General Atomics introduces improved pulsed power container for US Navy’s railgun

Electromagnetic (EM) railgun installed at a test facility in Dahlgren, Virginia. Photo: US Navy

U.S. Navy’s electromagnetic railgun program could get a new boost with improved high energy pulsed power containers.

U.S. defense contractor General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) announced on March 9 that they have developed a new container which provides “twice the energy density than existing railgun pulsed power solutions”.

This means the GA-developed product could reduce the number of pulsed power containers required to launch projectiles or hybrid missiles from a railgun weapon system.

“For the past decade, GA-EMS has provided pulsed power in support of the Navy’s railgun program,” stated Nick Bucci, vice president Missile Defense and Space Systems at GA-EMS. “Our next generation HEPPC breaks our own energy density record and exceeds the capabilities of other available railgun pulsed power container solutions. What we have packed into a 10 foot standard shipping container is equivalent to what is currently available in a 20 foot shipping container, doubling the energy density to provide greater flexibility for ship and land-based installations and maneuverability for mobile applications.”

GA-EMS internally funded the development of the HEPPC in support of a multi-mission medium range railgun weapons system, which integrates pulsed power, launcher, hybrid missile, and fire control technologies.

According to the company, each HEPPC includes high energy pulsed power modules with an energy content of more than 415 kilojoules (kJ) per module.

“The HEPPC represents our commitment to pioneering the development of critical power and energy technologies to support the military’s current and future operational requirements,” continued Bucci. “We continue to invest in and advance railgun technologies. We are performing risk reduction and technology maturation, and testing hybrid missiles under real-world conditions to provide critical capabilities needed to counter complex threats, cost effectively.”

Railguns launch hybrid missiles using electromagnetic forces instead of chemical propellants and can deliver muzzle velocities greater than twice those of conventional guns.

When mounted on U.S. naval vessels, it will be able to fire a projectile 100 nautical miles at high speeds — to include a launch velocity of up to Mach 7.5 and at Mach 5 when impacting a target.

USNS Millinocket was supposed to be the first U.S. Navy ship fitted with the gun. However, these plans did not materialize and the same happened with plans to equip the newest stealth destroyer USS Zumwalt with the system.

Latest predictions say the Navy expects to deploy the electromagnetic gun on the third, and last, Zumwalt-class vessel, the USS Lyndon B. Johnson.

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