The Navy’s Electromagnetic Railgun Is Both Alive and Dead

    Task and Purpose, Jared Keller

    Security, North America

    It just won’t be on a naval vessel anytime soon. 

    The Navy will continue to fund research and development efforts related to the service’s much-hyped electromagnetic railgun but will likely not pursue a shipboard tactical demonstrator, according to sources briefed on the matter, a development that will likely condemn the more than $ 500 million project to a R&D limbo as the Department of Defense focuses on other directed energy programs.

    A special “Innovative Naval Prototypes” line item in the Navy’s fiscal 2019 budget proposal, published on Feb. 12, explicitly sets aside a hefty $ 45.8 million to “applied research addressing the unique technical challenges inherent in the construction, assembly and operation” of the railgun prototypes currently enjoying testing by engineers at the Office of Naval Research and Naval Sea Systems Command.

    This specific line item is just one of several that shape funding for the Pentagon’s portfolio of directed energy projects, like solid-state lasers and the hypervelocity projectile, both of which have emerged as higher priorities than the railgun for the DoD in recent years. But as The War Zone notes, the explicit budget line indicates that the Navy hasn’t completely given up on idea of developing a supergun capable of liquefying enemy armor from miles away — even if the service did request $ 10 million less than in fiscal 2018.

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