Navy Rail Gun Program is canceled by the Senate

The Navy has been working on a weapon they call Free Electron Laser … or…  ship-mounted railgun, it’s a heck of a weapon that is supposed to be a tide changer IF they ever get it a bit more compact. Unfortunately, this year out of the $664.5 billion dollar 2012 defense budget, the Senate Armed Services Committee couldn’t find enough money to continue funding the Rail Gun Project.

Here is what they said: (which makes sense–. to an extent)

“The determination was that the Free Electron Laser has the highest technical risk in terms of being ultimately able to field on a ship, so we thought the Navy could better concentrate on other laser programs,” explains Rick DeBobes, the chief of staff for the committee. “With the Electromagnetic Railgun, the committee felt the technical challenges to developing and fielding the weapon would be daunting, particularly [related to] the power required and the barrel of the gun having limited life.”

The Navy has been working on the rail gun for some time now, but, they have been unable to get it compact enough to place the weapon on a ship. It requires 200 Kilowatts of energy, which is really hard to find on a boat, and after 6-8 shots, the barrel is practically fried…which is expected after shooting a projectile at 2.4 kilometers per second for over 4 miles.

The Senate want’s the NAVY to focus on Laser technology instead of rail gun technology, which is technically a good thing, since lasers are better than projectiles. But still, the Navy has spent so much money and research on this new technology to just throw it down the drain. Technically speaking, the Rail Gun is a cheaper alternative than launching a cruise missile, and just recently the Navy was able to shoot a round from the Rail Gun for over 4 miles at Zero degree altitude from the barrel — (the barrel was completely flat). This is a great improvement over previous shots. It takes time, and takes Money, but usually when you try to create an Ultra High Tech weapon that’s how it goes.

Personally speaking, I think this weapon can have a lot of potential, economically speaking, I don’t think the US has the money for this experimental weapon right now. Much Less lasers, they should just give the project to a private company and let them take it from here.  In case you haven’t seen the weapon in action, check out the video below, all the fire comes from friction caused between the barrel and the projectile… that explains why the barrel breaks down so much.

Via Danger Room