A cunning plan
I wonder how many of these programs are to trick the opposition into wasting more money trying to catch up with your development ?
After more than 15 years of R&D, and half a billion dollars of funding, the United States Navy has decided to give up on the prospect of mounting enormous railguns on its ships. For the moment, at least. The project was intended to produce a mighty weapon which could fire projectiles at Mach 7 at targets over 100 miles (161km …
I wonder how many of these programs are to trick the opposition into wasting more money trying to catch up with your development ? ... Yet Another Anonymous coward
Are you specifically referring, Yet Another Anonymous coward, to the leaked tale that China has already conducted sea trials with a shipboard railgun mounted on a Type 072III-class landing ship as far back as 2018, ...... a purported fact which had been spurring US railgun development along?
Do you think China and Russia at least nowadays, have learnt more than one will ever know and freely admit to from Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative [Star Wars Program], which earlier had Soviets Satellites chasing their tails and putting themselves in a death spiral spin which they successfully negotiated and pulled out of to further survive and prosper inordinately?
The odd thing about defence stories is that, by contrast, amanfromMars makes sense .... Yet Another Anonymous coward
Too much sense for some to freely share at the time of its intelligent information provision, Yet Another Anonymous coward?
GrahamC at 12:53 PM  ....... surmises on https://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2021/7/7/qa-with-bob-newberry-director-of-the-pentagons-irregular-warfare-technical-support-directorate"What is the best way for someone with a good idea to contact the office?"
Practise a comprehensively developed great idea and the office will get in touch with you with a sensible offer no fool denies and refuses. And such are invariably extremely generous in reward to reflect and show heart-felt gratitude for what is being delivered and all that is yet to be bestowed and provided from Immaculately Secured Stores.
Just who is leading whom and/or what then ,is an enigmatic mystery to delight many with later possible solution and resolutions ....... although it is best constantly recognised as a complete and utter waste of time and effort in space, for the answer is always a moveable feast in the FareWare of Tomorrow, not in the Programs and Applications of Today.
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>The Cold War between the US and USSR was essentially won by outspending the other side.
One was a state where all government spending was directed at increasingly unaffordable and ineffective military programs to the detriment of the standard of living of their citizens.
And the other collapsed
Sorry, but not even close. As having been an adult during that time, the military budget was background noise, which it still is, when compared to the social spending this country does.
As an example, it takes the US Navy 5 years to build a carrier; at about 12 billion dollars. With Social Securities budget it could build EIGHT (8) a MONTH! And that's in 2021 dollars. The 2021 budget for JUST Social Security is about $1.2 TRILLION dollars: https://www.ssa.gov/budget/FY21Files/2021BO.pdf
So please whiners, stop it. The ENTIRE defense budget is trivial when compared to the rest of the US budget.
Sorry, but not even close. As I was not only an adult during that time but also have morals and empathy.
U.S. military spending/defense budget for 2019 was $731.75B, a 7.22% increase from 2018.
U.S. military spending/defense budget for 2018 was $682.49B, a 5.53% increase from 2017.
U.S. military spending/defense budget for 2017 was $646.75B, a 1.08% increase from 2016.
U.S. military spending/defense budget for 2016 was $639.86B, a 0.95% increase from 2015.
i.e around 3.5% of GDP. dwn from around 4%.
The fact that looking after your own citizens costs more is totally irrelevant and proves you care little about your fellow citizens and more about invading and destroying other counties for no sensible reason. Presumably you are also identify as a Christian?
The cost of the Cold War wasn't just the "defence" budget, similarly for the USSR. There were many other costs, both economic and social, "assisting" foreign countries etc. It is similar to the argument about the true cost of energy. Fossil fuel apologists claim renewables are heavily subsidised and inefficient, both of which are blatant lies, and also fai to admit that the true cost of fossil fuels should include the more than $6 trillion annual subsidies which are aways ignored.
Before throwing shouty hissy fits and trying to censor others you should learn more about the real world.
"to the detriment of the standard of living of their citizens."
Oh, I dunno. Seems to me that side has more folks from other countries clamoring to get there than any other nation on Earth. Things aren't all that bad in that neck of the woods from what I've seen, despite the odd political speed-bump, most of which are ephemeral (by design, I might add ...).
"And the other collapsed"
The alternative doesn't bear thinking about. But don't forget there were more than two sides. And the collapsed one is struggling back to it's feet. We're not out of it yet, alas.
It’s from the early 1900 that people have been trying to exploit the Lorentz force to propel things into other things, very far away and very fast —one of those thing-thing combinations was: manned capsule and earth’s orbit.
The largest problem, by far and away, has been one and it’s not even the humongous capacitor bank, compulsator or gazillions of hamsters on wheels to generate the current pulse (Megaamps in nanoseconds), but the fact that you have to overhaul the gun every few shots or so, ranging from 0, i.e. congrats: it exploded in your face!, to a couple of dozens, depending on how much current you lob inside.
Until someone comes up with Unoptanium or some other invincible material, it’s hopeless —also for the Chinese: as stated, the difficult part is not shooting it once or twice, also from a boat, but shooting it enough times to successfully engage something slightly more manoeuvrable than Mount Everest.
So, of course, the French are still hoping…
Indeed, a mind numblingly high electrical power for a very short time, and at currents which even if handled carefully are likely to cause some electromagnetic issues to nearby systems and disturbances to power supplies. On this, I recall that at teh JET project at Culham, they had to install a couple of large flywheel generators to create the (relative to the railgun, moderate) power pulses needed to fire the system - otherwise they'd have causes massive power quality problems across the UK.
And of course, yet another demonstration that electrical power might be good for many things, but it's hard to compete with the energy density and "recharge speed" of chemical energy storage (a.k.a. chemical propellants).
>but it's hard to compete with the energy density and "recharge speed" of chemical energy storage (a.k.a. chemical propellants).
But it is very easy to run out of 16inch shells, and Amazon delivery takes forever to Jutland. You can store a lot more steel ball bearings.
There is also the advantage that you don't have a big room full of explosive in the middle of your boat which can be an issue if you come up against a boat full of particularly belligerent Germans.
Well that is all true, but it won't make rail guns suddenly feasible. Making a rail gun isn't really rocket science, but making one powerful enough to be suitable for a battleship is a challenge we can't yet meet.
Until we get room temperature superconducting cable and a working fusion reaction small enough to put in a battle ship then chemical propellants will be the way to go.
I can't really see the advantages of this for battleship guns - other than there is no other way that the Navy is going to get the DoD to pay for a new battleship after Pearl Harbor
For a close in defense system - ability to put a lot of metal between you and an incoming unwanted gift basket very very quickly, and the ability to not run out of ammunition this might be a good idea.
I think that all the Iowas were planned, paid for and commissioned after Pearl Harbor.
It is just possible that a weapon with a range of 100+ miles may have an offensive use for coastal bombardment that has never existed before, but it is probably a niche case that may actually be better served by very long range hypersonic missiles, albeit at a much higher individual weapon cost (but maybe a lower launch vehicle cost).
The advantage of very high speed ballistic projectiles is that they are difficult to stop once launched. The flip side of slower guided weapons is that they are, well guided, and can take both complex routes and avoidance strategies, especially if they are autonomous.
I'm minded of the Ark Royal series of military Sci-Fi books by Christopher G Nuttall (the early ones are v. cheap or free Kindle downloads, and if you enjoy this kind of thing, they're very good), where he posits space war which oscillates over a time period of decades between manned fighters, projectile and plasma weapons, battleships, autonomous missiles, rail guns and mass drivers, sometimes going backwards to previous technologies, with the last developments in the series being compact ultrapowerful mass drivers lobbing asteroids at high speed across a solar system at planets. Each development renders the previous obsolete. When there is a real need, weapons are developed.
Nah, the power supply is not the issue: they tend to be big and bulky but on an aircraft carrier there’s plenty of space. And on some you already have a nuclear reactor on board —the worse that can happen is that you can’t charge fast enough and then your gun is rate limited. In general, as long as you don’t want to switch off a current of several thousands of amps, you’re fine.
Also heat build-up due to electrical resistance is not _such_ a big deal —it’s not as bad as keeping cool a superconductor, not make it quench and figure out a way to have a working sliding contact between the rails and the armature (*) across a thermal gradient of a couple of hundreds of degrees. Having to do that at room temperature with copper is already bad enough.
The problem is that you have to open the gun and change the rails every 1-20 shots, because they simply wear out (they will melt, develop holes, get smeared with whatever you’re using as the armature and not flatly or uniformly enough) and they don’t contact any more. And that’s no fun when you’re in a battle.
(*) the projectile is not used to close the circuit but there usually is another piece of metal behind it, for lower speed railguns. Once you start going above 3-4 km/s, you have to use a big fat spark between the rails which ionises whatever it’s in there and turns into plasma. Which as cool as it sounds, it will fsck up your rails even faster.
The problem is that you have to open the gun and change the rails every 1-20 shots, because they simply wear out...
Then surely the solution is to make the rails the projectile. Have new rails pushed into place on two conveyor belts where they each take turns to launch the previous rail at the target.
"Making a rail gun isn't really rocket science"
True, it's a large dose of engineering and material science. For an old battleship to run out of 16 rounds and propellent, something will have been reduced to a fine powdery substance downrange. A power supply for a rail gun is going to be substantial for even a slow rate of fire. The charges for a naval gun come in discreet bundles while a nuclear reactor tends to be a single item on a ship. If the reactor goes off line or anything in the electrical chain is Tango Uniform, that's it for the rail gun.
10 shots and a rail gun equipped ship may need to peal off and race towards a tender for heavy maintenance.
It's interesting. If you look at the battleships of old with 15" guns (this was the main caliber of WW2 British guns, although 14" and 16" were also on the KGV and Nelson classes) then there was a definite limit on the number of shells that could be fired from each gun.
According to the book "H.M.S Warspite" by S.W.Roskill, the lifetime of a 15" gun was regarded as 335 full charges before needing to be re-lined or replaced.
Warspite had her guns replaced once in her 30 year life, so adding up an estimate of the number of shells fired in battle, and adding say 100 rounds for gunnery practice per year, the total number of shells fired would be around 5000 for her entire life, which leads to just over 300 per gun (two sets of 8) which seems to agree well. By the time Warspite completed bombardment duties during the invasion of Normandy, her guns were well and truly worn out.
Replacing a traditional battleship gun was a big operation, involving firstly building the each gun, which could take two to three years per gun (from the same source), followed by actually opening each turret during a refit, lifting the old gun out and replacing it, followed by closing the turret up. This normally meant that the refit would take between one and two years.
The effort of building guns was so great that when the battle cruisers Courageous and Glorious were converted into aircraft carriers, their guns (and the turrets) were removed and put into storage, and were the main reason that the R.N. could build HMS Vanguard, the last British battleship at all. Without those guns being already in existence, Vanguard would not have been built.
But it is very easy to run out of 16inch shells, and Amazon delivery takes forever to Jutland. You can store a lot more steel ball bearings.
But therein lies one of the problems. Theory goes you can use a precision milled chunk of metal as your projectile. Fling it very fast in the general direction of your enemy, and with precise ballistic and weather/atmospheric calculations, there is some probability of projectile intersecting target. Then possibly leaving a nice lil hole all the way through it. Similar issues arise with directed energy weapons. Yay, small hole! But possibly not very effective unless the hypersonic shell hits something important on it's way through.
So you could then do something funky/devious to enhance lethality, but whatever that is would have to survive being accelerated to more g's than a rapper convention. And also survive any EMP effects from the electromagnetic launch. Then add in a guidance system to the projectile, and I suspect the problem becomes rather challenging.. And there'll be sales types making helpful suggestions like 'So, you're looking for a $1m+ shell to do less than an $800k missile can do?'
So not entirely suprising the US Navy's decided to kick the can down the road. Which is a bit of a shame, partly because I'm curious what the kinetic effect of a hypersonic projectile would be against say, a bunker.
As for chemicals, might I recommend C8(NO2)8)? I heard a rumor that Tesla's been looking at this as a way to increase energy density in batteries..
> There is also the advantage that you don't have a big room full of explosive in the middle of your boat which can be an issue if you come up against a boat full of particularly belligerent Germans.
ahh, come on, we aren't that bad anymore. These days, we're occupying deck chairs, not neighbors...
Diesel is really, really hard to make go "BANG", unless it is mixed very, very thoroughly with an appropriate oxidizer in the correct proportions. Doing this is damn near impossible when it's kept in a big, closed tank or tanks under armed guard, doubly so when said tanks are floating around on a large body of water.
Most modern non-nuclear vessels in major navies use a mixture of gas turbines and diesel (gas turbines for periods of high power and fast ramp up, diesel for less demanding periods).
Gas turbines use something a little more like jet fuel than diesel.
I've been reading on these comments about the American nuclear carriers. If you look at the Nimitz class(es), then they are actually reaching the limit of their installed power, such that even EMALS is not a realistic fit for them. I suspect that a rail gun would be a similar issue, and anyway, why would you want to bring such a major vessel close to the coast?
The follow on ships of the Gerald R Ford class have three times the installed power generation of the Nimitz classes, so things may change.
The Honeywell AGT1500 happily slurps marine diesel.
I've seen gas turbines run on marine fuel oil (No. 6) and so-called "Navy Special" (No. 5). They will run on pretty much anything burnable that can be injected into them in a fine enough form. Even coaldust and sawdust, although bearing wear can be a bit of a problem.
I note you know nothing about ships and never seen ships on fire have you. I have. Over the years the number of posts here about things maritime posted by those with zero knowledge has been high and most of them get lots of upvotes. Which is a good indicator of a particular mindset.
i have been called on to attend many maritime incidents and am an Expert Witness, you should try it some time before arrogantly and ignorantly pretending you know anything.
If Jake means exploding, he has a point. Whereas diesel (and kerosene for that matter, which is not too different) burns very well, you generally do need an oxidizer to make it explode.
From memory, partially empty diesel tanks can explode as the vapour pressure of diesel is so low that there is oxygen enough in the air over the liquid. With petrol (at least when warmenr than -40C), there is not enough oxygen. It does not happen very often though, as car crashes outside hollywood very rarely result in explosions.
In larger installation you therefore often purge the air with inert gas.
Disclaimer: Chemical engineer with Risk Analysis as part of the course.
Diesel is really, really hard to make go "BANG"
Hmm, actually there are some very easy ways to get a tankfull of liquid fuel to go bang in a very big way. Go and find some photo of a plane crash - the sort where it's gone into the ground at high speed, such as Lockerbie. The 'kin great big linear craters weren't created by something scooping the earth, they're the result of the big bang as however many tons of Jet A1 in the wing tanks came to a sudden stop, with the corresponding spike in pressure.
As the aircraft accident investigator who's talk I had the pleasure of attending a few years ago put it, when an aircraft dives into the ground it first concertina's in until the fuel tanks reach the ground. The fuel then goes bang, with the blast driving all the front end bits hard into the ground, and shreds all the tail end following it down and turns it into confetti.
Put a HE shell into a fuel tank and I rather doubt it's going to just go "pfft" like throwing a match onto a tray of diesel would. Not quite the same thing, as getting a big tank to do 500mph to standstill in 5 feet, but once that HE shell goes off there's going to be some very high pressures around, followed in very short order by a large quantity of now atomised fuel mixing with the air in the surrounding compartments/tanks/outside of the ship.
This would require the fuel/air mixture only to catch fire after it has been well mixed. I think the most common ignition source is from friction with ground.
If you look at the WTC situation, you have a fireball at the impact, but no explosion (outside conspiracy/alternative theories). Granted, the planes did not stop quite as fast as directly into the ground.
Fear not, Boris has promised lasers for the Royal Navy - they just need some Sharks...
Lasers sound like they would be devastating, but in reality they would make a very poor weapon except in a few situations. To cause significant damage to a vehicle, a laser with any practical power output would have to remain focussed on a single spot for at least a few seconds, and it would be trivial to develop a cheap effective shield (armour) for buildings (though a laser capable of doing much damage to a building would need a truck-sized generator at least to power it). White or silver paint would probably do the trick. Similarly laser-proof clothing would protect the infantry.
White or silver paint would probably do the trick. Similarly laser-proof clothing would protect the infantry.
soldiers troops warfighters will dress like extras from a bad 1960's Sci-Fi movie, and assault troops will look like the flower of French medieval heavy cavalry in their highly polished metal plate?
Yup. It's fun watching laser cutting machines at work on hefty metal plate. Of course they have the advantage of controlled & short focus between emitter and target. Challenge with lasers as a DEW is to keep focus on a target long enough for the beam to do damage. Especially when the target is moving, and you're in an environment where waves, spray, humidity etc would be affecting dispersion. Thus far, they seem better against small vessels, ie terrorists in RIBs than more heavily armoured warships. Fun to think up potential counters though, like smoke, water misters or hull cladding/coatings that could absorb or disperse beam energy.
The temperature at the place a laser beam strikes depends on the material it strikes. The beam itself is electromagnetic radiation and thus does not contain any molecules and so cannot have any temperature.
If the beam hits a mirrored surface for example, there will be hardly any temperature increase at all. Of course, if the temperature increase is sufficient to cause burning, the material will usually become darker, thus absorbing more energy and getting hotter.
The idea is IMHO great
The ability to put bang on target for minimal bang per shit is always an aim of the armed forces,
A ship , that can pop in, put say 30 rounds of 500 Kg bang each in a few minutes on target, is very useful,
The ability to not have the tonnes of "cordite" on board the ship to propel those 500Kg shells is a great saving,
the amount of work that goes into making a ship "safe" with all that bang on board is great.
The problem of ever increasing spec on this project ,
putting all the intelligence in the ever increasing costly shells was "mad" , but probably doen to us eon other projects.
then as the cost of the shells increased, the number to be purchased was decreased, meaning the NRE on each went up,
putting the cost per shell up, meaning less were to be purchased, etc etc.
Remember the "Long Lance" torpedoes? The US Navy took years to realize the opposition had a weapon 3 times better (range) than theirs. The US Navy took years to realize most of their own torpedoes were duds.
What, we're supposed to hope incompetence is a universal phenomenon?
A rail gun round isn't going to be steerable. Changing the direction of a round going that fast would be incredibly hard. To even try means building a system into the projectile that can take the acceleration and the EM field, and still survive. The best they can hope for is the ability to nudge the round a bit just before it hits a target if it has slowed down enough.
One of the premises of magneforming is that the material is smacked into the form so fast that it can't deflect. An example that is used to explain the process is taking a long metal bar, putting the end against a concrete wall and trying to push it through. The bar will bend. Launch that same bar at a high velocity and you have a "long bar penetrator" that will pound its way to the other side with very little bending. A rail gun round will direct its energy in the direction of travel and won't be able to spread out and dissipate that energy over a very wide area before it's passed through something. With firearms it's often called knock down power. Small high velocity rounds will often pass right through the target where a bigger round going slower (same total kinetic energy) will knock the target down and do far more damage. How often is it more optimum to put a bunch of holes into the side of something over stoving the whole thing in?
I live in a place with no military that wants indepence: most people here don't grok that you get indepence from a war. Every 4th of July the US celebrates that it still has independence (from its allies) because an army is defending the border with an arsenal of fabulously expensive tech.
You can lose a war before it starts with no military e.g. Crimea.
I am a pacifist: I like the bouncers' smile to welcome you and remind you who owns the place.
"For those who continue to yearn for huge seaborne electromagnetically propelled projectiles – and let's face it, who doesn't?" Erm, quite a lot of people. Not everyone is into silly, expensive toys whose only purpose is destruction.
"China has already conducted sea trials with a shipboard railgun". But has it? Since when has Chinese media told the truth? According to the USA.UK et al it is all Commie propaganda and misinformation. Amazing how people (including the Pentagon) cherry pick to suite their preconceptions. Isn't there a medical term for that?
I've often wondered where the limit lies with these things. Ultimately you get to the point where the projectile you're firing is travelling so fast (by definition at sea level) that aerodynamic heating is going to destroy it - it's effectively at re-entry speeds in the densest atmosphere - you shoot a kilo of tungsten at them, and 2 miles away there's a large cloud of tungsten dioxide vapour!
Railguns may make sense in space, but in an atmosphere they might make about as much sense as a subaquatic sidewinder missile.
I believe the original target for the trial was a 200 mile range @ Mach 5.
The X-15 flew at Mach 6.72, manned, and NASAs X-43 at Mach 9.6 (unmanned), so it's not like we've not had things at these speeds before.
Also Mach 5 is 3,806 mph, so 200 mile range is a flight time of a little over 3 seconds. Although presumably if the launch was Mach 5, it's going to drop some of that speed in transit.
A 100-mile range ASuW weapon that compromises the ship carrying it and only gives a few shots is useless. The 30+ year old Shipwreck ASM or it's more capable successor (Brahmos etc) have longer reach.
Fancy railgun that takes about 6 hours of time inside the enemies kill zone to get into range? Useless.
Unless you're in the business of printing money
The lack of a viable replacement for Harpoon and Tomahawk ASM is a gaping gap in NATO planning, unless they have something they are not letting on about. Given that there are shortages of basic equipment, I'm not betting on it.
The UK there is a requirement (I-SSGW ) that has been release by the MOD and the following are likely to bid:
Lockheed Martin (LRASM)
MBDA (Exocet MM40 Block IIIc)
Saab (RBS-15 Mk3)
IAI (SEA SERPENT)
The Harpoon Block-1C full retirement has been pushed back to sometime in 2023.
My guess is that Sea Serpent will be the winner. However, LRASM could be chosen for political reasons.
You are messing Shipwreck with Sunburn. Brahmos is a development. of the p270 Moskit ( Sunburn). The P700 Granit ( Shipwreck) ia unique beast on it's own.
Yes, I agree rail gun is pointless for antiship role when you have in hand mature cruise missile tech. It will be handy in defensive purpose , shooting down fast moving airborne incoming threats
The Moskit (Sunburn) has a lot of similarities to Harpoon. Brahmos is something of a derivative of it but it's capabilities are at least ballpark with Shipwreck. 180nm range quoted on export versions, and better again for 'native' versions.
But yes, the main point I was trying to make was a 100nm range railgun, at 36 knots your opponent gets a lot of shots off before you even get into range (intelligence willing).
NATO ASuW capability is totally tied to aircraft or submarines. Harpoon's lack of range means a surface v surface engagement is generally a very bad idea. Retaining older models to 2023 rather than going with nothing is probably a good thing, albeit the shelf life of the solid fuels etc will I'm sure be a factor in how long they can be retained.
Besides the options suggested above, a storm shadow derivative might be a good option. Something with higher terminal stage performance would make it a lot tougher to avoid.
Perhaps rather than comparing Russian capability, we should also be looking at Chinese capability, for an engagement there seems a whole lot more plausible.
If they had managed to make a railgun work well, then, as was pointed out many years ago here:
it would have ushered in a new era of dreadnought-style battleships ruling the oceans. Admirals would have been very happy about this, and the prestige of the Navy vs. the Army or Air Force (their most deadly foes) would have increased dramatically. So throwing $500M of taxpayers' money at the idea was well worth it, from their point of view.
..... do you think UKGBNI would have been invited to pay for some pieces ..... as is the common usual practice between special relationship allies?
However, some such friends leave a lot, and oft too often too much to be desired to be considered healthy in support of being wealthy with the following being a prime example of the nature of such successes ........ https://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2021/7/7/gao-report-f35-program-is-unaffordable-for-pentagon
Proceed with due care and rapt attention out there for there be gremlins and daemons/goblins and almighty remote access trojans on the loose and at their creative work. peaceful rest and immaculate play practically everywhere and virtually anywhere too.
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"'Onest guv, we can't get this thing to work so we're just gonna give up the development and consign this Stealth Fighter idea to the scrapheap, along with the Mach 3 spyplane and the one flies so high you need a spaceship to catch it..." *
Oh no, wait a minute - those were Air Force projects, not Navy. Maybe the project was handed to the wrong branch of the military?
Anon cos I don't need the hassle from a bunch of newly out-of-work swabbies .
*There may be others. But unlike the Navy, we don't (always) brag about our new toys.
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