The U.S. Navy has had a pair of railguns hidden away in one clandestine research center or other for a couple of years now. Capable of firing heavy, destructive rounds at speeds of up to Mach 7, these two prototype weapons have shown some serious destructive power in the lab. That was then. Now these devastating weapons are being prepped for deployment and their roughest tests yet.
Transplanted aboard the decks of the USNS Millinocket, a high-speed catamaran just launched last June, the two railguns will take their first shots at real-world targets. The two railguns, built by BAE Systems and General Atomics respectively, are actually competing with one another for eventual deployment.
During the summer of 2016, both guns will be tested. Only one will go on to gain the Navy's acceptance as the ship's gun of the future, but either will likely do the job nicely. At a fraction of the cost and size of a missile, railgun rounds could allow future ships to carry more than ten times the ammunition they do now. Railguns can also be used to shoot enemy missiles out of even the upper atmosphere, making them both offensive and defensive weapons. For the U.S. Navy, and anyone who opposes them, it's a game-changing technology, and one which will begin seeing real combat by as soon as 2018.