For now, the power of what may prove to be the Navy’s most formidable weapon is confined to a research and development lab at the Dahlgren base in King George County.

On Friday, the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division and BAE Systems will take another step in an ongoing quest to put electromagnetic railguns on ships in the fleet.

About 1 p.m., Navy brass, civilian engineers, contractors and reporters will watch a video feed of a projectile–traveling five times the speed of sound–smashing into a steel box filled with sand.

Until recently, a railgun has been a fantasy weapon for video gamers, the stuff of science fiction.

But the technology has been slowly moving toward reality.

The railgun works by a pulse of electricity traveling along two parallel rails to propel a projectile at tremendous speed.

Friday’s shot, expected to use 32 megajoules of electromagnetic energy, is by far the most powerful to date. It will take only a fraction of a second, as long as the blink of an eye. It is expected to establish a new world record in the annals of electromagnetic acceleration.

The goal is to show the tactical relevance of the technology, the Navy said in a press release.

“The importance of the 32-megajoule demonstration is the feasibility of the system at an energy level that has military significance,” said Roger Ellis, electromagnetic railgun program manager for the Office of Naval Research.

Source: Rusty Dennen for

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