January 29, 2008
Riding the Rails
Posted by scott at January 29, 2008 11:43 AM
The world's most powerful rail gun has been delivered to the US Navy. At 32 megajoules, it's fully half as powerful as what the Navy thinks would be needed to become a combat system, but it's still a step in that direction. Considering the size, weight, and needs of the system, I'd be surprised if a destroyer could actually field one. Could this be the weapon that revives the concept of a battleship?
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I'm thinking about the recoil for one those things. It'd have to be incredible. Maybe they could only fire it a few degrees off the ship's course?
That being said, it'd definitely do some damage...
There's not just the recoil, but the fact that if the rails warp even a millimeter, the whole thing goes boom. Rail guns might eventually propel ammo faster with the same reliability as conventional explosives, but even pursued to its logical end, there wouldn't be anything a rail gun could do that couldn't be done cheaper with good old cordite. It's like replacing tanks with mechas; even we had the technology and it could be relied on, it would still cost a lot more energy, material, and time to build even a basic walker than to make a tank, and the only advantage that a walker might have over a tank is that you get to say you were in a giant robot.
There are other advantages, just like with any sort of new weapons system. Greater stand-off range, greater chance of the weapons hitting the target, less potential side effects if the ships are hit, etc. All of these are additional costs that tend to get looked over by people.
What you've described are engineering problems - things that can be worked through. Not cheaply, to be sure. But they can be worked through.