U.S. Navy to test 32 megajoule EM Railgun in the coming weeks

The United States Navy will receive the industries first 32 megajoule EM Railgun prototype and begin testing in the coming weeks.

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) announced today that they will begin testing an advancedElectromagnetic Railgun (EMR) within the next few weeks. The development and testing of this advanced EMR is the result of a $21 million contract awarded to BAE Systems by the Office of Naval Research roughly two years ago. For those that may not know, the ONR is the office within the United States Department of the Navy that facilitates all science and technology programs for the U.S Navy and Marine Corps through various institutions, such as universities and government laboratories.

While most munitions both heavy and small depend on chemical propellants (like gunpowder), the EM Railgun launcher (as you may have guessed from its name) utilizes magnetic energy instead. The EM Railgun propels a conductive projectile along metal rails using a magnetic field powered by electricity. The magnetic field produced by the high electric currents thrusts a sliding metal conductor between two rails to launch a projectile at velocities of 4,500 to 5,600 mph. By contrast, the average velocity of a chemical propelled weapon is limited to about 2,700 give or take.

So what does that mean? Well, this increased velocity should allow for the Navy to reach targets of up to 50 to 100 nautical miles away or, if you’re inner sea-dog is a little rusty, about 57 to 115 miles out. Navy planners hope to eventually increase that range even further to distances up to 220 nautical miles (253 miles).

According to ONR, this increase velocity and extended range will give sailors multi-mission capability, and allow them to conduct precise naval surface fire support. In addition, ONR states that the EM Railgun may provide effective ballistic missile defense.

BAE Systems EM Railgun was delivered to the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Dahlgren on January 30, 2012 and features a 32-megajoule payload. To add some perspective, one megajoule of energy is equivalent to a one ton car traveling at 100 miles per hour. 


Robert and Susan Downey to Produce USS Indianapolis Sinking Story for Warner Bros.

The story of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis during World War II and the horrifying shark ordeal continues to intrigue Hollywood, 60 years after hundreds of men perished in the event.

Warner Bros. and Robert and Susan Downey are tackling the incident through a modern lens, looking at it through the eyes of Hunter Scott, the 11-year old boy who embarked on a journey to exonerate the Indianapolis’ court-martialed captain.

Warners has picked up the life rights to Scott and has set Robert Schenkkan, a Emmy-nominated writer for his work on HBO’s acclaimed World War Two-set mini-series The Pacific, to write the script for the untitled true-life project. Schenkkan is working from a story by the Downeys, who are also producing via their Warners-based Team Downey banner.

In 1996, Scott was an 11-year old looking for a subject for a national History Day competition when he watched Jaws and was inspired by the scene of Robert Shaw as shark hunter Quint recalling the Indianapolis ordeal. That got Scott researching the topic, finding out how the warship was sunk by torpedoes and how for five days its stranded crew was slowly eaten by the finned meat-eaters.

Scott heard from survivors how the captain, Charles McVay, was unjustly court-martialed, and set out to correct the miscarriage of justice, eventually testifying before Congress. He was eventually instrumental in getting legislation passed in October 2000 to exonerate McVay, who committed suicide in 1968, and in July 2001, the U.S. Navy amended his record.

Schenkkan has the chops to tackle the story. In addition to his work on Pacific, he is currently writing the seven-hour mini-series America: In the King Years, the adaptation of the Taylor Branch book series from HBO and Oprah Winfrey. He also co-wrote the 2002 Phillip Noyce-directed thriller The Quiet American.

Jon Berg is overseeing the untitled Hunter Scott project for Warners. David Gambino is shepherding for Team Downey.

Not only has the Indianapolis sinking been found to be screen-worthy, Scott’s story too has been Hollywood bait. J.J. Abrams tried to bring the story to the screen via Universal but the project was put into turnaround in the late 2000s.


DARPA Video Game Lets You Teach Military Software How to Hunt Submarines

So the graphic realism isn’t quite Black Ops, but this military sim will actually influence real-world naval operations in the future.

Fancy yourself a suave military gaming tactician? Is prestige level 24 starting to bore you on Black Ops? DARPA wants to put your strategic savviness to real military use by integrating its Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) configurations into the sub-hunting simulator game Dangerous Waters. Download and play the game, and your tactical prowess may just be implemented into ACTUV’s prototype software.

DARPA’s ACTUV program aims to develop new tools for anti-submarine warfare that include unmanned autonomous ocean-going vessels that can track quiet submarines hiding in the depths. But in order to figure out what tactics work (and don’t work) for their ACTUV software, they need to test a variety of maneuvers and sub-hunting configurations in naval scenarios.

That’s where the crowdsourcing comes in. At the end of each round, the software will ask if you want to send your game data to DARPA for analysis—and for possible use in the crafting of ACTUV’s software brain, once it is developed. Corner the crafty AI sub commander, and your data could inform a future line of defense against threats from the deep.

Download the game from ACTUV here. [Armed with Science]



A SDF ship tows a US navy barge filled with freshwater in Tokyo harbour to be used to cool Fukushima Daiichi plant (Kyodo/Reuters) 


A SDF ship tows a US navy barge filled with freshwater in Tokyo harbour to be used to cool Fukushima Daiichi plant (Kyodo/Reuters)