you any useful amount of warning.

Re:50 feet away? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522716)

That assumes you hit with the first shot. If you miss, the sound gives the target a distance and direction back to you (or, if you hit, it gives their friends this information).

Re:50 feet away? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34522760)

Summary says the boom was audible in a room 50 feet away? If I tip over a chair, it's audible in a room 50 feet away...

Steve Ballmer? Is that you?

Only the size of a school bus; actually impressive (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34522290)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_High_Altitude_Research_Project [wikipedia.org]

The Super High Altitude Research Project created a gun that accelerated a four inch diameter projectile to mach 8.8 . It was more than 400 feet long and parts of it weighed a hundred tons. So getting to mach 8 using something only the size of a school bus is a pretty good accomplishment.

Could the rail gun put something in orbit? No. The SHARP was intended to put things into orbit and needed to be improved to mach 21 to achieve that goal.

thieves i tell ya (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34522320)

palladiumbooks.com tell you how to make one...

US Navy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34522382)

FTA - test fired by the US Navy (the summary doesn't make this clear)

Impressive boom (2)

tarks (529856) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522462)

a boom audible in a room 50 feet away

that is, ... almost as loud as dropping a frying pan. Very impressive.

So basically (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34522528)

So basically the Navy was like: "Come see us shoot stuff with our big gun."

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