For years, the Navy's new railgun was just an idea, a weapon like no other weapon ever used in warfare. But the Navy realized its dream Friday with a record-setting test in Dahlgren, Va.
Fox News explains the new technology:
Rather than relying on a explosion to fire a projectile, the technology uses an electomagnetic current to accelerate a non-explosive bullet at several times the speed of sound. The conductive projectile zips along a set of electrically charged parallel rails and out of the barrel at speeds up to Mach 7.
The result: a weapon that can hit a target 100 miles or more away within minutes.
According to Rear Admiral Nevin P. Carr, Jr., chief of Naval Research, the new weapon is a game changer. The electromagnetic railgun relies on kinetic energy rather than traditional explosives to inflict damage. At 11 a.m. Friday, the Navy proudly produced a 33-megajoule firing -- more than three times the previous record set in 2008.
"It bursts radially, but it's hard to quantify," said Roger Ellis, electromagnetic railgun program manager with the Office of Naval Research. To convey a sense of just how much damage, Ellis told FoxNews.com that the big guns on the deck of a warship are measured by their muzzle energy in megajoules. A single megajoule is roughly equivalent to a 1-ton car traveling at 100 mph. Multiple that by 33 and you get a picture of what would happen when such a weapon hits a target.
Since 2005, the Navy has reported invested about $211 million in the weapon's development -- a weapon that dwarfs all conventional firepower. According to Fox, the new railgun offers "2 to 3 times the velocity" of a convention big gun and can reach its designated target within just 6 minutes. In addition, current U.S. Navy guns have a range of just 13 miles. But the new railgun tested Friday has the ability to reach an enemy 100 miles away with pinpoint accuracy and may one day extend to a 200-mile range.
There are still a number of bugs to be worked out before the railgun becomes an operational staple on U.S. Navy ships, including managing the amazing heat the projectile produces in the gun's muzzle. But Naval sources say they expect to see functional railguns on the decks of Navy vessels by 2025.