Navy photo

Wither the Battleship! Once-dominant sea-going giants, the famed and feared titans of naval warfare found themselves outclassed, outmatched, and outranged by aircraft carriers in World War II, and they are now mostly a distant memory. Despite the battleship’s obsolescence, the U.S. Navy hasn’t entirely given up on the dream of powerful, long-range ship-mounted guns. A new weapon in the works, the aptly named “hyper velocity projectile” promises that far-ranging deadly oomph, and it wants to deliver it at five times the speed of sound.

In time, naval railguns will fire the hyper velocity projectile, or HVP, possibly even from the decks of futuristic ships like the Zumwalt Destroyer. The HVP is expected to reach speeds of Mach 7, or over 5,300 mph. Fired from the conventional gun on a ship’s deck, it will only go Mach 5, or just shy of 4,000 mph. That’s enough speed to make the guns a lower-cost alternative to expensive guided missiles in some circumstances.

BAE Systems makes the HPV, and their description of the materials used for the weapon is cagey about how exactly it achieves such high speeds, mostly noting its compact, “low drag aerodynamic design.” Presumably, these can be combined with standard propellant rounds to create the desired, supersonic effect

While the Navy is not yet officially developing the hyper velocity projectile in a standard weapon, NAVSEA–the office in the Navy responsible for overseeing engineering and design of the Navy’s ships–is looking into the idea of testing the HVP. Unlike the Mach 5 projectile, that process will be much, much slower than the speed of sound.