Look Out, Pyongyang? Rail Gun in the Works

One of the big selling points of the Navy's new destroyer is that it can rain a whole lot of hell -- 20 rocket-propelled artillery shells, in less than a minute -- on targets up to 63 nautical miles away. Fully armed, two DDG1000s should have the firepower of an entire, 640-man artillery battalion, the Navy promises.ddx_rail_1.JPGBut really, that's the start. The ship's real power will come when it moves away from chemical powders to shoot its projectiles -- and starts relying on electromagnetic fields to shoot projectiles almost six kilometers/second, instead. With an electromagnetic rail gun pushing the rounds out so quickly, the number of rounds fired per ship would jump from 232 to 5000, Navy planners believe. (Military.com has a great primer on how it works.) Because they travel so fast -- nearly Mach 7 -- the destructive force those rounds deliver would more than double, from 6.6 megajoules to 17. And they would fly almost five times farther -- up to 300 nautical miles. That's enough to put 100% of targets in North Korea "at Risk" from a single battleship, a Navy briefing notes (right, sorry for the crappy scan).No wonder the Office of Naval Research just handed General Atomics Aeronautical Systems a $9.6-million, 30-month contract for the preliminary design of an electromagnetic launcher, Defense Daily reports.But don't expect to see a rail gun around North Korea any time soon. The destroyer program is in flux. And the Navy isn't looking for a "full-scale demonstration" of the rail gun until "around 2014," DD notes. "If the acquisition community decides to place it on a ship it could be done around the 2019 time frame."Look out.(Big ups: Haninah)

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