RIP Railgun: Why the U.S. Navy’s Super Weapon Might Be Dead

    Task and Purpose, Jared Keller

    Security, North America

    Despite the swirl of science-fiction excitement surrounding the new weapon, it will likely never see combat.

    It can fire a solid metal slug at speeds of up to 4,500 mph, or Mach 6. It can hit targets up to 100 nautical miles away. It’s capable of defeating incoming ballistic missiles and liquefying even the most durable enemy armor, the equivalent of a weaponized meteor strike fired from the world’s most powerful gun. After more than a decade of research and development and more than $ 500 million, the Office of Naval Research’s much-hyped electromagnetic railgun prototype is finally capable of flexing its futuristic muscles — but despite the swirl of science-fiction excitement surrounding the muscular new cannon, it will likely never see combat, Task & Purpose has learned.

    According to interviews with several congressional and military sources, the much-hyped supergun has come under scrutiny from lawmakers and military planners thanks to the Strategic Capabilities Office, the once-classified department created in 2012 to fast-track new tech languishing in the DoD’s sprawling bureaucracy, and develop, as then-Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter once put it, “game-changing capabilities to confound potential enemies.” With SCO’s interest drawn to other weapons systems, ONR may end up without the necessary funding to push the exceedingly complex railgun toward a critical testing milestone — a delay that, with increasing budget pressures and the DoD’s shifting strategic priorities, could condemn the decade-long project to an inescapable limbo of research and tinkering far from any ship.

    ‘They’re simply not buying it’

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