The Navy has been working for more than a decade on a futuristic weapon that would fire projectiles at more than seven times the speed of sound, powered by electricity.
The Navy seriously considered using the railgun on its high-tech, stealthy Zumwalt-class destroyers, but despite spending an estimated $500 million on research and development, the weapon was not ready for deployment in time. The destroyers themselves have proved to be something of a fiasco, with the Navy canceling most of its order for what was supposed to be 28 ships.
Now, according to its latest budget request, the Navy is abandoning the railgun and shifting its focus to other types of advanced weapons, including hypersonic missiles and lasers. “The railgun is, for the moment, dead,” defense analyst Matthew Caris told the Associated Press.
One problem with the railgun is its relatively limited effective range. Able to fire a projectile about 110 miles, it would have required putting its platform within range of enemy anti-ship missiles. There were also serious questions about the gun’s firing rate and longevity, with components needing replacement after just a few dozen firings.