A Chinese Navy ship has been spotted with a weapons system that resembles a deadly electromagnetic railgun. If true, it could mean that the communist nation has become the first country in the world to develop and install the system on a ship.

The purported weapon was spotted recently on the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) Haiyang Shan landing ship, according to a report in The Drive. Typically, the Type 072III-class vessel packs a 37mm cannon, but in this case, there was a massive gun turret.

Piqued by the turret's appearance, onlookers started snapping images of the ship, which was anchored at the Wuchang Shipyard in Hubei province in central China. Some of those photographs were uploaded online and started doing the rounds, with people speculating if it was a railgun.

An electromagnetic railgun uses a magnetic field to fire long-range projectiles, with a range beyond 150km, at an approximate speed of 7,000kmph. The US Navy is already working on the weapon and has showcased its capabilities in a couple of tests. However, the system has not made it to any of its ships, with previous reports suggesting the country might have lost interest in the project.

The recently spotted Chinese weapon looks very similar to the American railgun, particularly in terms of its overall shape and size, according to The Drive report. Its mount was completely enclosed and a large barrel extended out of it, which is typical for launching hypervelocity projectiles. The 500-tonne load capacity of the landing ship also makes it a good candidate for a railgun to be installed on the vessel.

It is not clear if the weapon was being prepped for field testing, but if this is what it looks like, China would be the first country in the world to successfully install an electromagnetic gun on a ship.

Among other things, the images also show three containers behind the weapon which, according to the report, might have been installed to hold the massive power source and control systems required to operate the gun. Similar containers were seen alongside the US Navy's railgun when it was being tested on land.

However, as there is no official word on the weapon and the authenticity of the photographs has also not been verified, it cannot be said with absolute certainty if it was indeed an electromagnetic railgun.

China has been researching electromagnetic weapons systems since the 1980s. However, developing and installing a railgun could mean the country is far ahead in this space when compared to other nations.