Navy Electromagnetic Rail Gun prototype in action:

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Right now scientist and engineers are working around the clock to develop a gun for the NAVY that can fire a projectile at nearly Mach 8. That’s right almost 8 times the speed of sound. Dahlgreen in Virginia is home to the navy’s 8 Mega Joule Electromagnetic Rail gun. By the end of 2007 the navy plans to start working with a prototype that is 4 times more powerful.

The high voltage is created by charging up a bank of capacitors. When the bank of capacitors discharge a surge of current creates a massive magnetic field. This accelerates the metal projectile to mind bending speeds. The navy’s goal is to develop a 64 Mega Joule Electromagnetic Rail Gun by 2016 that’s 8 times more powerful than this prototype. Reaching projectile speed up to 5000 miles per hour.

This technology is so impressive that the NAVY is actually planning in developing rounds that don’t have warheads. Thats because of the massive kinetic energy available at the impact. The NAVY wants to equip its new generation of electrically powered ships with this new weapon but there are problems
for the scientists to overcome, The capacitors are big and the heat generated is enormous. But the NAVY is confident they will find a solution and take this new weapon into its arsenal.

Navy Electromagnetic Rail Gun prototype in action