Tuesday, February 07, 2006

An interesting military weapons concept


1. Electromagnetic railguns are the projectile weapons of the future.

Normal chemical propellant based weapons are limited to the maximum expansion rate of the burning propellant. This can be increase by injection of plasma and other artifices, but the upper limit on velocity isn't all that much higher than what we've achieved already.

2. Rockets are very useful, but very very expensive in many ways.

One major expense is the propellant which not only has to accelerate the warhead but also the propellant itself.

3. Railguns can scale upwards pretty effectively.

This upwards scaling can either be in terms of the weight of the projectile or the maximum velocity/energy of the projectile. So the railgun could scale upwards in the diameter of the gun bore or in the overall length of the gun itself.

4. GPS and inertial guidance systems already allow projectiles to achieve incredible accuracy.

5. A large fixed installation based in Montana or Colorado would be easier to build, maintain and use than ad hoc installations all over the world.

6. There is a push in the military to reduce potential casualties by replacing humans with robotics.


Frankly I think the next major weapons system is going to be an intercontinental railgun. By building a large-scale railgun with a very long gun tube it would be possible to launch 250lb SDB GPS guided munitions across intercontinental distances.

The advantage of this kind of system is that it's extremely efficient. Rather than expending an enormous amount of energy to move an aircraft, manned or UAV, to a drop point, only the munition itself is sent. With this sort of system a massive rate of fire could be achieved and highly disparate bombing missions could be completed simultaneously. Another interesting factor is a ToT (Time on Target) mission utilising such an intercontinental railgun system. By launching GPS guided munitions on specific trajectories and at specific velocities, it would be possible to time the impacts so that a multitude of such munitions would either impact simultaneously or in specifically timed pattern.

Another important factor is that such a weapons system wouldn't require the permission of potentially hostile nations to the emplacement and use of local airfields. While airfields will continue to be necessary in the future, by implementing one or more intercontinental railguns it would be possible to have both the advantages of bomb laden aircraft and artillery, yet without many of the disadvantages of both.

It's an interesting concept.