Report on Navy Laser, Railgun and Gun-Launched Guided Projectiles


April 7, 2020 10:12 AM

The following is the April 2, 2020, Congressional Research Service report, Navy Lasers, Railgun, and Gun-Launched Guided Projectile: Background and Issues for Congress.

Three new ship-based weapons being developed by the Navy—solid state lasers (SSLs), the electromagnetic railgun (EMRG), and the gun-launched guided projectile (GLGP), also known as the hypervelocity projectile (HVP)—could substantially improve the ability of Navy surface ships to defend themselves against surface craft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and eventually anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs).

The Navy has been developing SSLs for several years, and in 2014 installed on a Navy ship its first prototype SSL capable of countering surface craft and UAVs. The Navy since then has been developing and installing additional SSL prototypes with improved capability for countering surface craft and UAVs. Higher-power SSLs being developed by the Navy are to have a capability for countering ASCMs. Current Navy efforts to develop SSLs include

  • the Solid State Laser Technology Maturation (SSL-TM) effort;

  • the Optical Dazzling Interdictor, Navy (ODIN);

  • the Surface Navy Laser Weapon System (SNLWS) Increment 1, also known as the high-energy laser with

  • integrated optical dazzler and surveillance (HELIOS); and

  • the High Energy Laser Counter-ASCM Program (HELCAP).

The first three efforts above are included in what the Navy calls the Navy Laser Family of Systems (NFLoS) effort. NFLOS and HELCAP, along with technologies developed by other parts of DOD, are to support the development of future, more capable shipboard lasers.

The Navy has been developing EMRG for several years. It was originally conceived as a naval surface fire support (NSFS) weapon for supporting Marines and other friendly forces ashore. Subsequently, it was determined that ERGM could also be used for air and missile defense, which strengthened Navy interest in ERGM development. The Navy is continuing development work on ERGM, but it is unclear when production-model ERGMs will be installed on Navy ships.

As the Navy was developing EMRG, it realized that the guided projectile being developed for EMRG could also be fired from powder guns, including 5-inch guns on Navy cruisers and destroyers and 155 mm artillery guns operated by the Army and Marine Corps. When fired from powder guns, the projectile does not fly as quickly as it does when fired from an ERGM, but it still flies quickly enough to be of use as an air-defense weapon. The concept of firing the projectile from powder guns is referred to as GLGP and HVP. One potential advantage of HVP/GLGP is that, once developed, it can be rapidly deployed on Navy cruisers and destroyers and in Army and Marine Corps artillery units, because the powder guns in question already exist.

In addition to the question of whether to approve, reject, or modify the Navy’s FY2021 funding requests for SSLs, ERGM, and HVP/GLGP, issues for Congress include the following:

  • whether the Navy is moving too quickly, too slowly, or at about the right speed in its efforts to develop these weapons;

  • the Navy’s plans for transitioning these weapons from development to procurement and fielding of production models aboard Navy ships; and

  • whether Navy the Navy’s shipbuilding plans include ships with appropriate amounts of space, weight, electrical power, and cooling capacity to accommodate these weapons.

Source: USNI News “Report on Navy Laser, Railgun and Gun-Launched Guided Projectiles”

Note: This is USNI News’ article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


China’s Railgun Will Be Ready by 2025: US Intelligence


National Interest says in its article “RIP, U.S. Navy? Could China’s Naval ‘Railgun’ Be Ready by 2025?” that China’s railgun will be ready by 2025 according to US intelligence. However, the article points out that the railgun will not be used on a warship as it needs too much electricity. That is why the articles says, “Late last year, Task and Purpose suggested that the Navy (US Navy) was cutting back on funding for naval railgun research, in favor of other technologies such as lasers and hypervelocity projectiles that can be fired from conventional cannon.”

Why does China keep on its efforts in developing railgun then? The article says, “But it seems just as likely that China wants railguns because America wants railguns. As we know from the Cold War, keeping up with the Joneses—or the Wangs—can leave both parties with expensive gear they never really needed.”

The article regards China’s efforts as something out of Cold War mentality. It forgets what it says about the superiority of a railgun as a “true warfighter game-changer.”

Railgun is a formidable weapon that China has to develop whether the US makes or give up its efforts in developing it.

How can the US be so sure  that China cannot develop a naval power supply system to supply enough energy for a railgun by 2025?

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on National Interest’s article, full text of which can be viewed at https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/rip-us-navy-could-chinas-naval-railgun-be-ready-2025-89706


US Navy Scared by China’s Railgun


National Interest says in its article “Why the U.S. Navy Should Fear China’s Railgun” on May 3 that China’s railgun might be a hoax to make US Department of Defense (DoD) antsy about its dominance of the sea in the future, but it quotes The War Zone’s Joseph Trevithick as saying, “If the PLAN’s fleets actually include any significant number of railgun-equipped ships by 2025, It is even more likely that the era of near total United States naval supremacy in any prospective conflict, especially in Pacific Region, will have come to a close.”

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on National Interest’s article, full text of which can be viewed at https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/why-us-navy-should-fear-chinas-railgun-55607


Chinese Navy ship seen carrying an apparent railgun capable of firing hypersonic projectiles


By Alan Weedon

Updated yesterday (January 3. 2019) at 2:26pm

The gun on the bow is claimed to be a prototype railgun. (Haohan-Red Shark via Storyful)

A Chinese naval warship has been pictured out at sea carrying what appears to be an electromagnetic railgun.

Key points:
•Railguns use enormous electric currents to shoot projectiles from tracks at great speed
•China’s first railgun was revealed in 2011, and has been since tested for more range
•The US has been slow to develop the technology since initial research in 2005

A photo taken and posted by Weibo user (and prominent defence blogger) Haohan-Red Shark, purports to show the Type 072II Yuting-class tank landing ship Haiyangshan with a railgun mounted on its bow.

Compared to conventional artillery that uses gunpowder or cordite to fire projectiles — a practice that has been in wide use since the 1500s — a railgun uses a high-powered electric circuit to shoot a projectile along magnetic rails, firing at hypersonic speeds of Mach 5 or higher (five times the speed of sound).

While the US has been pursuing its railgun capability since 2005, China has seemingly taken the front foot, with anonymous sources confirming the existence of the weapon in 2011 to CNBC.

Since then, Chinese media has been incrementally filing news reports on the development on the technology, with the Global Times reporting in March that Zhang Xiao, an associate research fellow at the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) University of Engineering announced her research team was responsible for the “largest repeating power supply system in the world”.

The sighting, which comes as China marks the 70th anniversary of the Chinese Navy in 2019, appears to pre-date US intelligence estimates that Chinese railguns would arrive by 2025.

Railguns to usher in naval ‘hemispheric battle space’

The railgun uses electromagnetic force to propel an electrically conductive projectile. The electric current flows through the rails and generates a magnetic field in the rails and armature. (ABC News: Jarrod Fankhauser)

Dr Malcolm Davis, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, told the ABC the technology would usher in a “hemispheric battle space”.

“This would see belligerents able to strike at each other at distances ranging in the hundreds of kilometres”, Dr Davis said.

“This would fundamentally change the nature of engagements as you could have adversaries being able to make precise strikes from afar for much less money.”

Compared to conventional naval artillery, the railgun does not fire explosives in the round, making warships a touch safer for those onboard, and naval artillery cheaper to acquire for militaries.

“If you think back to the World War II battle between the German battleship Bismarck and HMS Hood, the latter sunk within minutes because the Germans struck near ammunition magazines,” he said.

The development of the technology from various powers has been slow, given the incredibly large currents required to power railguns — about one million amps — and the practical implications this has on barrel design.

Previous US railgun tests saw barrels melt during firing, and current research has revolved around cooling the rails to maintain high energy per shot.

‘Americans aren’t going slow’

In the years since 2011, Chinese researchers have been testing the weapon at greater distances.

A US intelligence report found that China’s weapon would be able to strike 200 kilometres away with a projectile velocity of 2.5 kilometres per second (9,000kph — greater than Mach 7).

While US developments remain classified, the US Office of Naval Research (ONR) gave BAE systems $48.3 million to test phase 2 of their railgun program in 2013.

This phase will usher in the development of a multiple-shot railgun, alongside the development of a Hyper Velocity Projectile (HVP) that would see missiles fire at hypersonic speeds — technology that Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed Russia had successfully tested in December.

Speaking to website Task & Purpose, the US Strategic Capabilities Office’s (SCO) spokesperson Chris Sherwood said that the railgun was not high on the agenda.

“SCO shifted the project’s focus to conventional powder guns, facilitating a faster transition of HVP technology to the warfighter,” he said.

“Our priority continues to be the HVP, which is reflected in the program’s budget.”

The US thus far has spent around $710.5 million on the railgun program, but experts fear it will languish as research weight pulls toward HVPs.

“The Americans certainly aren’t going slow. They’ve realised they’ve lagged behind Russia and China and are racing to catch up,” Dr Davis said.

“What’s happened in the past is that the US has years of research and development, but due to funding cuts, a decade of research goes dead in the water.”

Advanced technology part of Xi’s 2025 plan

Chinese workers in blue jumpsuits place conductors on electric circuit boards in a line.
Photo: China’s move into advanced manufacturing has other countries spooked. (Reuters: Bobby Yip)

China is no stranger to experiments in electromagnetic technology, having created one of the world’s first highways lined with solar-powered material to re-charge vehicles in transit.

The world’s first solar highway  opened in late December 2017 to the public in eastern China’s Shandong. The 2-kilometer-long road can convert sunlight into electricity and directly transfer it to the power grid. The highway can also charge electric vehicles.

This forms part of a broader Beijing strategy to move China away from being just a producer of everyday goods into one of advanced manufacturing, with about $US300 billion invested in the “Made in China 2025” plan.

The country already produces many of the world’s smartphones, and as its economic weight shifts toward domestic consumption, its push to spearheading technological advances follows in the footsteps of previous superpowers such as the US and Britain.

What also comes with being a superpower is the ability to project hard power across the globe, which China has not shied away from.

“The rapid growth of the PLA Navy could easily take over the US Navy in the Asia-Pacific, if not comparable, by the 2030s,” Dr Davis said.

“So the 2020s presents a real risk of a US-China military clash, seeing as Xi Jinping has said he will not tolerate Taiwanese independence, and they’re not willing to let go of the South China Sea — which is fundamentally at odds with what the US wants.”
The Chinese foreign ministry and the Chinese Consulate have been contacted for comment.

Source: abc.net.au “Chinese Navy ship seen carrying an apparent railgun capable of firing hypersonic projectiles”

Note: This is abc.net.au’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


China Has Strongest Fibre for Railgun, Laser Gun, Catapult, Space Lift


SCMP says in its report “China has strongest fibre that can haul 160 elephants – and a space elevator?” today that Chinese scientists in Tsinghua University has developed the strongest fiber in the world, 1 cubic centimeter of which only 1.6 gram in weight won’t break under the weight of 800 tonnes.

The fiber is made of carbon nanotube of tensile strength at least 9 to 45 times that of other materials. Scientists want to use it in space elevator connecting a geostatic satellite with the ground.

Such a lift is very complicated. It will take a long time to develop though Chinese, Russian, American and Japanese scientists have been making great efforts to develop it according to the report. However, the fiber will be “in great demand in many high-end fields such as sports equipment, ballistic armour, aeronautics, astronautics and even space elevators” said its development team.

One example is superfast flywheels in a mechanical battery with 40 times the energy density of a lithium battery, A Tesla Model S could travel for 16,000km in one charge – the distance from London to Sydney.
Of course, such battery will first be used militarily in railgun, laser gun, electromagnetic catapult, etc.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s report, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/2170193/china-has-strongest-fibre-can-haul-160-elephants-and-space


China’s 055 Destroyer to Be Armed with Railguns, Laser Guns


Mil.huanqiu.com says in its report yesterday that according to Chinese military experts, China’s 12,500-ton Type 055 destroyer will serve as flagship of a carrier strike fleet as it is a satisfactory stealth warship with air defense, anti-ship, anti-submarine and ground attack capabilities and as it is much bigger than Type 052D destroyer to contain equipment and provide room for command of a large fleet.

Military experts believe the destroyer will be armed with railguns and laser guns to enhance its fire power.

According to military expert Yin Zhuo, there is no significant technological disparity between this destroyer and the advanced warships of the advanced countries in the world.

Another military expert Cao Weidong believes that Type 055 is rival to US Ticonderoga-class cruiser in displacement and combat capabilities

Source: mil.huanqiu.com “Expert: 055 destroyer may additionally be armed with electromagnetic gun to serve as ‘chief of guard’ for an aircraft carrier” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)


Superweaponising China’s defence industry


24 February 2018

Author: Adam Ni, ANU

China may be in the advanced stages of developing a superweapon that can devastate targets at great distances. Photos circulated on Chinese social media show what is suspected to be an experimental electromagnetic railgun mounted on the bow of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy landing ship Haiyang Shan. In stark contrast, the US Navy is winding down its railgun research program, citing budget constraints and shifting priorities.

Soldiers of China’s People’s Liberation Army take part in a military parade to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the foundation of the army at the Zhurihe military training base in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China, 30 July 2017 (Photo: Reuters/China Stringer Network).

At the 19th Chinese Communist Party Congress in October 2017, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for the PLA to be completely modernised by 2035 and to achieve ‘world-class’ status by the middle of the 21st century. China is supporting this ambition by developing a variety of ‘game changer’ military technologies, including hypersonic vehicles, anti-satellite capabilities and artificial intelligence-equipped weapons.

A key guiding concept for China’s military modernisation is ‘revitalising the military through technology’, which involves the development of a self-sufficient defence industry. Past efforts at this have struggled because China’s defence industry was inefficient, poorly managed, rigid and unable to fill the requirements of the PLA.

But this has changed over the last two decades due to expanding defence budgets, technological acquisitions and a raft of reforms that focus on making the sector more competitive. China now has the ability to develop advanced fighters, aircraft carriers, new-generation intercontinental ballistic missiles, drones and other advanced platforms. Another indicator of this progress is China’s booming arms exports, which rose 74 per cent from a global share of 3.8 per cent in 2007–11 to 6.2 per cent in 2012–16. While China is still far behind the world’s leading arms exporters (the United States and Russia), it is catching up fast.

Since 2013, China’s defence industry has been subjected to a series of reforms and initiatives that include new guidelines and plans, innovative institutional arrangements and a renewed focus on civil–military relations.

In recent years, Xi has intensified civil–military integration efforts to leverage civilian expertise in accelerating military modernisation. An important goal of this effort is to make it easier for private companies to work on defence projects. In March 2015, Xi announced the elevation of civil–military integration to national strategy, which highlights its importance for military and economic development. He further underscored this by creating the powerful Central Commission for Integrated Military and Civilian Development to provide high-level guidance and oversight. State agencies, such as the State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense, continue to do the bulk of the implementation work.

The Central Commission’s most important strategy document for the defence industry is the 13th Defence Science and Technology and Industry Five-Year Plan (2016–2020). It calls for streamlining and targeting investment across core areas, accelerating weapons development, raising arms exports and promoting collaboration between military and civilian organisations.

Another key initiative is the 2025 Defence Science and Technology Industry Plan, which calls for the upgrade of China’s defence science and technology base. This is in line with the Made in China 2025 strategy — a sweeping initiative to overhaul China’s manufacturing industry.

Moreover, China outlined a list of sixteen megaprojects in the Medium- and Long-term Science and Technology Development Plan (2006-2020). These include advanced numeric-controlled machinery, high-end generic chips, integrated circuit manufacturing and techniques, high-definition earth observation systems, advanced nuclear reactors, manned aerospace and moon exploration, and large aircraft. These projects involve numerous companies and research institutions from China’s sprawling defence industry. Technologies developed for every one of these megaprojects would have important military applications in addition to civilian uses.

But despite maturing rapidly over the last two decades, China’s defence industry continues to be plagued by notable weaknesses such as outdated management models, weak governance, corruption, inflexibility and monopoly power. These weaknesses will need to be addressed if the industry is to better support PLA modernisation in the years ahead.

China’s defence industry has matured considerably since the 1990s and China is now poised to shift from a follower to a leader in defence innovation despite several weaknesses. The industry’s ability to develop and produce high-quality equipment and cutting-edge weapons for the PLA will be key to China’s continuing rise as a military power.

Adam Ni is a researcher at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, The Australian National University.

Source: East Asia Forum “Superweaponising China’s defence industry”

Note: This is Australia’s East Asia Forum’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.