The US Navy has completed the latest test of a futuristic new gun which uses electromagnetic force to fire a projectile at Mach 6, or 4,500mph.
Known as the 'Star Wars' railgun, the weapon is set to take a major step forward in its development this summer as engineers work to increase how many shots it can fire every minute. The aim is to reach 10 shots per minute, meaning a shot every six seconds.
Over the next 12 months, the gun will be made capable of firing with the power of 32 megajoules and exceeding a range of 110 nautical miles.
Tipped to be the become the weapon of choice on warships, railguns have the potential to be safer and cheaper to fire than traditional ship-based weapons, thanks to their use of electricity and kinetic energy instead of explosives.
Addressing the goals of 32 megajoules and 110 miles, Dr. Tom Beutner, head of Naval Air Warfare and Weapons, said: "We expect that both...milestones will be achieved over the next year," reports DefenseTech.
The gun's durability, a major concern so far in its development given the amount of energy it produces, is also set to be improved. Beutner continued: "They've extended the launcher core life from tens of shots' core life when the program started to something that's now been fired over 400 times...we anticipate barrels will be able to do over 1,000 shots".
The Navy has plans to install the railgun on its three DDG-100 Zumwalt-class destroyers, but there isn't yet a date for when this will happen.
In development since 2005, the gun is described by the Navy as "a true warfighter game changer [with]...wide-area coverage, exceptionally quick response and very deep magazines will extend the reach and lethality of ships armed with this technology."