The railgun, a futuristic electromagnetic weapon that can fire a projectile at seven times the speed of sound, makes its public debut at the the U.S. Navy's Science and Technology Expo. Katharine Jackson reports.
STORY: Once an imaginary weapon on Star Wars, the electromagnetic gun is now reality...with the railgun making its public debut at the the U.S. Navy's Science and Technology Expo on Wednesday. The railgun uses electromagnetic energy to launch a projectile between two conductive rails. Roger Ellis is the Program Officer. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ROGER ELLIS, RAILGUN PROGRAM OFFICER, OFFICE OF NAVAL RESEARCH, SAYING: "It's amazing to think about the science and technology we've developed that we can be able to concentrate that much electrical energy, create a magnetic force in an area about this big and accelerate something to Mach 7 within 10 milliseconds." The railgun fires a projectile....faster, farther and with greater impact than a gun that uses gunpowder. Where a 5-inch conventional gun can send a projectile 13 nautical miles, the Navy says the railgun can send it 110 nautical miles. Chief of Naval Research Rear Admiral Mat Winter says he expects the railgun will be on Navy warships in the next decade. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CHIEF OF NAVAL RESEARCH REAR ADMIRAL MAT WINTER, SAYING: "It's like a flux capacitor. Right? You're sitting there thinking about these next generation and futuristic ideas and we've got scientists who have designed these and it's coming to life. And now you can take that and push a button and take that energy and put it in a metal barrel and circulate it, which then drives electromagnetic forces like when you put your hand on your head and your hair comes up and be able to take that bullet and shoot it down the gun. Nobody had ever thought of that." Sea trials begin in 2016...made possible since researchers reduced the volume of space the gun needs. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ROGER ELLIS, RAILGUN PROGRAM OFFICER, OFFICE OF NAVAL RESEARCH, SAYING: "We've shrunk that power tremendously to the point where it's at sizes that you can reasonably put on a Navy platform." The Navy says the railgun will be tested on board a joint high-speed vessel.