Anyone who’s played a futuristic shooter since the dawn of video games knows that when you see something called a “railgun” you’re in for a real treat. Well, the US Navy built a railgun of its very own, and it just showed off its remarkably powerful creation in a new video of its test firing.
Railguns like the one the Navy has built trade chemical propellants like gunpowder for the sheer power of electricity, generating extremely strong magnetic fields to push a projectile down a set of rails and out the end of the barrel. It might not sound particularly efficient, but the speeds that railgun projectiles can achieve put traditional cannons to shame. The Navy’s massive weapon, for example, launches its rounds at a whopping 4,500 mph.
Additionally, the projectiles launched by the railgun do their damage not by exploding, but simply by striking their target while moving at such a high speed, quite literally tearing apart anything they come into contact with.
For most of their history, railguns have been more fiction than science, and their practicality and reliability has repeatedly been questioned over time. The size of the device itself is typically massive, owing to the large and complex electronic components required to supply the necessary power. However, there are also some pretty fantastic benefits of the non-explosive rounds, such as much less chance of unexploded ordnance causing problems either on the ship or vehicle firing the weapon, or on the battlefield after a skirmish has ended.