So many of you sent me this article, that I had to blog about it. The US Navy is nearing the test of is known as a railgun, which may go operational soon:
The principle has long been known, and in fact even prior to World War One, some European scientists and inventors were exploring it as a replacement for conventional artillery. During World War Two, the Nazis, as to be expected, also researched the idea, though to my knowledge, there is not much evidence other than the occasional picture of a projectile self-evidently designed to be used in a railgun.
The problem with the idea has not been the principle, but the technology, for a railgun requires enormous power, which at the time could not be generated without installations so large that the operational practicality and return was minimal. The evident progress now indicates that the gun may soon form a new kind of naval artillery, one of such vast range and power that even the aircraft carrier might conceivably eventually be eclipsed once again by the battleship, updated with ultra-longrange railguns.
The fantasy isn't as far-fetched as one might think, for as the Daily Mail article references about indicates, the idea of a railgun was explored in conjunction with President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, or Star Wars missile defense project, as a system of localized point defense against missiles. Various versions of the railgun idea were explored, including a kind of "shotgun" version that would propel hundreds or thousands of small projectiles into the path of oncoming missiles at such extreme velocity that the missile and its warhead would simply be destroyed.
Eventually, such a system will be deployed as a space based defensive system, if it has not already been(which I suppose it has). But ultimately, this system, as the current model implies, could be "scaled up" to become a very different system for long range strategic bombardment, from land, or, in the model of a "mass-driver", from space. The latter is a long way off, of course...
...or so we're assured.
See you on the flip side.