Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The U.S. Army has awarded a contract to General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS), the prime contractor for its Blitzer electromagnetic railgun system, to “evaluate and mature railgun weapon system capabilities in support of U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Command.”
The contract specifies the construction of railgun prototypes that could be used by the Army in the ground combat role. The Army plans using railguns either as very long range artillery that can accurately hit targets over 160 km distant or as tank guns firing hypervelocity projectiles (HVPs) mounted on a future replacement for the M1 Abrams main battle tank. No tank armor on Earth can withstand penetration by a railgun round.
The contract to GA-EMS seems to vindicate optimism among its officials that the game changing weapon of war can finally be ready for production by 2019. A series of tests in early 2016 was to develop a multi-mission railgun weapon systems for the Army. GA-EMS in October 2013, however, predicted the land based version of the Blitzer railgun would see production in 2016.
The 2016 tests saw a prototype of the Blitzer electromagnetic railgun system successfully fire HVPs at far longer ranges than previously. Blitzer is the first weaponized railgun planned for production. Intended as an artillery weapon to bombard land targets, Blitzer launches a streamlined discarding sabot round designed by Boeing’s Phantom Works at 1,600 meters per second or at Mach 5 at accelerations in excess 60,000 giganewtons.
Railguns launch projectiles using electromagnetic forces instead of the chemical propellants used in traditional artillery rounds. These futuristic weapons can deliver muzzle velocities more than twice those of conventional guns.
Blitzer’s rounds destroy targets with their very high kinetic energy. They reach velocities above 3 km/s, far exceeding conventional artillery rounds in range and destructive force. The absence of explosive propellants or warheads plus the low cost of projectiles compared to conventional artillery is a big plus for railguns. Railguns can launch multi-mission projectiles with shorter time-to-target and greater effectiveness at longer range.
GA-EMS’ Blitzer railgun system is an integrated system that includes the launcher; high density capacitor driven pulsed power and weapon fire control system. In 2016, GA-EMS performed pioneering engineering, development and successful testing of electromagnetic railgun launched HVPs and projectile components.
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