Asia Times, Doug Tsuruoka
Security, North America
The budget for 2019 shows R&D for a naval supergun will continue—with efforts perhaps nudged by recent photos of a purported railgun in China.
Eyebrows rose in US defense circles earlier this month when an anonymous Twitter user posted photographs of a cannon on a Chinese Navy ship that appears to be a prototype for an electromagnetically-fired railgun.
Images of the out-sized gun on the Haiyang Shan, a Type 072 tank landing craft, at the Wuchang Shipyard, suggested that China is overtaking the US in perfecting a game-changing naval weapon that can hurl non-explosive projectiles at more than seven times the speed of sound.
Evidence of the suspected Chinese breakthrough followed a flurry of reports in December that the US is abandoning its efforts to develop a similar railgun that can be deployed on warships after spending a decade and more than US$ 500 million on the bid. One reported sticking point is the railgun’s onerous testing requirements, which have delayed deploying the weapon aboard navy ships.
But military researcher Joseph Trevithick reports that the US Navy is far from dropping its efforts to develop the new weapon and is preparing to pour millions more into the project in the 2019 fiscal year. The money is part of the Pentagon’s FY 2019 budget request, which calls for US$ 686.1 billion in spending for the army, navy, air force and military agencies.
Trevithick noted in a February 14 article for The War Zone, a Time Inc. defense website, that the Navy has allotted nearly US$ 45.8 million for R&D for both electromagnetic and directed energy weapons in the upcoming funding cycle, demonstrating that the project is very much alive.