Anyone who’s played Quake remembers the railgun weapon. The U.S. Navy spent $500 million trying to build a real one, according to Popular Mechanics, “using electricity and magnetism instead of gunpowder and chemical energy to accelerate a projectile down a pair of rails.” But now they’ve apparently given up:
The service is ending funding for the railgun without having sent a single weapon to sea, while pushing technology derived from the program into existing weapons. The weapon is a victim of a change in the Navy’s direction toward faster, longer-range weapons that are capable of striking ships and land targets in a major war. The Navy’s budget request includes no funding for the railgun in 2022, The Drive reports…
Railguns are theoretically safer than conventional guns, since they reduce the amount of volatile powder a ship stores deep within its bowels in the ammunition magazine. The projectiles are also faster. But despite those advantages, there are reasons why the Navy is canning the railgun, which has been in development since 2005. For one, there are currently only three ships the Navy could conceivably fit the railgun to… The railgun concept itself is also out of step with the Navy’s reorientation toward great power conflict, particularly a possible war with China or Russia. As an offensive weapon, the railgun’s range of 50 to 100 miles is relatively short, placing a railgun-equipped ship within range of longer-range weapons, including China’s DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile.
And while the railgun also has defensive potential since it can shoot down incoming aircraft, missiles, and drones, the Navy already has plenty of existing missiles and guns to deal with those threats.