The railgun has also been called a mass-driver or a linear accelerator. What is it and what makes it such an exciting weapon, at least for science fiction authors ...
Well, the railgun actually has a very simple working principle. It propells projectiles by using a very strong electromagnetic field along an elongated barrel. The magnetic force pushes the projectile out and gives it a tremendous amount of kinetic energy, energy which can be translated to a huge range or extereme penetrating power.
So, what is the railgun good for? Why is it considered the weapon of the future? Why does many science fiction books consider it the ultimate weapon ?
First of all, the railgun is a true revolution in the technology of war. It is a departure from current firearms technology which has served in war for more than one thousand years, if you count various rockets used by the Chinese.
The railgun does not use any propellant or rocket engine. The entire driving mechanism resides in the shooter and stays with him. So, a ship or a shore installation would have no problem shooting thousands of railgun projectiles, if enough power exists.
Another thing is the energy the railgun's projectile has. In effect, it is bound only by the amount of power the shooter has, subject to the technological limits of actually projecting the necessary magnetic fields. But, once this is done, the projectile would have so much energy, a railgun cannon would be able to easily fire over ranges of hundreds of miles and penetrate almost every bunker.
Weather immunity. The railgun, unlike the laser, is not subject to weather conditions. It does not matter if its raining, snowing or if a dust storm exists. A railgun would punch through anything. True science fiction fantasy here - the weapon that no one can defend against.
Last but not least, the railgun has a staggering amount of application, pending technology availability and development. It can be used to bombard enemy forces, penetrate deep bunkers, hurl projectiles over entire continents, and of course, launch satellites.
|Railgun Impact from a US Navy Test - Try not to be on the receiving end ...|
So, what are we waiting for? Where are the railguns, mass-drivers and linear accelerators today?
More on this later ...