A new prototype of the Navy's weapon of the future just completed its first test, blasting a chunk of metal through the air at speeds up to 5,600 MPH. Watch below as the Navy's electromagnetic railgun spews a formidable jet of orange flame.
By David Hambling
Posted 01.11.2012 at 11:18 am 12 Comments
Defense systems can detect stealth submarines using two methods: sonar, which bounces sound waves off a craft, and radar, which can identify subtle disturbances on or below the ocean’s surface that can indicate a sub at depth. Now scientists are developing acoustic and fluid cloaking methods that could defeat both tactics.
When American and coalition troops rolled into Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, they quickly began doing exactly what any military playbook said they should do, leveraging their superior firepower and aerial superiority into a string of quick victories. In both engagements, coalition forces quickly hammered conventional military threats into submission and settled into a long role of occupation and rebuilding. That’s when the bombs started going off.
BAE System’s Mk 38 chain gun was already a formidable opponent: a 250millimeter cannon capable of putting 180 rounds per minute into the air from the deck of a naval ship, strongly urging those without clearance to keep a safe distance (of about 2,000 yards). But in a tip of the hat toward what the U.S. Navy considers the future of shipboard defense, BAE and Boeing have teamed up to accessorize the Mk 38 with a laser death ray. You know, just in case.
To fly the military’s baddest, most technologically advanced planes, you once had to have what Tom Wolfe called “that righteous stuff,” the willingness to strap yourself to a jet-fuel laden machine and push it to the very limits of its mechanical capabilities. Nowadays, unmanned systems have taken the human danger out of some combat missions, though human pilots remain at the sticks.
It’s one thing for humans to make robots, but the idea of robots making robots tends to conjure all those sci-fi scenarios wherein Arnold Schwarzenegger or Keanu Reeves have to save what’s left of humanity. Nonetheless, the U.S. military presses on.
The Navy’s death ray weapon keeps burning through laser records, on its way to the ultimate goal of searing through 2,000 feet of steel per second.
The Free Electron Laser’s latest milestone involved running its electron injection system for eight hours at 500 kilovolts. That will help the laser become more powerful and more deadly, as Wired’s Danger Room reports.
It’s unclear which is the bigger news coming out of the Office of Naval Research; the fact that the Navy’s Free Electron Laser (FEL) program has demonstrated an injector capable of producing the necessary electrons to fuel a megawatt-class laser beam, or the fact that a next-generation future weapon under development by the military is months ahead of schedule. Both are good news for the Navy, which might begin lasing threats out of the sky sooner than it anticipated.
The official performance results aren’t available yet, but General Atomics confirmed this afternoon that it’s next-gen aircraft carrier launch system successfully launched an F/A-18E Super Hornet on Saturday, not with steam but with its new electromagnetic aircraft launch system, or EMALS.
The Navy just broke its own record for an awesomely powerful railgun, which can hurl a projectile hundreds of miles at superfast speeds without using explosives.
Today's 33-megajoule shot — powerful enough to launch 33 Smart cars at 100 mph — means the Navy can fire projectiles at least 125 miles, keeping military personnel at a safe distance from their targets, according to the Office of Naval Research.
Of all places, the U.S. military has proven one of the fiercest proponents of renewable energy, and for totally practical reasons -- most importantly cost and safety. Now, military higher-ups plan to rely on renewable energy sources for 50 percent of their power by 2020, which could help the worldwide advancement of those technologies immeasurably. One company of Marines, saddled with tons of solar power tech, is kickstarting this revolution.
We can now tweet from the International Space Station and make phone calls from the summit of Mount Everest, so why can't we get any check our email from the ocean floor? A new Lockheed Martin program, plainly named Communications at Speed and Depth, will plug deep-diving stealth submarines into the DoD's Global Information Grid, just like any other surface vessel.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.