Railguns are something most of us know from science fiction, but they are quickly becoming science fact. The Office of Naval Research will start testing a prototype in the coming weeks.
The principle is simple: it is a weapon that uses electricity rather than chemical propellants to launch projectiles.
Magnetic fields created by high electrical currents accelerate an armature (which is sliding metal conductor) between two rails (hence the name) to launch projectiles at 4500 mph (7240 kph) to 5600 mph (10460 kph). The initial range is 50- to 100-nautical mile with planned expansion up to 220 nautical miles.
This is just the first prototype to be tested. The next phases of the EM Railgun program include automatic projectile loading systems and thermal management to increase firing rates of the weapon.