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A prototype electromagnetic railgun that can fire a projectile at seven times the speed of sound will be tested on board a high-speed US Navy vessel from 2016, reports Sky News.
It will mark the first time such a gun has been demonstrated at sea, following extensive land trials. The weapon uses an electromagnetic force to accelerate and launch a projectile between two conductive rails. It can launch at such high speeds that it only needs to fire a $25,000 (£15,000) railgun projectile rather than a $1m (£600,000) missile to be effective in destroying ships, aircraft and land-based targets.
Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder, the chief of Naval research, said: "You could throw anything at us, frankly, and the fact that we now can shoot a number of these rounds at a very affordable cost, it's my opinion that they (the enemies) don't win. "Your magazine never runs out, you just keep shooting, and that's compelling." The Navy’s chief engineer, Rear Admiral Bryant Fuller, said: "The electromagnetic railgun represents an incredible new offensive capability for the US Navy. "This capability will allow us to effectively counter a wide range of threats at a relatively low cost, while keeping our ships and sailors safer by removing the need to carry as many high-explosive weapons."
The final system will be capable of launching guided projectiles to a range of 110 nautical miles. A final decision has not been made on which ship classes will receive a fully operational railgun.