April 14, 2007
Boom! Headshot!

For-real, operational rail gun, anyone? Prototype isn't production of course, but even the promise of being able to fling projectiles around at mach 8.5+ is pretty damned spiffy. With a range rivaling that of cruise missiles, if it does reach production would it herald the return of the battleship? We'll see.

Posted by Ellen at April 14, 2007 07:49 AM

eMail this entry!

This goes through armor. And through the victim, through the wall, through a tree twenty five miles away...

Posted by: Tatterdemalian on April 15, 2007 02:45 AM

Nothing like some solid kinetic energy strikes to brighten up the morning. The biggest problem I can see is getting a stable enough platform to fire the damn thing that distance. Sounds like time to tune up the ole Abrams bore stablization s0ftwar8...

Posted by: ron on April 15, 2007 06:16 PM

Or you could have it fire a counterprojectile in the exact opposite direction with each projectile you fire at your target, like one of the theoretical satellite-mounted designs does. Just be careful not to stand behind it, and pray the engineers didn't misplace a decimal when calculating the error tolerance.

Posted by: Tatterdemalian on April 16, 2007 03:03 PM

I'm less worried about recoil with something like this than I am with barrel stabilization. If you're shooting that far, you really don't want to be off all that much. While I'm not really up to the math, I get the feeling being off my a second of arc could cause a pretty large miss at that distance.

Posted by: ron on April 16, 2007 03:23 PM

As my tank commander pointed out when we aligned the Abram's main gun before every gunnery.."if your alignment is off by 1 mil (which equated to the width of dot in the center of the target reticle in the gunner's primary site), you are off by 1 meter at 1,000 meters and at the ranges we engage, that's the height of one man."

Posted by: Daddy Dragon on April 17, 2007 05:47 AM

All points well taken. However, as noted in the article another big challenge is designing electronics robust enough to handle the acceleration. Then they'll be able to guide them in.

Posted by: scott on April 17, 2007 07:54 AM

I wouldn't put much faith in the article's writer having the slightest clue what they're writing about, aside from the basics: someone demonstrated a prototype rail gun, and the demonstration went over well with the Navy brass. They discuss making the projectile "GPS-guided" by adding controllable stabilizer fins to a hunk of metal that not only really doesn't need it, but essentially becomes a fast-moving mass of metal particles the moment it leaves the rail.

Guided bullets - did Lee Harvey Ozwald kill JFK with them? Next on Geraldo!

Posted by: Tatterdemalian on April 17, 2007 09:26 AM

Keep in mind, though, that the Army has had laser guided Howitzer rounds since at least Gulf War I (copperhead).

An episode of Futureweapons is featuring this gizmo. Maybe they'll do a better job.

Posted by: scott on April 17, 2007 12:21 PM

True - and I suppose it's possible to do so, once you figure out how to withstand the g-forces and friction due to speed.

I think we should just shoot plasma bolts.

Posted by: ron on April 17, 2007 01:24 PM

Well, yeah, if you're using your railgun for lobbing shells through a high arc like a copperhead. But the main advantage of a railgun - kinetic impacts powerful enough to make explosive warheads superfluous - can't be done with indirect fire, unless they've finally developed a projectile with a terminal velocity greater than the speed of sound.

Posted by: Tatterdemalian on April 17, 2007 11:16 PM
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