This video of the US Navy’s Office of Naval Research shows a repeated firing demonstration with the electromagnetic or rail gun, which by the end of this year expects to achieve a firing rate of 10 projectiles per minute. The charge of the system resembles a little to that of the Death Star. The new toy of the Navy could receive its baptism of fire next year.
The main difference between a conventional cannon and a rail cannon is that the former uses explosives to launch the projectile. The rail cannon instead uses an electric charge of several thousand amps to accelerate the projectile horizontally at high speed. “Great speed” can be as much as throwing projectiles at 8,000 km/h (seven times the speed of sound) at a distance of 160 km with an energy of 32 megajoules, equivalent to the impact of 32 one-ton cars launched at 260 km/h.
With that kinetic energy a projectile fired with a rail cannon does not need an explosive charge to wreak havoc, which makes it possible to use smaller and simpler projectiles, and also cheaper: $25,000 a unit instead of 500,000 to 1,5 million dollars that costs a conventional missile.