One of the more intriguing technologies spotted at this week’s Navy League Sea-Air-Space Expo was General Atomics’ electromagnetic rail cannon. The company has been working for a number of years with the Office of Naval Research on a 200-nautical mile gun system. In a parallel effort, they’ve been developing a smaller, pulse-power technology demonstrator, called the Blitzer, for ship defense against anti-ship cruise missiles and small boat swarms.
Two million amps launch a guided projectile at twice the speed of a conventional gun, but at much lower cost than the usual surface-to-air missile systems on most naval ships. General Atomics is working on a cannon that can launch an airburst round at a rate of one per second. Each round dispenses sub-projectiles, so its equivalent to firing 14,000 rounds a minute, which is a higher rate of fire than the Phalanx close-in weapons system, says Tom Hurn, General Atomics director of advanced weapons systems.