Monday, January 28, 2008

Rail-related gibs

A decade ago, Arnold Schwarzenegger strolled the streets of New York, effortlessly wielding not one, but TWO rapid-firing, liquid-cooled high velocity rail guns while putting puppy-sized holes in James Caan and his cadres of misled groupies.

Today, harkening back to 1996's Eraser, the world's largest (known) rail gun was delivered to the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, VA by BAE systems. This one only rolls at 34-megajoules per shot, but and according to BAE, this is only the first step toward the Navy's goal of developing a tactical 64-megajoule ship-mounted weapon.

That final weapon would have a muzzle velocity of 2500 m/s and be able to accelerate a thirty three pound projectile to Mach 7.5 in the same out time it takes to say, "ouch!" It could hit any target on the horizon in 6 seconds. It could use ballistic fire to hit a target around 200 miles away in six minutes. Anything hit by such a projectile would be instantly turned into a smoldering mound of liquefied pain.

Of course there are still a couple of problems to overcome before we start parking these off the Persian Gulf. They consume a metric poopton of power (three million amps!) with each shot. Using current technology, the projectile frequently shreds the barrel of the weapon after only one shot. And they have been shown to increase the rate of bladder cancers in rats.

Until those obstacles are overcome, we'll just have to keep watching Arnold for our fill of rail-related gibs.

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