The U.S. Navy publicly unveiled its latest futuristic weapon at the Future Force Science and Technology Expo in Washington, D.C. this week — the electromagnetic railgun, which can fire projectiles at an air-splitting 5,300 miles per hour.
By using electromagnetic pulses to generate a magnetic force between two rails, the latest prototype of the railgun developed by defense contractor BAE in conjunction with the Office of Naval Research can accelerate a projectile up to Mach 7 within 10 milliseconds. The gun uses no gunpowder to generate propelling force for its shots, which hit with such destructive force, they don’t need to carry any explosive ordinance.
“It’s like a flux capacitor,” chief of Naval research Rear Admiral Mathias Winter said in a video posted by Reuters Friday. “You’re sitting here thinking about these next generation and futuristic ideas, and we’ve got scientists who have designed these, and it’s coming to life.”
While conventional weapons like a Hellfire missile can travel little over Mach 1 and a 5-inch gun hit targets up to 13 miles away, the railgun can strike targets 110 miles away at seven times the speed of sound. The Washington Post reports that a senior Navy official “recently likened the impact to ‘a freight train going through the wall at a hundred miles an hour.'”
Researchers have only recently been able to scale down the space and power required to deploy the railgun, which will begin testing at sea in 2016. (RELATED: Watch The US Navy’s New Laser Weapon Take Out Two Ships)